The Atlanta Hawks slipped to a 9-12 record this season after last night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, placing them as the 10th seed in the East, currently trailing the sixth seed by three-and-a-half games.
The Hawks certainly put themselves in a position to win last night’s game, but ended up losing in an unappealing fashion. Joel Embiid took charge early in the game, scoring the first two baskets and contributing nine of the 76ers’ initial 14 points. On the Hawks’ side, Dejounte Murray scored a couple of nice buckets early in the game by attacking the rim.
Nonetheless, the Hawks’ offense was unrefined out of the gates, as one might expect with the absence of Trae Young. The Hawks did not make a three-point field goal until the 2:21 mark in the first quarter, shooting just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. On the other end, Joel Embiid scored 17 first-quarter points as the 76ers made five three-pointers.
Late in the first quarter, Onyeka Okongwu attempted a three-point shot, and Joel Embiid had no issues allowing it. Okongwu is just 5-for-25 from three this season, not enough to cause worry for opponents yet.
He went on to miss another three later in the quarter. As seen in this clip, the players on the floor were Patty Mills, Trent Forrest, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Saddiq Bey, and Onyeka Okongwu. In a game without two starters, it is reasonable to assume we’d see more of AJ Griffin. Instead, he logged a DNP due to the coach’s decision. The score at the end of the first quarter was 35-23 in the 76ers’ favor. Despite a poor offensive start, the Hawks completely turned it around in the second quarter.
A Tyrese Maxey bomb extended the lead to 11 for the 76ers, marking their largest lead of the quarter. The Hawks finally started to find their groove from behind the arc, with Patty Mills cutting the lead to six.
The Hawks did a much better job of moving the ball around, getting out in transition, and shooting with confidence. It also helps when Bogdanovic catches fire like he did late in this quarter, knocking down three triples in four possessions.
This served as a spark for the Hawks, eventually taking a 63-62 lead thanks to a three-pointer from De’Andre Hunter. Both Bogdanovic and Hunter contributed 13 points each in the quarter, leading the Hawks to a 68-62 halftime advantage. After going 1-for-7 in the first quarter, the Hawks improved to 7-for-15 from beyond the arc in the second. Murray, Bogdanovic, and Hunter entered halftime in double-figure scoring, while Embiid and Maxey shouldered the scoring for the 76ers.
The offense faltered again for the Hawks in the third quarter. The 76ers pushed within a possession until the five-minute mark of the quarter when a three from Maxey put them on top 85-83. Following a brief 87-83 lead for the 76ers, De’Andre Hunter made a crucial string of field goals to propel the Hawks. A three-pointer and a mid-range shot restored the Hawks’ lead over the 76ers, making it 88-87.
Bogdan Bogdanovic attempted just one three-pointer in the quarter and missed. Embiid, who was scoreless in the second quarter, poured in another 13 points in the third. De’Andre Hunter’s 8 points kept the Hawks afloat, but the 76ers still overtook the lead by a margin of 93-92 entering the fourth quarter. The 76ers outscored the Hawks by seven in a quarter where the Hawks scored just 24 points.
The Hawks were having a relatively solid start to the fourth quarter, positioning themselves for an opportunity to win the game. The 76ers held the lead, but only by a few points. Bogdan Bogdanovic was fouled on a three-point attempt with about seven minutes remaining. He sunk all three free throws, tying the game back up at 104. After this point, a tough and-one from Saddiq Bey gave the Hawks the lead.
Later, two made free throws from Clint Capela would give the Hawks a 109-106 lead. In a lapse of judgment, Bogdanovic was called for a reach-in foul on Maxey when the Hawks had plenty of defenders ready for the fast break.
At this point in the game, disaster struck. The Hawks went scoreless for nine straight possessions, allowing the 76ers to take control. Some of these nine possessions included offensive rebounds and multiple scoring attempts, but here’s what it looked like in a vacuum.
Results of the Hawks' 9 possessions following Clint Capela's free throws to take a 109-106 lead:— joe schmidt (@Joe_Schmidt07) December 9, 2023
Clint Capela’s free throw to extend the lead to 109-106 came at the 5:03 mark. The Hawks scored their next points with 44 seconds left in the game. By this point, it was too late, as the Hawks had built up a ten-point deficit.
The Hawks were outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter, meaning they scored just 46 points in the second half. The absence of Trae Young’s masterful offensive orchestration was evident throughout the game, especially in the closing moments. In total, De’Andre Hunter led the team with 24 points, while Murray and Bogdanovic both scored 20. Bey and Capela contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively. However, Bey struggled with a 6-for-20 shooting performance from the field. The Hawks, as a team, were inefficient, shooting 41-for-104 from the field and just 13-for-39 from three. Despite attempting 17 more shots than the 76ers, the Hawks faced challenges. Some of this can be attributed to the Hawks’ 23 offensive rebounds, including 10 from Clint Capela. However, the 76ers also attempted 37 free throws compared to the Hawks’ 21.
Joel Embiid ended the game with 38 points, and Maxey scored 30. The duo combined for 23-of-27 from the free-throw line.
In his post-game interview, Dejounte Murray addressed the struggles late in the game. He noted that the Hawks played their best in the second quarter when they were moving the ball around and getting out in transition. When asked about areas for improvement, he mentioned overall execution and their slow start in the game.
The Hawks will face the reigning champion Denver Nuggets at home on Monday for their next contest.