Report From Philadelphia 76ers
Game Recap: Hawks 124, 76ers 86
Four days after one of their most inspired showings of the season, the 76ers (7-42) struggled to find a spark, dropping a 124-86 decision to the Atlanta Hawks (29-22) on Wednesday at The Center. Atlanta’s balanced offense and opportunistic defense was too much, as the Hawks placed eight players in double-figures, and forced the Sixers into 24 turnovers. With the victory, Atlanta swept its season series with the Sixers for the second time in three years.
Despite trailing by 16 points at halftime, the Sixers managed to slice the Hawks’ lead to 11 points twice in the third quarter. Atlanta turned the Sixers away by closing the period on an 18-3 run, allowing the Hawks to maintain a margin of at least 20 points the rest of the way.
The Sixers were topped by Nik Stauskas’ game-high 17 points. He hit five of his seven field goal attempts, two of which were three-pointers. The Sixers also received 10 points apiece from Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Noel sunk all five of his shots, and matched a personal-best by handing out five assists.
No player on Atlanta’s roster netted more than 13 points, as reserves Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mike Scott shared team-high scoring honors. They were part of a prolific bench effort that accounted for 80 points. As impressive as the Hawks’ offensive efforts were, they shot 52.2 percent from the field and knocked down 10 three-pointers, Atlanta left perhaps its greatest mark on defense. The Hawks manufactured 13 steals, and wound up outscoring the Sixers in points off turnovers, 29-13. Atlanta entered the evening ranked third in the NBA in the latter statistical department.
Brett Brown Said – On the Sixers’ enduring a 124-86 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks:
“I feel like we didn’t come out with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball. I don’t think anyone played that well. I feel like it carried over. We got [the deficit] to 11 [points. As a group, we did not have much.”
After falling behind 8-2 in the opening 2:20 of Wednesday’s first quarter, the Sixers quickly got themselves back into the game. Jahlil Okafor brought the Sixers within four points by laying in the first of team-high tying five field goals. On Atlanta’s ensuing trip down the floor, Nerlens Noel delivered one of his two steals of the night, setting up what would ultimately be a possession that went deep into the 24-second shot clock. Nik Stauskas then stepped up to salvage some points for the Sixers.
Notes and Quotes:
Kyle Korver is now in his fourth season with the Atlanta Hawks. Prior to joining the team, which is the fourth club that he’s played for in his 13-year NBA career, Korver certainly had proven himself to be one of the more dangerous three-point marksmen in the league. For instance, he converted better than 53.0 percent of his perimeter shots during his 2009-2010 stint with the Utah Jazz.
With the Hawks, however, Korver has taken the consistency of his outside production to to an even higher level. In each of his first three campaigns with the club, he’s nailed at least 45.0 percent of his heaves from beyond the arc. The past two years, Korver has finished atop the league in three-point accuracy, hitting 47.2 and 49.2 percent of his attempts, respectively.
Robert Covington, one of the Sixers’ more dependable threats from the wing, cited Korver as one of the players he’s studied the most while attempting to improve his own game.
“Just his constant movement,” Covington said about the attribute of Korver that stands out the most. “When you think he’s relaxing, he’s gone. That’s one thing he’s done his whole career, and that’s what made him such a great shooter and such a great threat within the team.”
In addition to Korver, Covington has also spent time examining the techniques of former players Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, and Peja Stojakovic, as well as current players, like Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
“No matter what, you can learn from a lot of people,” said Covington. “You can’t just focus on yourself. You can look at other people’s games and emulate things, and pick up small things from them.”
Korver entered Wednesday evening having connected on an uncharacteristic 37.6 percent of his three-point shots. He had two separate right elbow operations last spring.
“Every time he shoots it, we still feel like it’s going in,” said Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer. “I notice the whole league still guards him.”
Korver tallied five points in 19 minutes on Wednesday, going 1-2 from three-point territory. Covington himself was unable to connect on a three.
In the opening stages of Wednesday’s game versus Atlanta, the Sixers coaching staff experimented by having Jahlil Okafor defend Hawks power forward Paul Millsap, and putting Nerlens Noel on center Al Horford. The assignments were noteworthy because Okafor was the Sixers’ starting five-man, while Noel began the contest at the four spot.
On several occasions throughout the first three months of the season, Brett Brown has expressed his belief that Okafor possesses the offensive range needed to take on power forward duties. His viability at that position, according to Brown, will ultimately be determined by his performance at the other end of the floor.
Millsap, Atlanta’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, presented Okafor with a quality test.
“He’s an All-Star,” said Okafor in reference to Millsap. Millsap was tabbed to his third consecutive All-Star Game last week, a feat achieved by only six other players in the history of the Atlanta Hawks.
“They have so many guys that can score, and he’s one of those guys,” Okafor said. “I think he benefits from being around a bunch of other great players. He’s hard to stop, and so is his team.”
Okafor spent much of the third quarter matched-up with Millsap as well. Millsap ended the night with a modest 10 points, and punched in just three of his 11 field goal attempts.
Wednesday was the third and final meeting of the season between the Sixers and Atlanta. The series proved to be a difficult one for the Sixers, as the Hawks outscored them by an average of 29.0 points per game this year.
Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer and the Sixers’ Brett Brown worked together for 12 years as assistants on the staff of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Budenholzer pointed to one of the most consistent traits the Sixers have exhibited under Brown as reason for the Hawks taking the floor on Wednesday with an edge.
“The whole league really has a lot of respect for how hard these guys play, how they compete every night,” Budenholzer said. “I think it’s helped us just to be honest about that, talk about that. They’ve played a lot of teams close. You’ve got to come with the right mental approach, and really match that kind of competitiveness, and that’s a challenge every night. I think these guys have earned everybody’s respect with how hard they play and how hard they compete.”
The Sixers begin a weekend back-to-back set by visiting the Washington Wizards (21-26) on Friday at 7:00 PM EST at Verizon Center. Washington will enter the match-up after enduring a challenging start to the week. On Monday, the Wizards were on the road in Oklahoma City, facing the NBA’s fourth-best team. The Thunder prevailed in convincing fashion, 114-98. Then on Wednesday, Washington, back at home, hosted the Golden State Warriors, the league’s top club. Golden State pulled away for a 134-121 win, aided greatly by Stephen Curry’s 51 points. All in all, the Wizards have so far turned in a disappointing results. They’re presently 10th in the Eastern Conference, after having reached the conference semi-finals each of the past two seasons. A year ago, Washington finished with 46 victories, the franchise’s highest total since it won 54 times during the 1978-1979 campaign. Last Thursday, John Wall was selected to his third straight All-Star Game. He entered Wednesday ranked third in the NBA with 9.8 assists per game, and fifth in the league with 2.1 steals per contest. Wall is also generating a team-best 19.3 points per game. Bradley Beal, Wall’s backcourt partner and the Wizards’ second-leading scorer (18.1 ppg), has missed 21 games this season due to injury, but is currently healthy.