ATLANTA - The 76ers had every right to consider themselves a hot basketball team, with two wins in their past three games.
Problem was, last night they ran into an even hotter team.
The Atlanta Hawks won their eighth straight game for the first time since 1997 by pinning a 95-79 decision on the Sixers. Though their offense wasn't exactly humming, the Hawks' defense that has been so good of late was.
In the first 13 games of the season, Atlanta (15-6) allowed an average of 104.3 points a game. During the eight-game streak, that number is 87.9. As much praise that could go to the Hawks' defense last night, it was as much the Sixers' ineptness that led to the low point total.
"We were a little stagnant, we didn't get into our sets quick enough and, of course, the turnovers killed us," said Michael Carter-Williams who had eight points, 10 rebounds and nine each of assists and turnovers. "Myself turning the ball over too much; I need to get better at it and the team needs to get better at it and we just need to continue to get in our sets and move the ball."
That was something Atlanta did a very good job of in the first half, but simply was unable to drain many open shots, particularly from three-point range where it missed 16 of 22 attempts in building a nine-point lead.
The Sixers (2-19), who were led by Alexey Shved's 13 points, did a much better job of shutting down the outside openness, but while Atlanta attempted only eight threes (making four), it still managed to score 48 points and build a lead as big as 21.
"I see a good team on both sides of the ball," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the Hawks, who were led by Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap, who both scored 17. "Our offense is very far behind our defense. I think we played well defensively for the most part, to hold a team like that to 95 points. We tried to fix their barrage of threes by doing a lot of switching. They had 22 threes in the first half and only took eight in the second. I think we were able to stay connected to them.
"We got hurt on the boards [52-39], but I thought our defense was good and has been quite good. Our offense struggles. We really struggle making shots and it's a little bit ratty when you try to go small and sort of find a way to shoot your way back in the game."
And the turnovers, as Carter-Williams acknowledged, are killers. Still, being the team's best playmaker, he admitted he can't become too apprehensive with the ball in his hands.
"I was late on a lot of stuff tonight, I was taking one too many dribble and letting their defense rotate for steals," he said. "I should have given the ball up a little earlier. I still have to be aggressive and find the open guy and continue to make plays and try to do a lot at the offensive end. Hopefully it leads us to another win."
The Sixers and Brooklyn Nets will finalize a deal today that will send 6-10 forward Brandon Davies to the Nets in exchange for 6-9 forward Andrei Kirilenko, a 2020 second-round pick, the right to swap 2018 second-round picks and perhaps another player and cash. The trade was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
Kirilenko, 33, may be waived by the Sixers. He is making $3.3 million in the final year of his contract, has appeared in seven games and scored three points.
In 20 games this season, including six starts, Davies averaged 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 18.9 minutes. He did not play last night.
"I was aware that his name was a part of it and I spoke with him before the game and told him that and said that I wasn't going to be able to play him tonight and risk things that were moving," said coach Brett Brown, also noting the trade wasn't official. "In fairness to him, I felt he needed to know why he wasn't in the game."
Following his return to practice Monday after missing five games with a sore knee, Tony Wroten and Brett Brown seemed pretty hopeful that Wroten would return against Atlanta. But there was soreness afterward and not much improvement Tuesday, so Wroten missed his sixth consecutive game. The hope is for him to be ready by tomorrow, when the Sixers play in Brooklyn.