As we inch closer to Christmas day, the recent slate of NBA games has felt more like a war of attrition than any type of gift.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, they lost yet another game to a woefully shorthanded team Thursday, falling to the Hawks 98-96 at the Wells Fargo Center. They’re now back at .500 at 16-16.
Despite getting Tyrese Maxey back after a two-game absence, the Sixers were down a few players. Georges Niang, Shake Milton, Andre Drummond, and Danny Green are all in the league’s health and safety protocols. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.
But they weren’t nearly as undermanned as the Hawks. Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Clint Capela, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are also in the league’s health and safety protocols. De’Andre Hunter (right wrist surgery) and Solomon Hill (right hamstring tear) are done for the season.
Here are a few thoughts from Thursday night’s game.
- The Sixers’ ability to pass up multiple open threes on a single possession is astonishing. It’s incredible how often they’ll move the ball well, get a good look and just pass it up. It’s maddening to watch.
- John Collins was roasting Tobias Harris early. Cam Reddish, who there are whispers could be made available for a first-round pick, looked mighty smooth.
- Both of those players helped the Hawks get out to a 21-7 lead midway through the first. The start elicited boos. Hard to blame those in attendance. Atlanta was down more talent than the Sixers, but simply outworked them. That showed in the rebounding department, where the Sixers were crushed, 17-6 in the first quarter.
- If not for a nice Tyrese Maxey spark (nine points) — who did not get the start as he eases his way in after a two-game absence — the Sixers might’ve found themselves more than 32-18.
Beautiful step-back three from Tyrese Maxey.— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) December 24, 2021
- Tyler Johnson, the recent recipient of a 10-day hardship contract, made his Sixers debut. He missed two threes in a row on a possession, but came back undeterred and made a three shortly after. More of that type of aggressiveness, please.
- The frontcourt of Charles Bassey and Paul Reed gave the Sixers a little juice, especially on the glass. A lineup of Maxey, Johnson, Isaiah Joe, Reed and Bassey was mostly responsible for getting the deficit under 10 in the second quarter. What a time to be alive.
- Man, Furkan Korkmaz is really in his own head. Returning from the flu, Korkmaz missed his first three and his recent struggles seemed to creep back into his mind. The Turkish wing typically has no conscience, but he passed up multiple threes.
After a sleepy start, it was good to see Harris wake up to end the half with eight late points. He helped get the Sixers within one. The team got 92 combined points from the trio of Harris, Joel Embiid and Seth Curry Monday against the Celtics. They combined for just 22 points in the first half Thursday. Second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu did a solid job on Embiid.
- It felt like the Sixers should be down by a good margin, but Maxey’s 11 points off the bench were part of the reason the game was even at 51-51 at the half.
- Any momentum the Sixers gained at the end of the first half was gone quickly. An 11-0 run led by a hot Reddish put the Hawks up seven. There’s just such a lack of urgency from the Sixers when they play shorthanded teams.
- Harris took 10 free throws the other night in Boston. He’s up to six midway through the third. That is a very welcomed sight.
- The Sixers won the bench minutes largely because of Maxey, but I’ve liked the energy of Johnson and Bassey. Another night where the Sixers lacked juice and it was good to see the reserves provide some.
- Speaking of Maxey ...
️TYRESE MAXEY!!!!— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 24, 2021
& wait for Mr. Maxey pic.twitter.com/Kt9bZJ13Ab
It’s pretty clear he needs to close the game tonight. Doc Rivers needs to find ways to get Embiid the ball when he checks back in in the fourth.
- Harris appeared to heat up — both in his play and attitude — in the fourth. He hit a couple shots and, though I admit I can’t read lips, seemed to be using some colorful language as he was getting back on defense.
- Matisse Thybulle with a ridiculous sequence. He caught an oop from Harris on one end, then proceeded to put Sklyar Mays in hell, stripping him and then blocking him twice on multiple layup attempts.
- Reddish suffered a right ankle sprain and also had a left calf cramp. The Hawks ruled him out midway through the fourth. It was a big break for the Sixers. Reddish had 18 points in 27 minutes.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic couldn’t hit the ocean from the beach. Then he suddenly erupted late in the fourth. He was 0 for his first 13. He hit four straight shots down the stretch to put the Hawks up six late.
- A Maxey bucket and Embiid free throws made it a two-point game with 29.4 seconds left. A good defensive possession led to a 24-second violation by Atlanta and the Sixers getting the ball back for a final shot with 5.4 seconds left and trailing 98-96.
- The Sixers got a pretty good look, with Embiid missing an open midrange jumper. But it should’ve never came to that. This is an awful loss. There’s really no other way to put it. Embiid and Harris shot a combined 11 of 31. That’s simply not good enough. This is now three losses in the past week or so against shorthanded teams where the Sixers simply didn’t show up. Embarrassing.