The Hawks took out a great deal of frustration against the 76ers.
First, they ended a three-game losing streak. Second, and perhaps more important, they halted a six-game slide against the Sixers. The Hawks led by as many as 21 points en route to a 107-96 victory over the Sixers Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
“I wanted to use that as motivation,” coach Larry Drew said of the recent failures against the Sixers. “That is why part of our pre-game talk was the fact that this team, for the last six games, has owned us. We need to step up to the challenge. We need to respond. After getting off to a slow start, we responded very well.”
The Hawks (34-26) avoided matching a season-high four-game slide. They avenged a 19-point loss to the Sixers in Philadelphia on Dec. 21.
Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 27 points, including11 each in the first and third quarters, and 11 assists. It was one off Teague’s season- and career-high.
“We are just playing well as a team,” Teague said. “I just took the shots when they were there. We executed perfectly tonight.”
Anthony Tolliver had a season-high 21 points off the bench, including a career-high 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Al Horford had a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Josh Smith added 13 points and Kyle Korver extended his streak to 53 games with a 3-pointer.
“Shots were just going in,” Tolliver said. “It’s part of (the Sixers’) rotations. When you are rotating, sometimes it’s tough to get to everybody and I was the beneficiary of that several times – all over the court. I was able to get a couple easy ones early and then I made a couple difficult ones later. All in all, it was about teammates finding me in open spots and I was knocking them down.”
It was the 32nd double-double of the season for Horford. Over the past 11 games, 10 of which he has scored 20 or more points, Horford is averaging 23.7 points and 11.3 rebounds.
The Sixers (23-37) lost their third straight game and 10th in the past 11. All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, a concern of the Hawks, was limited to 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting. Damien Wilkins was the Sixers’ leading scorer with 21 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Holiday, who entered the game 12th in the NBA in scoring at 19.1 points per game, was held Holiday to two first-half points on 0-for-6 shooting. He reached double-digits with a meaningless 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
“We had a game plan and we were able to execute it against him,” said Devin Harris, who drew the early assignment of guarding Holiday. “We wanted to keep him out of the paint.”
The Sixers managed to trim a double-digit deficit to three points, 66-63, midway through the third quarter. From that point on, the Hawks ended the period with a 24-7 run and took a 21-point advantage into the final quarter. Teague drained a 3-pointer at the quarter buzzer to put an exclamation point on the run.
“I went to a couple possessions of zone right out of the timeout,” Drew said. “They seemed to get into a rhythm and I just tried to disrupt their rhythm as much as possible. It forced them into a few possessions that they missed and we capitalized on it.”
The Hawks led by as many as 19 points in the first half.
After trailing 8-0 to start the game, the Hawks finally scored with 4:48 gone in the first quarter. They missed their first seven shots and committed four turnovers. The Hawks responded to the slow start with an 18-6 run and took a lead they would not relinquish.
Tolliver scored 15 first-half points, with 13 coming in the second quarter. Teague had 13 first-half points, 11 coming in the first quarter that included layups on three straight possessions. He also recorded his 1,000th career assist.
Despite the poor start, the Hawks ended the first half shooting nearly 60 percent from the field (25 of 44, 56.8).
“Coming off that long road trip, guys were just trying to get their feet under them,” Teague said. “We couldn’t get any shots to fall. Eventually, we got rolling.”