The 76ers have lacked quite a bit in the early portion of this season. Their ability to move the ball on the offensive end could be at the top of the list.

While opponents whip the ball around with crisp passes in half-court sets, the Sixers often struggle to get good looks at the basket.

This was evident in tonight's 88-79 loss to the enigmatic Atlanta Hawks at the Wachovia Center.

Although the Sixers entered this season placing an emphasis on good defense, they have seemingly forgotten the art of scoring, at least on a consistent basis.

Willie Green led the Sixers with 23 points, including 21 in the first three quarters. Andre Iguodala continued his up-and-down play with 11 points, shooting 4 for 14 from the field.

The Sixers made just 30 of 75 shots in the game.

Josh Smith led the Hawks with 22 points.

This was a night when the Sixers did not need to be great to win, but ordinary was not going to get the job done.

The Hawks' decision making has not caught up to their athletic ability, but they were still able to outrun most of their mistakes.

While Atlanta consistently got open shots, the Sixers often ran down the shot clock and then heaved forced field-goal attempts.

Is this any way to prepare for the big, bad Boston Celtics, who invade the Wachovia Center Wednesday night?

Trailing by four points entering the fourth quarter, the Sixers were outscored by 22-17 the rest of the way. The Sixers are 5-12; Atlanta is 7-9.

Before tonight's game, coach Maurice Cheeks said the Sixers had put the disappointment of Saturday's 94-92 overtime defeat in New Jersey behind them, although it was difficult to tell by the first quarter.

The Sixers, who squandered an 18-point third-quarter lead against the Nets, appeared a step slow during tonight's first period and trailed by 24-17.

Hawks rookie Al Horford, an NCAA champion last season at Florida, had six rebounds and set an aggressive tone.

After going 30-52 last year, this was the season the Hawks were expected to take the next step. They have good young talent and added first-round picks Horford and Acie Law, the point guard from Texas A&M.

This season, the Hawks have been inconsistent - and the Sixers surely can identify with that.

Atlanta opened its season by beating Dallas. The Hawks have also beaten Phoenix, but they lost a double-overtime affair to struggling Seattle.

The Sixers rebounded from their lackluster first quarter and were took a 46-45 halftime lead.

Green had his best quarter of the season, shooting 7 for 7 and scoring 16 points in the second period.

Green had 19 points at halftime, and the only other player in double figures was Horford, who appears undersized at center but was effective against Samuel Dalembert.

Joe Johnson, who is the Hawks' one certifiable star, scored just seven points in the first half, but he did dish out six assists.

The Sixers, meanwhile, had to feel fortunate to be leading at halftime, especially with Iguodala having as many personal fouls (two) as points.

Besides Green, point guard Andre Miller was solid with eight points and six assists in the first half.

Atlanta used its athletic ability to lead by as many as seven points in the third quarter.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com. Read his blog at http://go.philly.com/deepsixer.