ATLANTA - It would be easy to suggest that the Sixers were weary.
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Especially after they surrendered 37 points in the second quarter, but that wasn't the only reason they lost, 110-93, to the Hawks on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).
Without Joel Embiid, the Sixers fell for just the third time in 11 games.
They were cooked by their mistakes in Philips Arena, where 21 turnovers led to 17 Atlanta points, and burned by the Hawks' experience, muscle and bench.
After an even first quarter that ended 25-25, the Hawks did just about whatever they wanted over the next 12 minutes.
Making 16 of 23 shots in the period, they scored every which way. Quite a few times, an Atlanta player slipped backdoor to the basket, and the Sixers missed several switches. That might be partly attributable to heavy legs, as they beat the Trail Blazers, 93-92, one night earlier, but the Hawks out-schemed the Sixers, too.
"They're good. They're veterans," head coach Brett Brown said. "They've been playing together for a while . . . they really are difficult at home."
That's true. The Hawks (26-18) have won 11 of 13, and are just a half game behind the Celtics for the No. 3 spot in the East.
Atlanta's also got a huge edge in experience over the Sixers.
Paul Millsap scored 22 points and the veteran forward added 10 rebounds. Center Dwight Howard complemented him with 13 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks outrebounded the Sixers, 48-38.
Robert Covington battled on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with 15 points, but the Sixers' next two leading rebounders were guards Nik Stauskas and T.J. McConnell with six each.
Atlanta made just 7 of 20 three-pointers while the Sixers were 12 of 29 from distance. The Hawks, though, outscored the Sixers 42-30 in the paint, many buckets coming on back cuts the Sixers didn't see coming or couldn't keep up with.
"I think you could tell the fatigue set in on us, and I just think we failed to get stops," said point guard T.J. McConnell, who had eight points and a game-high 11 assists. "Really, that's what it comes down to . . . in a back-to-back sometimes your legs just aren't there. You could tell, a lot of our shots, they just didn't fall."
Other than that second quarter, the Hawks were moderately successful offensively. They averaged 24.3 points in the other three, shooting 42.6 percent in those periods.
Without their usual sharp-shooting from beyond the arc, the Hawks scored at the rim, and converted their 11 rebounds.
They outscored the Sixers 42-30 in the paint, and Atlanta had a massive 14-0 edge in second-chance points. Howard had a lot to do with both problems.
"They do a good job of limiting post touches," Brown said of the Hawks.
The Sixers were trying.
They trailed by 18 late in the third quarter, yet whittled away and pulled within 94-87 when rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot made a pair of free throws with 6:46 left in the game.
But their bench got slaughtered, and mistakes mounted.
Atlanta's reserves outscored the Sixers' 36-30, outrebounded them 15-9, and worst of all, the Sixers' subs turned the ball over 10 times – Luwawu-Cabarrot had five – to five for the Hawks.
"I think there was an energy that wasn't with us tonight," Brown said. "I think that second group struggled."
After they cut the deficit to seven, the Sixers missed seven of their next eight and the Hawks practically raced to the finish line as their opponents slowed once and for all.
"Every time we made a run, they just came back and made a run as well," Covington said. "We did what we could to stop it, but Atlanta's a good team."