The Atlanta Hawks decided to rest three starters against lowly Philadelphia, and it cost them.
Hollis Thompson and Luc Mbah a Moute scored 19 points apiece, and the 76ers surprised the short-handed Hawks 92-84 on Saturday night.
Nerlens Noel had 11 points and 17 rebounds for the 76ers, who erased a 16-point deficit to win for the second time in 11 games. Philadelphia (14-49) entered with the NBA’s second-worst record.
Unlike the Hawks, who have their eyes on an NBA title, the Sixers are in a complete rebuild with a team full of young, unproven players. Philadelphia is positioned for another high pick in the June draft, but that doesn’t mean the 76ers aren’t trying to compete on the court.
"We’re a team that’s not going to lay down," Noel said. "We’re going to come in and give it our all. We’re a team that’s going to play with high energy and just play hard."
Jeff Teague had 17 points to pace Atlanta, which had its six-game winning streak snapped. The Hawks (49-13), who came in with the best record in the league, rested starters Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll — taking more than 41 points out of their lineup. Korver didn’t even make the trip.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer defended his decision afterward.
"A lot of our guys got to learn and grow," he said. "It wasn’t our best night, but sometimes you learn from those as much as your good nights."
Atlanta scored just 31 points while shooting 27.5 percent (11 for 40) after halftime. The Hawks were coming off impressive home victories over league powers Cleveland and Houston.
"I couldn’t get a basket," said Al Horford, who scored all 12 of his points in the first half. "A lot of our guys had good looks as well. It just happens."
Philadelphia overcame a 53-47 halftime deficit with a strong third quarter when it outscored Atlanta 25-16. The Hawks were 5 for 22 from the field in the period.
Atlanta erased a three-point deficit at the start of the fourth with consecutive 3-pointers by Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack to take a 75-72 lead. But the 76ers scored the next four and took their largest lead of the quarter on Noel’s layup with 3:10 left that made it 87-83.
Noel then dove at midcourt for a steal, was fouled and made one of two free throws to put the Sixers up five. Mbah a Moute’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Philadelphia a 91-84 advantage with 1:05 left.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown spoke diplomatically about opponents not playing with a full deck, something that has happened often this season.
"I get to a stage where I don’t even care," Brown said. "Teams have come in and sat this guy or that guy. We’re at a stage that we’re just hungry to compete. Maybe there’s an additional motivation, but it’s not the first time we’ve experienced it. And the bottom line for us is we saw the best team in the East."
Atlanta was looking to reach 50 wins for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
"It’s learning," Horford said. "Bench guys got to play. Playing time is important. You obviously want to win every game, but we’ll regroup and get ready for Monday."
Philadelphia scored the first eight points of the second half to take a 55-53 lead with 9:10 left in the third quarter, as the Hawks missed all seven of their field goal attempts during the 76ers’ run. Philadelphia led by as many as seven, on Thomas Robinson’s layup with 43.4 seconds left in the period, before ending the third with a 72-69 lead.
MAKE THAT 1-40
Philadelphia entered 0-40 when failing to outshoot its opponent, but beat the Hawks despite hitting 36.8 percent from the field to Atlanta’s 39 percent.
MOVE OVER SHAQ
Noel became the first NBA rookie to have 11 points, 17 rebounds and five steals in a game since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1993.
Hawks: Atlanta had six blocks in the opening quarter. … Carroll earned the break after holding LeBron James to 18 points and forcing him to commit nine turnovers in Friday’s win over the Cavaliers.
76ers: Jason Richardson (rest) didn’t play. … Former 76ers great Allen Iverson was among those in attendance for the second consecutive game. … Sixers players wore T-shirts before the game honoring slain Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson, who was killed during a robbery attempt Thursday. … Philadelphia claimed Glenn Robinson III off waivers from Minnesota. Robinson was not with the team.