There are some teams that just present a bad night for the Sixers no matter the circumstances. Call it a bad matchup or a perfect storm or whatever, some teams just can’t lose against certain opponents.
Every year, one team stands out as the proverbial thorn in the Sixers’ sides. For instance, a few years back the Sixers never had a chance against the Miami Heat. Sure, the Heat had LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but the Sixers went 0-15 over four straight regular seasons and 1-4 in a playoff series against the Heat.
Though the Sixers aren’t on a 1-19 skid against the Atlanta Hawks, they may as well be this season. In three games against Atlanta in 2015-16, the Sixers lost by 21 points on the road in December, by 28 points last month and by 38 points on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
That’s an average of 29 points per game.
“It sure feels like this one is not [a good matchup],” coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday's 124-86 loss to the Hawks (see game recap). “The numbers kind of bear that out. We don’t have many answers for them.”
Strangely, the ugly game came after the Sixers turned in their most exciting effort of the season in the last-second loss to the defending world champion Golden State Warriors.
How could such a great effort be followed by such a debacle?
“I would have to go back and look at the film because I really don’t know,” Ish Smith said. “They played good defensively and we threw the ball all over the gym. That’s attributed to me. You have to bring it every night. I feel like it starts with me, and I had one too many turnovers. It kind of sets the tone. They did a great job and we turned the ball over a lot today.”
Turnovers told much of the story of Wednesday’s loss, but not all of it. It would be bad enough if the Sixers were getting whipped on the scoreboard, but that’s the least of the troubles. The Sixers are getting whipped by the Hawks all over the place. In three games against the Hawks this season, the Sixers have committed 68 turnovers, including 24 in Wednesday’s loss. They also shot a combined 11 for 45 from three-point range in the last two losses.
Meanwhile, the Hawks shot 55.3 percent from the field against the Sixers in the three games and have the second-, third- and fourth-highest scoring games against the Sixers this season.
All of this wouldn’t be so troubling if Brown didn’t make it a point to warn his players about the two previous losses against the Hawks. In the days leading up to Wednesday’s game, Brown showed the Sixers edited game film of all the rough moments in the two previous games against the Hawks.
And two hours before Wednesday’s debacle, Brown gave an encore showing of the bad moments just to drive the point home.
Apparently, the Sixers wanted to show Brown they could do worse.
“I feel like we didn’t come out with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “I don’t think anyone played that well. I feel like it carried over. We got it to 11, Nerlens (Noel) was in foul trouble, and so we ended up taking him out and putting in Carl Landry towards the end of the third. As a group, we did not have much tonight.”
The only team the Sixers have fared worse against is the Spurs. Not only did the Sixers take a 51-point loss at home against the Spurs this season, but they also haven’t won against Brown’s former team in six seasons.