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Sixers paced by defense in easy win

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers rediscovered their defense Friday night. Their winning touch, too.

The Sixers limited the Atlanta Hawks to 39.2 percent shooting en route to a 99-80 victory, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Evan Turner scored 21 points and Thaddeus Young had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five steals for the Sixers (13-14). Jason Richardson added 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Jrue Holiday, playing his first game after missing the previous four with a sprained foot, had 11 points and seven assists.

"We were really just trying to come out here and get a win," Turner said. "We're trying to grow and mature -- just keep them down when you have a lead."

The Sixers limited the Hawks (15-9) to their second-fewest points of the season, in sending them to their second straight loss. It was also the third-fewest points by a Sixers opponent this year, and the fewest in the last 17 games. In addition, it was the worst field-goal percentage by a Sixers opponent over that same span. Cleveland shot 35.7 percent in an 86-79 loss to the Sixers on Nov. 18.

"I'm very concerned," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "I'm so concerned that I have to think about the lineup."

The Sixers had been particularly porous during their losing streak, allowing 106.8 points per game over the previous five, on 49.5 percent shooting. Coach Doug Collins said associate head coach Michael Curry, the de facto defensive coordinator, had been "suffering the last two weeks" because he "puts his heart and soul into the team with defensive preparation."

But the Sixers were sharp Friday. Collins said Holiday's return helped.

"He gives us a settling presence," he said.

"You want to be out there," Holiday said. "You want to help. You know you can help. You know you can make a difference."

Especially, he said, with communication at the defensive end.

"We needed to talk more," Holiday said. "There were assignments we were missing, assignments we didn't miss in preseason and even at like the beginning of the year. Just getting back to the way we were."

Josh Smith notched 17 points to lead Atlanta.

Lou Williams, playing his first game in the Wells Fargo Center as a visiting player after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the Sixers, added 13.

"I thought those guys were as excited to play against me as I was excited against them," Williams said. "They brought their best effort, and we just didn't have it."

Turner sprained his left ankle during Wednesday's loss in Houston and was limited to six points, his lowest total in 18 games and his third-lowest of the season. But he started Friday, and packed 10 of his points into the first 4:55 of the fourth quarter, when the Sixers stretched their lead from 72-64 to 88-69.

They later pushed their advantage to as many as 22.

Spencer Hawes finished with 12 points for the Sixers. Kyle Korver had 11 for Atlanta.

Young scored 10 points in the first half, including a basket during an 8-0 late in the second quarter, as the Sixers snapped a 43-43 tie. Their lead was 51-45 at the half.

Turner added nine, Richardson eight and Holiday seven for the Sixers, who shot 53.7 percent in the half.

Smith led the Hawks with 13 points in the first two quarters.

The Sixers extended their lead to 72-56 late in the third period, turning 10 offensive boards into eight second-chance points in the quarter. But Williams reeled off eight straight points in the final 1:06 to cut the gap to 72-64.

Notes: Sixers center Andrew Bynum, who has yet to play this season because of bone bruises and weakened cartilage in both knees, was cleared to ramp up his rehabilitation after being examined by doctors Thursday, but he and general manager Tony DiLeo said before the game there remains no timetable for his return. "A lot depends on how Andrew reacts -- how his body reacts to the increased activity," said DiLeo, who added that Bynum will follow a six-stage process before making his comeback. Bynum first qualified the development as "a baby step" but later said, "The news is good, but we still have a ways to go." ... Earlier in the day the Sixers sent rookie forward Arnett Moultrie to the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Developmental League. ... The Sixers staged a video tribute to Williams on the scoreboard during the first quarter. "I created a lot of special memories here," he said before the game. "This place will always be a second home to me." ... Richardson's assist total was a season high. ... The Sixers play their next eight games on the road.
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