Losses to the Philadelphia 76ers have been rather frequent for the Atlanta Hawks, but coach Larry Drew was seething after a dismal start doomed them in last week's meeting.
He's expecting an improvement this time, particularly from Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.
The trio attempts to lead the playoff-bound Hawks to just their second win in over two years versus the 76ers on Wednesday night.
Atlanta (42-36) has lost seven of eight games versus Philadelphia, including four straight on the road. Those struggles were on display early Friday in a 101-90 home loss. They never recovered from a poor start, allowing the 76ers to connect on 16 of 22 from the floor - hitting all four from beyond the arc - for a season-high 40 first-quarter points.
Drew leveled sharp criticism for that poor start.
"Going back to training camp ... we've had to be a team that is gritty, a blue-collar team, particularly on the defensive end," Drew told the league's official website. "Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten who we are. ... I'm very concerned about the mentality of our team."
Perhaps that gave Drew some added motivation to rest Horford, Smith and Teague in the second game of a back-to-back Saturday. Rookies John Jenkins and Mike Scott had season highs of 23 and 22 points, respectively, in a 99-97 loss at San Antonio, as Atlanta's skid reached three games.
"The message is very clear. The last time we played this team, we did not show up," Drew said of facing the Sixers. "I actually had a meeting with Al, Josh and Jeff. Those three guys are the head of the snake for me. I need them playing at a very high level.
"Hopefully, they can look at the San Antonio game and saw how the reserves came in and just competed hard and played hard. I need that type of effort from them as we move forward. They're all in agreement."
The Hawks' last visit to Philadelphia resulted in a 99-80 defeat on Dec. 21, when Smith led the way with 17 points while Horford and Teague combined for 12.
Horford averages 11.1 points in eight road games versus the Sixers. The center had 18 with 10 boards Friday, while Smith scored 19 with Teague contributing 12 with nine assists.
With four games left, the Hawks have already clinched a sixth straight trip to the playoffs, but seeding is still unclear. They're sixth in the Eastern Conference, one-half game back of fifth-place Chicago and 1 1/2 in front of Boston.
Philadelphia (31-46) is out of the postseason race, and followed the win over Atlanta with a 106-87 defeat at Miami on Saturday before losing 104-83 at Brooklyn on Tuesday.
The 76ers shot 38.9 percent over the last two games, while capping a 1-3 road trip after being outrebounded 67-34 by the Nets.
Evan Turner totaled 25 points over the past two contests, one more than his output against the Hawks on Friday, when he scored 10 in the first quarter. He had 21 points while hitting 10 of 17 from the floor in the most recent home matchup.
Jrue Holiday hasn't been very effective in the season series, averaging 10.3 points on 28.2 percent shooting.
The Associated Press News Service
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