Five observations from the Hawks’ 110-93 victory over the 76ers Saturday.
1. The Hawks defense continues to be at the center of the team’s recent success winning 11 of the past 13 games. They limited the 76ers to 39 second-half points, including 5 of 16 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“Second half, holding them to 39 points, we keep harping, keep pounding on our defense,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of the difference in the game. “… Our defense was a lot better in the second half in general. Just getting more stops. It lead to some offense.”
2. Not again. The Hawks led by as many as 18 points late in the third quarter. The 76ers made a late run and got as close as seven points in the fourth quarter. It was reminiscent of the previous night when the Bulls closed a 34-point deficit to five points before the Hawks won.
“That’s the beauty of this team,” Kent Bazemore said. “We learn from our mistakes. We were all on edge going into the fourth because of last night. That really empowered us to get the job down and put them away.”
Budenholzer had to keep his starters in late in the fourth quarter on the second of back-to-back games.
“I wish we could maintain a lead and not let it slip away but that’s how a lot of these games work,” Budenholzer said. “We were able to pull back together and bring it home.”
3. As good as the Hawks defense has been of late, defending the 3-point line is still an issue. The 76ers shot .414 percent (12 of 29) from long range. Of their five fourth-quarter field goals, three were 3-pointers.
“I would say more no,” Budenholzer said when asked if he was pleased with the 3-point defense. “They are getting some 3’s in transition that we are not committed to sprinting in those first three steps. … I think we can do a better job of limiting those transition 3’s.”
4. These are the same old 76ers. Yes, the Hawks won handily and for the sixth straight time against Philadelphia, including all three games this season. The 76ers made the Hawks take notice as they won eight of 10 games entering the contest. Even without Joel Embiid, the 76ers gave the Hawks problems … for a while.
“Philly is a tough team,” Dwight Howard said. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball. They find the open man. They’ve got a good group of young guys. It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of a Philly team. You have to respect them. They play great basketball.”
Malcolm Delaney added “They play a lot different from when we played them the first time.”
5. The Hawks are a season-best eight games over .500 at 26-18. They are a half game behind the Celtics for third in the Eastern Conference.
Coaches and players believe there is room for growth but that the team is headed back in the right direction after a 1-10 skid.
“I think we have a lot of room to grow but I love the direction that we are headed in,” Howard said. “I think we are playing great team basketball. I think our defense can be better, be a little bit sharper. But overall, I think we’ve done an excellent job as a team of staying focused and staying locked in to what our goal is.”
There are 38 games remaining the regular season. Bazemore restated his belief that the Hawks are a good team.
“We are right where we should be,” Bazemore said. “We started off hot. Hit a lull there. We are picking up steam. We’ve got to stay with it. We may hit another pitfall but we know how good we can be. As long as we hold on to that and approach every game with that mindset, that we are a very, very good team, I think we give ourselves a chance right now and come playoff time.”