Going inside the Hawks’ 92-84 loss to the Sixers on Saturday night in Philadelphia, which brought an end to Atlanta’s six-game winning streak.
Coming off an impressive victory over the Trail Blazers on Jan. 30, the Hawks took on Philadelphia the following night and had their hands full vs. one of the league’s worst teams.
Up by as many as 21 in that game, the Sixers came back to lead with three minutes remaining before Atlanta pulled away to win 91-85 to extend its winning streak to 19 straight.
That same scenario played itself out at Wells Fargo Center, for the Hawks, who were one night removed from dumping LeBron James and the Cavaliers — only this time they didn’t leave with a winning streak intact.
"A lot of credit to Philadelphia, their players, they were better than us tonight," said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. "I think a lot of our guys got to learn and grow. It wasn’t our best night. But sometimes you learn more from those than you do your good nights."
Leading by 11 after one and six at halftime, Atlanta was 5 of 22 from the field in the third quarter as the Sixers went on a 12-1 run to take a 72-65 win with a Thomas Robinson bucket with 42 seconds left in the period.
Dennis Schroder managed to cut that deficit to three, hitting a pair of free throws before adding a driving layup as time expired. It was a strong outing from the German, who had 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting and he added a team-high six assists, but it couldn’t make up for the Hawks’ shooting after the break. For more on that …
DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap were out, which could be bandied about as an excuse, but a week ago the Hawks dumped the sat Carroll, Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Pero Antic and still beat Heat. As much young talent as Philadelphia has, they don’t have a Dwyane Wade or Goran Dragic on their roster like Miami does.
Atlanta started fast, shooting 51 percent in the first half, then they proceeded to shoot at just a rate of 28 over the last two quarters.
"We were not very good and I thought their defense was really good," Budenholzer said. "They got into us. They made it difficult and we were not able to covert. I think our passing, our pacing was not very sharp."
Those struggles were on full display in the fourth quarter, which started off with Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack hitting 3-pointers to go up 75-72. But from there Atlanta hit just three of its last 14 shots, including a final 2:10 in which Kent Bazemore came up short on a layup and Scott badly missed a 3.
Outside of that strong quarter the Hawks were just out of sync, committing 19 turnovers that the Sixers turned into 19 points. Atlanta now has five games with at least 19 turnovers this season, dropping four of them.
The week belonged to Dominique Wilkins, who had a statue unveiled at Philips Arena and a stretch of Marietta St. was renamed after him. But this current Hawks team earned a benchmark victory as it tries to something the greatest player in franchise history never could.
Wilkins was part of two teams that share the team’s record with 57 wins (1986-87 and ’93-94), and while they lost to the Sixers the Hawks are already at 49 victories and barring a collapse, are going to obliterate that record.
With 20 games to play, including 10 against teams that currently have losing records, Atlanta could potentially lose 11 games and still become the first Hawks team to win 58 games.
But from an historical standpoint, 60 victories would bode well for them making some history in the playoffs.
In the last 20 seasons, 33 teams have won 60 or more, with 23 of them reaching the conference finals. Of that amount, 13 advanced to the Finals, with nine winning a title.
In each of those 57-win seasons, the Hawks never made it past the conference semifinals. The 1986-87 team bowing out in five games vs. the Pistons, while the 1993-94 squad fell in six to the Pacers.
27 — The Sixers average just 7.9 3-pointers per game, but in the last two games against Atlanta they have hit 27, including 13 on Saturday.
14 — Philadelphia pulled down 55 rebounds, marking the 14th time this season an opponent has had 50 or more vs. the Hawks. That is tied for seventh-most in the NBA.