Crucial foul call seals Sixers' loss to Clippers

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Crucial foul call seals Sixers' loss to Clippers

BOX SCORE

The fact that the Sixers could lament a late-game foul with 1:33 left as the final nail in the coffin in the 94-83 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), is a testament to the Sixers’ grittiness.

Despite missing 20 shots during the first quarter and 17 more in the second quarter to barely shoot 30 percent in the opening half, the Sixers were a whistle away from turning it into a two-possession game down the stretch.

At that point, anything could have happened.

Instead, a possible three-point play for the Sixers turned into a seven-point swing for the Clippers when starting two-guard Hollis Thompson was whistled for a charge call on Blake Griffin.

From there, the Clippers scored the final four points to hang on to a 16-point lead they carried throughout the fourth quarter and turned around the momentum of the game. The Sixers had scored six straight points and forced two turnovers from All-Star point guard Chris Paul in the minutes before Thompson’s charge.

After that, the Sixers had no chance.

“By and large, our team has played with an aggression that I’m proud of,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I’m proud of what they did tonight.”

The Sixers didn’t go quietly. Trailing by as many as 21 points during the third quarter with a season-low 36 points scored in the first half, the Sixers gave themselves a chance. With 25 points from Evan Turner and a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) from Thad Young, the Sixers fought back into the game with aggressiveness and a little chippiness.

Turner got seven buckets in the paint as he tried, in vain, to get to the foul line. Turner’s aggression wasn’t reserved for his drives to the basket. The Sixers’ leading scorer also had a healthy banter with several of the Clippers’ players and a referee or two during the game. During the third quarter, Turner figured out a way to do both at the same time.

While protesting a call near the Clippers’ bench during the third quarter, Los Angeles bench player Ryan Hollins stood up and said something to Turner. Rather than telling Hollins to mind his own business, Turner told the center to be quiet in much more direct and colorful language.

Turner also found himself mixed into a little shoving match along with teammate Lavoy Allen and DeAndre Jordan during the fourth quarter.

“I think we tried to make it tough for them,” Turner said. “In the third quarter, they made some shots, but we tried to make it tough and more difficult for them.”

The Sixers struggled to find an answer for Paul, Jordan and Griffin. Paul scored 25 points on 10 for 18 shooting with 13 assists and had little difficulty getting to wherever he wanted on the floor.

“He never gives up the dribble,” Turner said about Paul. “When you’ve got those two athletes with you, and obviously he has a high IQ and everything like that, it makes it tough.”

Jordan benefitted from the Sixers’ 35.9 percent shooting, pulling down 21 rebounds to go with 11 points. Griffin, when not drawing charge calls, scored a game-high 26 points on 9 for 14 shooting to go with three blocked shots.

That trio shot it at a 62 percent clip while the rest of the team shot 11 for 43 (25.6 percent). And though the Sixers got a few shots to drop during the second half, the 3 for 21 shooting from the three-point range was crippling.

Though the Sixers got 47 shots in the paint, they were forced into taking 24 long two-pointers.

“We have to figure out some things in the half-court offense,” said Spencer Hawes, who was held to a season-low two points. “They scouted us pretty well. They took away what we wanted to do and we’ve got to figure out how to counter.”

The Sixers hit the road for two games starting on Wednesday night when they travel to Minneapolis. After that, the Sixers face the new-look Toronto Raptors on Friday night before returning home to face the Blazers on Saturday night.

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.