It was shaping to be your run-of-the-mill, mid-December, Sixers vs. Hawks showdown for the ages: If you closed your eyes and concentrated hard enough, you could almost predict the 95-79 final score. Kyle Korver spent much of the night exacting his revenge on his former team by raining threes from the heavens while the Sixers jabbed and jabbed and jabbed, but never really mounted a serious attack.
And then, it happened.
76er will acquire Nets' Andrei Kirilenko, a 2020 second rounder, right to swap 2018 seconds and cash for Brandon Davies, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 11, 2014
At that point, the game... the night... life itself had a little less meaning. Brandon Davies was - IS - 100 percent heart, grit and determination, and as much as we've taken shots at him over the past year and change, we respect the fact that he's been able to carve out something of a career despite having a modicum of actual NBA talent.
I'm sure Jorge Gutierrez is a nice fellow, but there's no way in hell that he takes a charge, dives for a ball, has sex, or blows dunks like Brandon Davies. And Andrei Kirilenko will never suit up for the Sixers, so he's virtually a non-factor in the trade. In fact, the most important cog of the deal is the 2nd round draft pick the Nets owe the Sixers in 2020: There's a very good chance that player is in middle school right now preparing for his Geometry exam on Friday.
Front office machinations aside, that was an actual basketball game being played at (a fairly empty) Philips Arena, and it didn't take long to realize that if the Sixers had 50 percent more talent, and ran their offensive sets 50 percent better, they would be the Atlanta Hawks. Brett Brown and Hawks' head coach Mike Budenholzer both spent years working under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, so it's easy to see why the two coaches have similar offensive philosophies.
Both teams emphasize ball movement with the goal of getting high-percentage and/or high-value shots: The difference is that the Hawks have the players who can both create and convert on those opportunities. Atlanta would set screens for Korver (17 points, 5-for-7 from deep), the Sixers would consistently go under said screens, and the most dangerous shooter in the world would have clean looks at the basket.
It's a good thing that the Hawks actually shot a few ticks below their average tonight, or else the Sixers would have gotten rolled by 30: Atlanta was just 10-for-30 from long range on the evening. Five Hawks in all scored in double figures: Paul Millsap overcame a slow start to finish with 17 points, while small forward DeMarre Carroll tallied a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds).
There aren't a lot of good things to say about the 76ers tonight - not only did they lose the rebounding battle 52-39, but they allowed the Hawks to collect a ridiculous 16 offensive boards.
Michael Carter-Williams nearly had an Andre Iguodala-style triple-double, but when you add in his ill-advised passes and drives to the basket with no apparent endgame, his final stat line left much to be desired (eight points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, nine turnovers). Alexey Shved (who put up six shots in a memorable five-minute stretch in the first half) led the Sixers with 13 points, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a solid game offensively (12 points, including 2 three-pointers) to go along with his... less solid performance defensively (a game-low plus/minus of -20, although he did end up with five steals).
Nothing was falling for K.J. McDaniels (10 points, 3-for-11 from the floor, 1-for-7 from behind the three-point arc), but fellow rookie Jerami Grant (who looks nothing like Thriller-era Michael Jackson, despite the arguments of one Spike Eskin) finished with a pretty decent line against the Hawks: 10 points (5-for-7 from the field) and three rebounds in 16 minutes of work.
The Sixers will wrap up their road trip on Friday with a matchup against... Brandon Davies and the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. Following the game, the Sixers will return home for a three-game set kicking off with the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.
- After starting the game at center, Henry Sims played exactly zero minutes in the second half. Per CSN Philly, he wasn't hurt, so it's something to keep an eye on. If Brown's goal was to spark the offense, it didn't really work: The Sixers scored 38 points in the first half, and just 41 in the second.
- Eight of the 11 players who saw action tonight scored eight points or more. However, as a team, the Sixers shot just 24 percent from distance (6-for-25).
- The Sixers had 10 blocks on the night, including three by Nerlens Noel, and two each for Carter-Williams and McDaniels.
- I asked Atlanta Hawks' organist Sir Foster to play Kanye West's "All of the Lights" at some point in the second half, and he actually did it. So there's that.
- For both of you who care, Drew Gordon re-signed with the 87ers earlier today.
- There will be an update tomorrow regarding Liberty Ballers Night at the Sixers, so make sure to check that out.