PHILADELPHIA — The Hawks are limping toward Christmas. And it’s a pronounced limp.
The Hawks lost for the third time in four games by dropping a 99-80 decision to the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center Friday. In all three losses the Hawks have trailed by at least 17 points. The lone win in the stretch was an overtime victory over the three-win Wizards.
This loss has coach Larry Drew considering a change to his starting lineup.
“I’m very concerned,” Drew said. “I’m so concerned that I’ve got to think about the lineup now. That’s three out of four (losses) but I’m more concerned about our energy. That is what concerns me the most. I can take losing but if we don’t bring the energy, if we don’t bring the juice, that’s when I really have to look at things and I’m certainly going to do that. I may have to take a look at our lineup.”
It doesn’t get easier for the Hawks before some off time. The Hawks complete a stretch of four games in five days by hosting the Central Division leading Bulls Saturday. The Hawks then won’t play again until the day after Christmas. They’ll need to make good use of the downtime.
“I really didn’t see this type of performance coming,” Drew said. “I really thought our guys would play with a lot more energy and a more sense of urgency.”
The Hawks (15-9) have now lost six straight games to the Sixers, including all three meetings last season. Through 24 games this season, the Hawks are one loss worse than last season’s 16-8 mark at this point. The Hawks entered the game with the best road record in the Eastern Conference.
Josh Smith had 17 points, 13 coming in the first quarter, for the Hawks. Lou Williams, who played his first six seasons with the Sixers, scored 13 points. Al Horford finished with seven points on 2-of-10 shooting.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily energy,” Horford said of the recent issues. “I think we need to stay true to what has been working for us and it’s moving the ball of offense, sharing the ball offensively and playing good team defense. I think that it was very obvious that we didn’t do that as we have in the past. We have to get back on track.”
Evan Turner led the Sixers with a game-high 21 points. Thaddeus Young finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Sixers (13-14), who snapped a five-game losing streak, opened up a 22-point late lead in the fourth quarter. A Mike Scott basket with 5:58 remaining was only the second field goal for the Hawks up until that point of the final period.
With the substantial lead, and sitting at 99 points, the Sixers dribbled out the final 23 seconds of the game much to the dismay of the crowd. The home fans booed for one more basket as they were entitled to a free Big Mac from McDonalds when the Sixers hit the century mark. That was the only disappointing thing about the night for the 18,061 in attendance.
The Hawks trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter as the Sixers took a 69-54 lead. Williams scored 10 straight points for the Hawks to close the quarter and they trailed by eight going into the final 12 minutes. However, the Sixers went on a 16-5 run to start the final quarter and it was time for the Hawks’ reserves to finish out the game.
“The second half we just didn’t have the energy,” Drew said. “We just did not bring it. For whatever reason and I’ve got to find out because we are not a very good team if we do not play with energy.”
The Sixers led by as many as nine points in both the first and second quarters. They took at 51-45 lead into halftime.
The Hawks used an 11-0 run to erase the near double-digit deficit in the second quarter. Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson scored every point. Pachulia scored the first seven points. The Sixers used an 8-0 run near the end of the second to get a cushion, softened only when Pachulia hit a jumper at the buzzer.
“One of the things is we are trying to do a lot of isolations and things like that,” Horford said. “When we are most effective is when we are continually moving the ball, we are cutting to the basket and we are attacking. That’s when we are at our best. On defense, we just have to do a better job period.”
For the second straight game, Drew was denied his 100th career victory.
- Chris Vivlamore
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