Dating back to last year's playoff run, the Philadelphia 76ers saw their fair share of mid-game collapses. Specifically, against the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers had multiple games in their second-round series where they built up a significant lead just to see it all go away in time before the game concludes.
This season, the Sixers are still working on maintaining big leads late in the game. Just last Friday, the Sixers hosted the Brooklyn Nets for their home opener. Despite having total control of the game throughout nearly the entire matchup, the 76ers went cold late in the fourth quarter and ended up dropping the ball and taking a loss.
Just a few nights ago, when the Sixers hosted the winless Detroit Pistons, the same scenario almost happened. Although the Sixers didn't allow Detroit to get out in front and steal a victory as Brooklyn did, the Sixers were still extremely disappointed in their own effort considering the circumstances and the strength of the opponent.
On Saturday, the 76ers looked to bounce back. As they hosted the Atlanta Hawks for the first time since last year's playoff series, the Sixers were looking for two things on Saturday. The first factor is revenge. While a regular-season win doesn't necessarily equate to winning a playoff series, it's still good to get back at the team that beat you. The second factor would be seeing if they could get off to a notable lead and keep it.
Fortunately for the Sixers, they checked off both boxes on Saturday night. Not only did they secure a dominant win over the Hawks, but they did it without issuing any scares of letting up a potential comeback. What went into that success? Tobias Harris explained after the regular-season win on Saturday.
"We got stops when we needed," Harris explained. "I mean, in the other games, there were too many pockets in the game where the other team was going on a run and scoring consecutively. For us, once we saw them try and get into a little bit of a rhythm, we were able to break it by locking defensively, getting the stops that we needed."
The Sixers didn't allow any member of the Hawks to get it going offensively -- especially Atlanta's superstar guard, Trae Young. Outside of Atlanta's backup forward Cam Reddish, the Hawks didn't have a single member of their roster score over 15 points on Saturday night. Defensively, the Sixers did their thing. And offensively, they made sure to take care of the ball.
"Then on the other end, not turning the basketball over," Harris continued. "That was the key for us in that stretch there. Those two things right there will lead to success, so in the games that we've had, we've kind of lost that lead. It was just too many pockets in the game where the team was creating and scoring. And that was affecting our offense as well."
Philly led by as much as 33 points against the Hawks. After getting off to a 28-15 lead in the first quarter of action, the Sixers never lost the lead throughout the final three-quarters of the game. By the end of the matchup, the Sixers secured a 122-94 win over Atlanta and steered clear of any late-game comeback scares. While a one-game sample size isn't enough to make the Sixers feel entirely confident in their ability to close out games moving forward -- it's certainly a step in the right direction.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.