The Philadelphia 76ers got off to a rare good start over the Atlanta Hawks on March 6. The Sixers had an 8-0 lead after five minutes as the Hawks came out sluggish and cold. Unfortunately for the Sixers, there were still 43 minutes left to go, which the Hawks took advantage of en route to a 107-96 win.
Atlanta came into the night with a three-game losing streak and had slipped into the East’s No. 6 seed. The Sixers took advantage of their opponent’s misfortunes for five minutes, yet that seemed to be all they were capable of.
The Hawks could afford to come out cold before flipping the switch, at least against the Sixers. Once Philadelphia let Atlanta hit a few shots, it didn’t miss much for the rest of the half. Not only did the Hawks shoot 69 percent for the first half, they had Anthony Tolliver come off the bench to hit five three-pointers.
Even former Sixer Kyle Korver tormented his old team, scoring seven first quarter points to get the Hawks going. They got so hot that they led by as many as 19 points in the first half, then pulled away again after the Sixers got within three points in the third quarter.
As the SportsXchange put it, the Sixers looked “dispirited” after the Hawks got hot, which is a rather loaded term to use these days. After coach Doug Collins trashed Philadelphia for a lack of effort last week, it appeared to re-energize itself despite getting just one win since then. However, the Sixers might have exhausted themselves trying to prove their commitment.
The Hawks had just finished a six-game, 10-day road trip that should have made them more tired than the Sixers. They played like it in the opening moments, but they found new energy from Tolliver, Korver and eventually Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.
Philadelphia has played eight games in the past 12 days, with the visit to Atlanta coming 24 hours after a loss to the Boston Celtics. What’s more, the Sixers have to visit the Miami Heat on March 8, right after the Heat extended their winning streak to 16 games.
If the Hawks could tire and blow the Sixers out after five minutes, it makes a visit to Miami somehow bode even worse.