ATLANTA — Here are four things we gleaned from the Hawks’ 101-90 loss to the 76ers on Friday night:
1. This was probably the Hawks’ worst home setback of the season
To Atlanta’s credit, the club doesn’t have many “bad” losses on its home resume. One against Cleveland in November (sans Kyrie Irving). One against New Orleans in February (blame Mardi Gras fever), and one against Portland a few weeks ago.
That’s pretty much it.
Through that rationale, Friday’s loss to the Sixers (31-44) represents the low point at Philips Arena. Here are some of the, uh, highlights:
**Losing to a Philly team that was 8-27 on the road before tipoff **Surrendering 40 points in the first quarter **Allowing three different Philly players to collect double-digit rebounds **The Hawks’ reserve guards accounted for only 11 points **Late in the third quarter, the Hawks were shooting nearly 48 percent from the field … but trailing by 20
2. The Hawks cannot cite injuries and depth problems as reasons for the loss
On this night, Atlanta had three legitimate big men (Al Horford, Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson) garnering substantial minutes. Philly, in turn, essentially maintained a healthy lead for 48 minutes with only Spencer Hawes (19 points, 12 boards) and Thaddeus Young (14 points, 13 rebounds) patrolling the paint.
With the guards, yes, Devin Harris and John Jenkins didn’t play for the Hawks (42-35). But the Sixers were also strapped in the backcourt, relying on Nick Young (perhaps the NBA’s most erratic shooter) and Damien Wilkins (he’s only 33?) to aid point guard Jrue Holiday.
The result: Strangely, the two clubs were depleted mirror images of one another, primarily operating around the perimeter and seldom involving the pivotmen as offensive fixtures — at least during set plays.
3. If the playoffs started today, Atlanta would be on the opposite bracket of Miami
At the risk of bludgeoning this topic to death (too late for that), neither the Nets, Bulls, Celtics nor Hawks (currently a 6-seed) truly wants to face the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals — assuming these clubs are lucky enough to advance in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Yes, all players and coaches have a professional obligation to play through pain and play to win every night, justifying the premium ticket prices.
In a perfect world, though, the above four teams would also prefer ownership of a No. 6 or 7 seed … and simply take their chances against the Knicks (winners of 11 straight) and Pacers (long, athletic and physically imposing) in the East’s opening round.
At least the No. 4 seed (Brooklyn, at this moment) would get home-court advantage for one playoff series. But aside from that … it makes sense to avoid LeBron, Wade and the defending champion Heat as long as humanly possible. Even if no coach, player, trainer or team exec will confirm that, on the record.
4. It’s not every day a quality NBA team, like the Hawks, shoots 49 percent at home … and trails by double digits at the break
In the first half, Philly shot 52 percent from field (22 of 42), including five of eight three-pointers. But that lofty percentage still didn’t tell the whole story.
Of the Sixers’ 20 total misses in the half, they collected five offensive rebounds — sometimes scrambling for loose balls, while some players had already started sprinting downcourt … the other way.
It was an odd sight: Mired in ninth place in the East but hopelessly out of playoff contention — in NBA circles, it’s called no man’s land — all five of Philly’s starters had double-digit plus/minus ratios at halftime … whereas the playoff-bound Hawks had their starters fielding negative plus/minus ratios at the time.
The final score didn’t alter things one bit: Atlanta’s main five had negative ratios across the board; and Philly’s starters were all in the black.