Trae Young

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

7 things: Sixers lose to Hawks

Dave Uram
March 24, 2019 - 7:00 am

The 76ers knew they weren’t facing a team that came into Saturday night 27-48. At least, they talked like they knew the Hawks were better than their record showed.

More than once at Friday’s practice someone brought up how Atlanta just beat the Utah Jazz the night before at State Farm Arena. But, actions speak louder than words, and the 76ers defense was a clear indication that they weren’t at the top of their game against the lowly Hawks in Saturday’s 129-127 defeat.

Yes, the Hawks are still “lowly” even though they won two straight against the Jazz and Sixers. They are losers of six out of their last 10, and allowed at least 100 points in 35 straight games, including Saturday night.

But, scoring wasn’t the issue for the Sixers Saturday. It was defense. Here are my observations from loss No. 26.

Sixers Struggle vs Playmaking Guards

Trae Young torched the Sixers for 32 points on 11-of-20 from the field , which included a plus-22 plus/minus and 11 assists.

The highlight of Young’s night was the game-winning floater Young sunk with 0.1 seconds over Jimmy Butler from the right side of the foul line. It’s not like Butler played bad defense either. Young made an incredible off-balanced shot that summed up his incredible night.

His best quarter was the second when he scored 12 of his 32. The Hawks dropped 40 in that frame and 74 by halftime.

All and all, the Sixers struggled against Young, just like they did against Kyrie Irving, a foul riddled Kemba Walker, Collin Sexton and James Harden in recent games against Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland and Houston.

There’s a reason Brett Brown said prior to the trade deadline that his wish list was a perimeter defender. Not that Brown is unhappy with getting borderline All-Star Tobias Harris, but it’s obvious why he said that.

So, one thing to keep in mind as the playoffs are around the corner—if the Sixers are going to finish third, their first round match-up would either be against the Pistons, Nets and maybe the Heat. The Pistons don’t feature guards that can take over the games. The Nets certainly do with D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. The Heat have future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade.

Given the 76ers expectations of trying to make The NBA Finals, they’re not really a team that should put too much focus on lining themselves up for the best first round match-up possible. Simply put, if they want to reach their goal, they’re going to need to play better defense against scoring guards. They’re capable of that, holding Irving to five fourth quarter points in their win this past Wednesday. But, it needs to be consistent.

Sloppy 4th Quarter

The Sixers finished the 3rd quarter strong to head to the fourth tied at 100 with the Hawks. Atlanta won the last quarter 29-27 in part because the Sixers committed more than half of their turnovers in that frame. They committed seven of them in the fourth and 13 on the night.

Joel Embiid was especially sloppy down the stretch, with one of his turnovers leading to a Kevin Huerter breakaway dunk to briefly put the Hawks ahead.

The most costly one was a shot clock violation in the final seconds with the game tied at 127. The Sixers were giving Butler an isolation opportunity against Huerter, but Butler was taking too long to make a move. He gave the ball to James Ennis III late in the shot clock, and at that point, good luck. Ennis III gave it back to Butler, who’s three-point attempt was released after the shot clock went off.

For those who like to blame Brown for every late game blunder, this one wasn’t on the head coach. Given Butler’s fourth quarter heroics, it makes sense to put him in an isolated situation against Huerter. Butler needed to make a move earlier in the shot clock, and certainly not give the ball to Ennis.

If Brown could’ve done anything better, it would be call a timeout to get JJ Redick back in the game for Ennis.

Quiet 2nd Half For Embiid

Embiid led the 76ers with 27 points, but 16 of them came in the first half and only six in the fourth quarter.

Bad Nights For Harris and Redick

The Sixers starting five is obviously loaded, so they can’t combine for 110 points like they did against the Celtics every night. But, Tobias Harris dropped only 13 points on six-of-17 from the floor, while Redick was five-of-15 shooting for just 14 points.

Good Nights For Butler and Simmons

Other than his shot clock miscue, Butler was solid on the offensive end, as was Ben Simmons. Butler scored 25 and was 13-of-13 from the foul line, while Simmons scored 21.

Alarming Bench

Boban Marjanovic hit his first career three, which may be surprising to some, but it wasn’t to me. Marjanovic was shooting three-pointers at practice a couple of weeks ago, and making a good amount of them.

His first half three-pointer against Atlanta was the highlight of the night of the Sixers bench, which continues to underwhelming.

They combined for only 27 points, which is more than the eight and 14 they had in the previous two games. But the Hawks reserves combined for 37.

Not to mention, the only bench guys to play over 20 minutes for the Sixers on Saturday was Mike Scott with 28. Ennis III tallied 16, Marjanovic 11 and T.J. McConnell 13.

One Thing To Remember

For as bad as the Sixers were Saturday, these type of losses happen, especially after a six-game winning streak that featured thrilling wins over the Celtics, Bucks and Pacers.

The Warriors lost to the Mavericks at home Saturday night 126-91. It was the worst in the Steve Kerr era.

The key for the Sixers is to not let it snow ball into Monday night at the Magic, a team that is fighting for its playoff life, one game back of the Heat for eighth in the East. Orlando is on a four-game wining streak that included a victory over Atlanta, a game which the Hawks were held to 91 points.