Atlanta Hawks use a fourth-quarter boost to the top Sixers, 104-95, with James Harden injured

Atlanta – Dejounte Murray had no one to stand in his way to the basket. However, the Hawks’ guards still favored a high-profile play and returned the ball to late teammate Onika Okongo for the knockout.

This sequence summed up how the Hawks built an ultimately insurmountable lead against the 76ers, who lost 104-95 at State Farm Arena, dropping to 5-7 on a difficult start to the 2022-23 season.

“With every miss, you can literally see [the frustration]Coach Doc Rivers said. “It resulted in no passing, after which I actually leaked to the defensive end.”

But the last minutes saw some unexpected drama.

The Sixers had a 100-94 run when Rivers emptied his bench, and Shake Milton went 1 of 2 from the free throw line with about two minutes to play. But Murray answered with a bucket, and after Rivers re-entered freshmen Joel Embiid, Teresi Maxi and Tobias Harris, John Collins followed Embiid’s free throw with an alley-high dunk with less than a minute remaining.

The Hawks used 25-11 runs to close out the third quarter — capped by a steep, choppy jump by super opponent Trae Young — to turn a 55-55 tie into a 14-point advantage in the latter period. After a brief spur by the Sixers to reach a distance of eight, at 82-74, the Hawks answered with seven straight points to push Rivers’ timeout to try to put down the race.

The Sixers coach was forced to call another about a minute later, after Justin Holliday knocked out three pointers before Okongwu’s authoritative finish pushed Atlanta’s advantage to 20 points at 94-74 with less than eight minutes to play.

The Hawks’ blast started with Embiid off the bench with four fouls. After the match, the two-time runner-up said, “In those situations, I feel like I don’t have anything to lose. I have to be on the ground.”

“I think I’m smart enough not to do anything wrong,” he added. “But I thought it was probably when the game changed. They kept that running, and we could never get it back. …

“I trust everything my team-mates and coach say. Tonight, it just so happened that, at the time, it was probably the wrong decision.”

The teams fired an ugly set of 12 of 56 from a three-point range — including a 4-for-32 start — and hovered about 40% of the ground until late Atlanta’s increase. Rivers, though, was more annoyed that the Sixers made more assists (17) than assists (15) and that “the lack of base play I think was really evident tonight” as James Harden lost his third game in a row due to Tensed foot tendon. .

Seven of those turnovers came from Embiid, who finished the game with 26 points and 13 rebounds. Maxi had 15 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, but he shot 5 of 17 from the ground in what is now three games into the slack. Clint Capella scored 18 points and 20 rebounds for the Hawks.

Rivers played a 10-man rotation on Thursday, and she’s clearly aware of trying to slow Young. Matisse Thybulle was the first substitute, loosening his fellow defensive tackle De’Anthony Melton midway through the first quarter. Paul Reed was the support center on Muntrzel Harrell for the second game in a row, and later entered the first with George Niang.

Milton then entered the game less than two minutes before kick-off, before Daniel House kicked off the second quarter on his comeback from a non-COVID illness that has kept him out of the previous two games. Embiid played an extension at the top of the second quarter with Milton, Milton, House and Nyang.

But in the second half, House got back into the game before Thibault. Niang also turned center when Embiid went out in third, before Reed entered late in the quarter.

Young finished with 26 points, and went on to climb to the Hawks’ top scorers list in his fifth season in the NBA.

Coincidentally, he was on the same floor with the former Atlanta player who passed him for 16th in those rankings Thursday: Rivers. The Sixers coach scored 7,357 points during his Hawks career from 1983-91, a mark Young tied with a pontoon early in the first quarter and then lost it by a free throw about a minute later.

For the third time in their first 13 games, the Sixers will play the same opponent in back-to-back competitions when they face the Hawks at Wells Fargo Center.

They split the first two cases. The Sixers lost at the Toronto Raptors on October 26 before winning (without Embiid) two nights later. They then beat up The Wizards in Washington on Halloween, before dropping home two nights later.

Rivers said ahead of Thursday’s game that he has mixed feelings about scheduling, especially when it’s home and home and not canceling travel for either team.

“I don’t think two good teams would want to play the same team back-to-back, because it’s hard to win both,” Rivers said. “…I like the competitive part of it [when you’re the team that loses the first game]. “

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