The Sixers got what they wanted with Jimmy Butler at the line with a chance to tie the game with 2.4 seconds left.
But the four-time All-Star missed both free throws as the Sixers fell to the lowly Hawks, 123-121, at Wells Fargo Center Friday night.
John Collins' fadeaway jumpers with 9.5 seconds left was the dagger that finished them off. Collins finished with 25 points while rookie guard Kevin Huerter had 29.
The loss drops the Sixers to 18-4 at home and 27-16 overall.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid, who was sidelined with right ankle soreness.
Here are observations from the loss.
• The two glaring stats that stood out for the Sixers were three-point shooting and rebounds.
The Sixers didn’t do well defending the three yet again, allowing the Hawks to shoot 48 percent (12 of 25). That after they allowed the Wizards to shoot 48 percent Wednesday night.
They were also outrebounded, 44-30. The biggest factor there is Embiid’s absence, but it’s also the result of not having a legitimate backup five.
• With Embiid out, it was clear that Jimmy Butler was the focal point of the offense. We did see a few of the new wrinkles Brett Brown has put in to get Butler more comfortable.
One of the more interesting sets had the Sixers using JJ Redick as a screener up high. They ran that set twice in the first half. Both possessions resulted in baskets — a Ben Simmons layup and Mike Muscala corner three. With how much attention Redick draws, it did seem to open up the floor for Butler.
At the half, Butler had 16 points and was 5 of 9 from the field. He also got to the line, making 6 of 6. He struggled in the third quarter but was huge down the stretch — other than the free throws — including this big alley-oop.
BEN TO BUTLER OH MY. pic.twitter.com/O6jXI6rTe7— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 12, 2019
With all the exhaustive talk of fit and offensive roles, there seems to be a fairly instinctual connection between Simmons and Butler that’s been there since day one.
Ben to Butler, what a beautiful thing.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 12, 2019
Simmons feeds a waiting Butler beneath the basket for a quick pair. pic.twitter.com/DVOg5siojD
He finished with 30 points on 9 of 19 from the field.
• After a rough outing in D.C. in which he turned the ball over seven times, Simmons was back to being his aggressive and assertive self.
He spent a considerable amount of time at the five with Embiid out. It was interesting that Brown sort of ran the offense through Simmons in the post for a few stretches. It did lead to a few good looks.
In the Simmons jump shot watch department, he missed two baseline fadeaways in the first half and made a fadeaway in the post in the third quarter. All of them were good shoots in the flow of the offense.
Simmons jumpin'— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 12, 2019
He's got 17 on the board tonight. pic.twitter.com/U8nPa86Vjs
Simmons finished with yet another triple-double with 23 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.
• Redick struggled from the field early on after missing the last two games with a back injury (7 of 21), but he nailed two huge threes — one with 7:20 left to tie the game at 103 and another with 5:45 left to tie the game at 109.
You can see what this team misses when Redick isn’t in the lineup. The space he creates for Embiid, Butler and Simmons isn’t the easiest thing to quantify without advanced metrics, but it’s easy to notice when watching the team play without him.
• Mike Muscala was solid starting in Embiid’s absence against his former team. Over his last 13 games, Muscala’s highest point total was 11. He reached 11 points with 9:34 left in the second quarter Friday. He drilled a huge three-pointer to tie the game at 116 with 3:20 left. He recorded 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
• Brown provided brief injury updates before the game on Markelle Fultz (thoracic outlet syndrome), Zhaire Smith (foot) and Justin Patton (foot).
Brown mentioned that general manager Elton Brand will be giving a statement on Fultz’s status in the near future. He said he expects to see Fultz around the team again soon, but is unsure of when the 2017 No. 1 overall pick will be able to practice.
Smith continues to work out and do some shooting, but Brown isn’t sure when he’ll be able to start practicing with the team.
Brown expected Patton to be able to participate in team activities at the beginning of February.
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