Too many fouls at rim doom Sixers in loss to Hawks: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (23-12) visited the Atlanta Hawks (14-21) on Wednesday. Both teams wanted to snap two-game losing streaks. Paint defense and bad officiating killed the Sixers in a 139-132 overtime loss.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, both of whom have swelling in their left knees.
Kenny Lofton Jr., Ricky Council IV, and Terq Smith are on two-way G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats and were not available.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Nico Batum, Tobias Harris, and Paul Reed.
The Hawks were without De'Andre Hunter, who has right knee inflammation. Clint Capela missed the game with right achilles soreness.
Wesley Matthews was out with right calf soreness. Garrison Matthews has a sprained left ankle and was not available.
Vit Krejci is recovering from a left shoulder subluxation and was out. Mouhamed Gueye has a stress fracture in his right low back and was not available.
Kobe Bufkin is on assignment with Atlanta's G League affiliate and was out.
Quin Snyder started Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Johnson, and Onyeka Okongwu.
- When Marcus Morris Sr. isn't knocking shots down, he serves no purpose to this team on the court. It did not start or end very well on either end for Morris, but his outside touch was money in the second quarter. Morris gave the Sixers a bit of breathing room with a prolific shooting display, leading the team in scoring for a period of time on that run alone.
- I understand Nurse opting to spread the floor more in the second half so that Maxey and Harris would have open driving lanes, but Reed deserved a better fate than being stuck to the bench at critical junctures of the game. I don't even think Reed has been all that good this season. But, he exhibited moments of control at the rim as a screen-and-dive guy and offered some of the best interior defense of any blue jersey to see the court.
- Wednesday was the second time this season that Springer was a shining bright spot. The Hawks threatened to pull away early in the second quarter, but Springer effectively put Young in jail for an entire shift of minutes. If he didn't create a turnover, he forced the ball out of Young's hands or bothered him into bad shots. It completely muddied Atlanta's offense, affording the Sixers the opportunity to get back in control.
- The Hawks are a total mess, but the only reason the Sixers hung in this game until the very end was the guys with the most responsibilities stepping up. Maxey and Harris answered the call without Embiid available, taking turns vacillating between bully ball and crafty scores all over the floor. Maxey, in particular, took over in the fourth quarter. He registered 13 points in the final frame, heroically giving Philadelphia a lead that his team promptly coughed up.
I will never love Maxey taking off-balance long twos, but there is eventually a point at which you just have to take what the defense gives you. Atlanta didn't have a Kris Dunn to harass the young guard all night long, and Maxey got whatever he wanted. He darted to the rim, patiently finding angles to attack the paint and putting some English on the ball to get tough shots to fall. He laced a handful of triples, too - none bigger than the one that put the Sixers up four in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
- To Philadelphia's credit, they did a much better job of covering up the paint and at least challenging Atlanta in the paint in this game than they did on Saturday against Utah. Granted, it would've been hard to replicate the runway they afforded the Jazz in that game.
Nonetheless, a better effort didn't stop Atlanta from getting whatever it wanted in the paint all night long. The game started off with Okongwu eating Reed inside, floating to the basket against bad defensive positioning or knifing his way to the rim as a roller. He met his scoring average for the season before he even hit the bench for the first time.
It didn't stop there. Bruno Fernando either scored at will or got fouled in the process. Other non-bigs on the home team found spaces to exploit cutting around the baselines or flat-out beating Philadelphia down the court after dead-ball plays for dunks.
The fouling at the rim might've been the most exasperating part of all of it. Philadelphia insisted upon giving the contact at the rim on shots that they weren't going to be able to stop. If you have to foul at the rim, wrap up the offensive player. Don't let him get the ball above his head. If he's already in a position of advantage, let him have the dunk and move on. The one thing you cannot do is give the contact and the finish, and that was a problem that lingered all night long.
When the Sixers were most prepared to put the game away, that problem flared up in the worst way. Kelly Oubre Jr. fouled Johnson at the basket, conceding the dunk and sending him to the line for the bonus to effectively cancel out Maxey's heroic step-back three that put Philadelphia up four with less than a minute to go in regulation.
- Remember a number of games ago I said there's a couple plays in every game that make me laugh? The first submission of this game came courtesy of Reed, who took the ball in transition, ignored Maxey hanging back to retrieve the rock from him, attempted to attack the basket in traffic, and missed the ensuing layup. Rough.
- How do you foul Maxey out on a Young grift move in overtime when you wouldn't give the Sixers guard a foul on a blatant slap on the hands at the end of regulation? The Sixers' rim defense was a bigger reason why they lost the game, but as Darko Rajakovic said on Tuesday night - it's a complete crap.
The Sixers (23-13) will host the Sacramento Kings (23-14) on Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on ESPN.
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media