ATLANTA (AP) The young Philadelphia 76ers are on the rise, but the Atlanta Hawks’ experience and attention to detail made the difference Saturday night.
Howard grabbed 15 rebounds in addition to scoring 13 points, Millsap added 10 rebounds and Atlanta used a 48-38 rebounding edge to beat Philadelphia for the sixth straight time.
The Sixers (15-27) lost for just the third time in 11 games, done in partly by 21 turnovers that led to 17 Atlanta points.
Nothing mattered more than the way the Hawks (26-18) were shooting in the second quarter. They made 16 of 23 shots and outscored the Sixers 37-29 in the period to take a 62-54 halftime lead.
“We got into a good rhythm,” said Millsap, who shot 9-of-14. “We were moving the basketball, playing with each other, all the things that make us successful.”
Ersan Ilyasova led the Sixers with 21 points, and when Robert Covington (15 points, 10 rebounds) made two free throws with 6:46 left in the game, Philadelphia had whittled an 18-point third-quarter deficit to a 94-87 Atlanta lead.
The Hawks cruised from there to win for the 11th time in 13 games. They are a season-high eight games over .500, and a half game behind the Celtics for the No. 3 spot in the East.
WRONG END OF RUN
In the second game of back-to-backs, the Sixers looked as if they ran out of gas in the second quarter about 24 hours after their 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers.
“There was an energy that wasn’t with us tonight,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “I think the second group struggled. I thought that the energy and the activity of that second group tonight wasn’t what it has been.”
When the Atlanta Falcons play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC championship game in the Georgia Dome, which is less than a mile from Philips Arena, Howard said he’ll be cheering like mad.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I said before the season the Falcons and Patriots would be in the Super Bowl,” the Atlanta native said. “Go Falcons! Rise up!”
Sixers: Saturday was to be a rest day for center Joel Embiid anyway, and while he didn’t play against the Hawks his availability is unclear after he suffered a knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. Brown said Embiid will be further assessed upon the team’s return home. … Backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez did not play for just the fifth time in 42 games, including 30 starts. Brown said he’s trying different combinations.
Hawks: Backup big man Mike Muscala missed his fourth straight game with a left ankle sprain. … Atlanta has scored 100 or more points in six of the last seven games.
Although the Sixers scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-16 shooting, they made a game of it with late defense. Atlanta missed seven of its first nine shots in the quarter as Philadelphia cut the deficit to seven points.
“I think the last time we played them, we came out at halftime and the game was pretty much over from there,” said point guard T.J. McConnell, who finished with eight points, a game-high 11 assists and three of Philly’s eight steals. “But this time, they punched us in the mouth again and we didn’t go away. We’ve kind of been showing that resiliency.”
Hawks: The Clippers will stop in Atlanta before heading to Philadelphia, meeting the Hawks for the first time this season on Monday night.