Hawks lose another to Sixers

PHILADELPHIA — If the Hawks meet the 76ers in the playoffs they will have a body of work to study — and it’s not good.

Despite a game-high 34-point effort from Josh Smith, the Hawks lost for the third and final time this regular season to the Sixers. The latest was a 95-90 Sixers victory Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Hawks (31-23) lost for the third time in four games as they concluded a stretch of seven games in nine days. They have three days off before hosting the Bobcats at Philips Arena on Wednesday.

Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala made back-to-back 3-pointers as the Sixers built six-point lead, at 83-77, with 5:05 remaining. The Sixers (29-23) won an important game in the Eastern Conference playoff race a night after losing to the lowly Wizards.

Elton Brand led the Sixers with 25 points, including a basket with 1:30 remaining for a 90-86 lead that all but iced the game. Iguodala added 18 points.

Smith added nine rebounds for the Hawks. Joe Johnson finished with 15 points.

The Sixers won the previous two meetings against the Hawks by 11 and 14 points.

Philadelphia is the top defensive team in the NBA, entering the game as the league leader in scoring defense (87.7 points per game) and field-goal defense (42 percent). It was a concern for Hawks coach Larry Drew and the main lesson for the Hawks.

“They lead the league in field-goal defense because they do such a good job of rotating,” Drew said before the game. “When you play against a team that does that well, you have to be committed to moving the basketball and making the extra pass. You can’t get stagnant and play a lot of one-on-one because you play right into what they want to do.

“We are going to have to be totally, totally committed to moving the ball tonight, more so than we have the whole season. If you allow them to load up on one side of the floor you are playing right into their hands.”

Smith scored 13 of the Hawks’ 25 third-quarter points as they erased a narrow halftime deficit and went into the final quarter leading 66-62. Smith did pick up four personal fouls during the quarter and spent the final two minutes of the third and start of the fourth on the bench. He returned with 7:30 remaining.

He fouled out with five seconds remaining after making a 3-pointer that pulled the Hawks within 94-90.

The Sixers tied the score at 70-70 with 8:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, setting up the decisive final minutes.

The Sixers took a two-point lead, 43-41, at halftime after erasing a nine-point Hawks lead in the second quarter. Iguodala scored nine points in the second quarter to spark the comeback. Brand and Iguodala each scored 12 points in the first half.

The Sixers were 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) in the second quarter, after being held to 8-of-20 (40 percent) in the first.

Smith led the Hawks with 13 first-half points, nine in the first quarter. The Hawks ended the opening period on a 10-0 run to turn a four-point deficit into a 23-17 lead. Seven of Smith’s nine points came with Sixers center Spencer Hawes trying to guard the forward.