Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew shortened his rotation to seven players on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. It worked for three quarters. The fourth was an entirely different story.
The Philadelphia 76ers rattled off 14 unanswered points bridging the third and fourth quarters en route to posting a 105-100 win over the struggling Hawks.
With the loss, the Hawks failed to clinch a playoff spot. More ominously, Philadelphia moved to within 2 1/2 games of the Hawks in the race for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers got the job done with a balanced attack, getting 10 or more points from seven players. Louis Williams had 17. Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguoldada 16 each. Jodie Meeks 15. Elton Brand 12. You get the point already.
Atlanta on the other hand lived and died by the success of Josh Smith, who posted a game-high 33. But his shots stopped falling in the fourth quarter as did the rest of the Hawks. Atlanta settled for jumpers, didn't go inside much and suffered yet another defeat.
The Hawks held an 80-71 lead late in the third quarter and looked poised to actually defeat the Sixers. But Williams nailed a 3-pointer prior to the expiration of the frame and followed with three free throws to open the fourth to quickly cut the Atlanta edge down to four.
A miss and a turnover later, the Hawks relinquished the lead on a jumper by Andres Nocioni with 10:49 left in the fourth. The Sixers never looked back. leading by as many as 10 before Atlanta made a late surge.
Kirk Hinrich and Marvin Williams had 16 points each and Joe Johnson added 10 for Atlanta in a game that just has you kind of scratching your head.
Jeff Teague was very effective last night in the fourth quarter. Damien Wilkins has provided a defensive spark off of the bench. And Drew used to rely on Josh Powell for significant minutes at center. But none of the three was even called upon to take the floor in this one as Atlanta's coach shortened the bench to a seven-man rotation.
Granted, Atlanta rested most of its starters in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls. But the Hawks were still playing the back-end of a back-to-back, had a late flight to Philadelphia and are experiencing some of those bumps and bruises that happen over a long NBA season.
Thus, it was puzzling at best why Drew would limit his bench so much in this one.
Jamal Crawford had 10 points and Al Horford posted eight points and nine rebounds for Atlanta, which lost for the eighth time over its last 11 games.