In a game that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, the Sixers played like they knew that was the case. With so few games left before the playoffs, this was the perfect game to get back on track, but yet, the team must have felt differently.
Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to a back injury, and the hope was that his addition would help a Sixers defense that has seemed lost lately. This was not the case as the first quarter was a scoring clinic by the Atlanta Hawks; they shot an insane 65 percent from the field on their way to 42 points.
JJ Redick was able to keep the Sixers in the game for the most part with 12 points in the opening quarter. One of his patented 3s was a little more important than the others, as he became the single-season record holder for most 3-pointers made in Sixers history. Ben Simmons chipped in with a 5-4-3 line in the first quarter, but that wasn’t enough to get the Sixers a lead, as they went into the second frame down 42-38.
Jimmy Butler seemed to play very passively In the first quarter, only shooting once. This was not the case in the second quarter, as he scored 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field. The team seemed much more inspired on the defensive end in the second quarter; while the Hawks still scored 30 points, they had to work hard for everything. The half ended as a stalemate, as both teams scored 30, leading to a 72-68 halftime lead for the Hawks. Ben Simmons struggled mightily in the first half, scoring just 5 points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field.
Once the second half rolled around, both teams continued to trade blows, neither able to get more than an arms-length away from the other. Trae Young started to really flex his muscles for the Hawks, securing another double-double by the time the quarter was over. For the most part, the quarter was filled with back-and-forth scoring, and by the end of the quarter, neither team made up any ground. The Hawks ended the quarter once again up by four, this time the score being 98-94.
The fourth quarter is where the Hawks started to slip out of the Sixers’ grasp. An early quarter injury picked up by James Ennis forced him out for the remainder of the game. It was reported that Ennis sustained a right quad contusion; how long that will keep him out for is still unknown. Frustration started to set in as the Hawks refused to let up. Ben Simmons was issued a technical as a result of complaining to the referees after a few calls the point guard believed should have gone his way.
Things seemed out of reach when the Hawks lead ballooned to 13 points, but all hope wasn’t lost. The Sixers went on a late 12-5 run to bring the game within six points. This one came down to late-game precision, and the Sixers clearly lacked that tonight. Late missed free throws by Jonah Bolden and Jimmy Butler sealed Philadelphia’s fate, as they once again dropped a winnable game to the Atlanta Hawks by a score of 130-122.
Atlanta takes the season series with the win, 3-1, and while in the grand scheme of things, this game doesn’t mean a whole lot, it still would have been nice to gain some confidence heading into the playoffs. All members of the starting five ended the game in double digits scoring-wise, but that won’t help much if the defense continues at its current level. The Sixers are full of potential, but they need to figure out some of these issues before the playoffs roll around or they risk an early exit.