Lynam: Sixers 'hit a wall' in the fourth quarter
Tony Wroten (right) battles for a loose ball with Andre Miller in the Sixers' 103-92 loss to the Nuggets. (USA Today Images)
Sometimes it doesn’t take long for a team to lose control of a game. Maybe a minute of action or a couple of shots can undo nearly 45 minutes of work for a team.
It took just 67 seconds and three shots to ruin things for the Sixers on Saturday night in the 103-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). With leads that stretched into the double digits during the second half, the Sixers saw a one-possession game turn into a blowout on three straight trips down the floor.
It happened that quickly for the Sixers.
“I thought our bench guys did a really good job to hold the fort. They were playing and keeping the game real and they’re buying us some time,” said head coach Brett Brown. “We played last night and I’m trying to be smart with our guys’ minutes … so we bought some time. Then our starters came back and Denver jumped us and the game turned.”
The Nuggets jumped the Sixers on three three-pointers from Jordan Hamilton and two assists from veteran Andre Miller beginning at the 4:29 mark to the 3:22 mark of the fourth quarter. Those shots turned the Nuggets’ four-point lead into 11. Though the Sixers made a few stops on defense to give them a chance to carve into the deficit, two missed shots and two turnovers gave Miller and the Nuggets a chance to push the lead to 13 points with 1:47 left in the game.
The Nuggets closed the game with a 17-6 run to give the Sixers their second loss in as many nights (see 5 observations).
“One guy hit threes,” said Evan Turner, who shot just 3 for 12 for six points on Saturday. “That’s definitely frustrating because that changed the momentum of the game.”
Though it was that minute in the fourth quarter where Hamilton buried those three-pointers that ultimately doomed the Sixers, the team’s fate may have been decided before the game. That’s when Brown announced that rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams was spending a third straight night at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania for a skin infection on his knee (see story).
Carter-Williams missed the last two games with the knee issue and has missed six games this season. In those games the Sixers are 1-5 and have been outscored by 71 points, including four straight losses by 11, 17, 10 and 37 points.
So without Carter-Williams against the Nuggets, veteran point guards Miller and Nate Robinson filled in for the injured Ty Lawson and ran circles around the Sixers’ perimeter defense.
The duo combined for 28 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds with just three turnovers, while Brown was forced to patchwork the backcourt with Tony Wroten and Turner. With Carter-Williams out, Turner took over the playmaking duties by dealing out a team-high five assists.
Wroten often played off the ball on offense and shot 10 for 20 from the field for a game-high 20 points, though he had just one assist. That effort follows up a 22-shot, nine-assist game in the loss to Charlotte on Friday night.
However, with Carter-Williams out, Turner is shooting just 10 for 30 for 22 points and one free-throw attempt in the past two nights. That comes after Turner went to the line 13 times in the victory over Orlando last Tuesday.
“It’s all about how the game goes,” Turner said. “We were playing out of the post and I was trying to play off my teammates.”
Wroten seemingly got to the basket at will, though he did not attempt a single free throw in the loss.
“About any time he wanted to get to the rim, he got to the rim,” Brown said. “One of the adjustments they made was crowding the paint and they started giving Tony more attention. There’s always going to be a balance with an attacking guard, like Michael and Tony. Obviously it’s an area where point guards have to be point guards and you tap into what he can do.”
Making shots — or even getting good shots — was something the Sixers did well for three quarters. However, in the fourth quarter the Sixers went 7 for 20, including 1 for 6 from three-point range while settling for seven long two-pointers.
Shooting it like that is how teams can use one minute or three shots to change the entire game.
The Sixers return to action on Monday night when the Los Angeles Clippers come to the Wells Fargo Center. From there, the Sixers hit the road for three of their next four, with games in Minnesota, Toronto and Brooklyn and a home game next Saturday against Portland.