NBA teams don't go 82-0.
The Bucks lost their season series to the lowly Suns. The Raptors were swept by the Pistons. The Celtics have lost both of their matchups to the Magic this season.
So when the Sixers fell to 1-2 against the young Hawks this season after a 129-127 loss Saturday night (see observations), it was disappointing, but not completely surprising.
These types of games happen. The Sixers had finally beaten their boogeyman Boston, their sixth straight win. They were 7-1 with their new-look starting lineup intact. They couldn’t afford to rest on that and overlook a hungry Atlanta team.
But they did.
I think it’s the fact that we think we’re a really good team so we can just come in and do whatever we’re going to do and still going to win,” Jimmy Butler said. “I don’t think we can fall into that trap. I’m telling you, I think that’s what it was. Thinking, ‘Yo, we won [six] in a row.’ That’s from everybody. From top to bottom. I don’t think you can play like that in order to go where we want to go.
Give credit where it’s due, former Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce has his Hawks buying in and playing much better basketball recently.
With their win Saturday, they’re now 7-8 since the All-Star Game. That may not sound like much, but when you consider they were just 18-40 before the break, it’s a stark improvement.
Rookie Trae Young abused the Sixers all night. He exploited their weak pick-and-roll defense in route to 32 points — including the game-winning floater with .01 seconds left — and 11 assists.
Though Young was a handful, the Sixers didn’t offer much resistance. After going on a 15-3 run to close out the third to tie the game and eventually take the lead in the fourth, they were also sloppy down the stretch.
“The game at stages was bizarre to me, really,” Brett Brown said. “Some of the turnovers in the fourth period were head scratching. I think some of that, some of the defensive lapses we had in the first half, were head scratching. Then you put it into the melting pot of them playing good basketball — they had some offensive firepower to sort of punish those areas that I just mentioned.”
And before the #FireBrett crowd comes charging with its pitchforks, Brown did try to make adjustments. It wasn’t a matter of game plan. It was execution.
“We had probably three or four different things from blitzing to switching to hedging to dropping,” Brown said. “If you really dug in and looked at that you would have seen that. I can’t say that any of them were incredibly effective, but they did force us to try and make different adjustments in the pick-and-roll.”
These types of games are going to happen during an 82-game season. With just nine games left in the regular season, the Sixers have one of the easier remaining schedules in the league.
But as the Hawks proved Saturday, any team can beat you on a given night. For the Sixers, it’s just a matter of learning whatever you can from a disappointing loss and getting ready to take on Orlando in a couple days.
This game surely will not define their season or the potential of their new starting five.
“We’ll be alright,” Butler said. “We got nine more left. We good, man. Forget about it. We got another one coming on the road [Monday].
“So let’s go to dinner. Forget about it. I’m not drinking right now so I can’t have no wine, but I can damn sure eat.”
Yeah, the Sixers are going to be fine.
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