Philadelphia, PA – Sometimes you need a pat on the back and sometimes you need a kick in the butt.
If Jim Ross was at the microphone last night in Philadelphia, you could bet he would have been talking about the educated feet of Larry Drew after the Atlanta coach decided to place his size 12s firmly into the collective posterior of his team after the Hawks imploded during the second half of a 90-76 setback to the 76ers.
"It got tough for us and we quit," was Drew's summation after watching his team turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 14-point loss.
Without injured center Spencer Hawes the Sixers looked lost in the first half and trailed 47-39 at intermission. But, after a Joe Johnson jumper put Atlanta ahead 51-44 three minutes into the third quarter, Philadelphia scored the game's next 14 points.
In fact, hours ahead of a storm forecasted for Philly, a very large snowball started rolling downhill. It was aimed at the Hawks and it was only gaining momentum.
Georgia native Jodie Meeks buried a trey and a Jrue Holiday steal on Atlanta's ensuing touch led to Andre Iguodala's alley-oop dunk that sent the Wells Fargo Center into orbit. The Hawks were held without a point for over five minutes until a Jeff Teague free throw put an end to Philadelphia's 14-point swing.
"We talked about it at halftime, that team was going to make a run," Drew said. They made a run and we didn't maintain our composure. It got tough for us and we didn't respond."
In fact, the Sixers continued their stifling defensive effort into the fourth quarter in which they led by as much as 18 en route to what turned out to be a rather easy win.
"Our energy level was great in the first half," Hawks guard Willie Green said. "We were executing. We were moving the basketball from side to side and making them work on defense. I think in the second half they went on a run and we weren't able to collectively come together and regroup."
Atlanta was held to 34.4 percent from the floor in the second half and was forced into 11 turnovers that lead to 12 Philadelphia points. The Hawks starters has a grand total of 13 points after the intermission.
Still the tough talk by Drew was a bit of a surprise to most of the reporters assembled since the Hawks had come into the contest with an 11-4 mark, one- half game ahead of powerhouses Miami and Orlando in the Southeast Division.
The team was also 4-0 since losing All-Star big man Al Horford for three months with a torn pec. If anyone needed some positive reinforcement it was certainly these Hawks, who have stuck together through such adversity.
No so fast -- remember no one knows his team better than a coach.
That four-game run since Horford went down was a bit of Fool's Gold. All of the contests were played in the ATL and the Hawks beat two bad teams (Charlotte and Toronto), an improving Minnesota club that's still learning how to win and a Trail Blazers team that, while certainly talented, can't seem to win away from Rip City.
Perhaps more importantly, Drew saw something from last season against the 76ers -- something he doesn't want to see again on a consistent basis.
"I am hoping it's out of character. I saw a pattern of [giving up] last year and I thought we had it figured out," Drew said. "You could see it in our faces and you could see in our body language and that was very disappointing.
"We have to learn how to respond to team's runs and more importantly, We can't hang our heads."
There's no doubt that Drew's team likely walked into the locker room expecting the rah-rah, keep up the good work speech.
Instead they got what they needed -- tough love.