Sixers collapse late in loss to streaking Nuggets

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Sixers collapse late in loss to streaking Nuggets

BOX SCORE

DENVER -- Call it a calamity of errors. Label it simple mistakes. Refer to it as multiple brain lapses in two minutes of game time.

No matter how you want to put it, it goes in the books as another loss for the Sixers.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Sixers down the stretch of a heartbreaking 101-100 loss to the Nuggets (see Instant Replay). The defeat was the Sixers’ 15th straight on the road as their record dropped to 26-42.

“We made five bad plays,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said. “We had a shot-clock violation. We missed a layup and gave up a dunk. We gave up a three. We missed two free throws and fouled a three-point shooter and we lose by one.”

Jrue Holiday committed the shot-clock violation. Evan Turner missed the layup, which Anthony Randolph turned into the dunk.

Holiday made two free throws with 14 seconds left to give the Sixers a 100-95 lead and belief that they would still snap the Nuggets’ 13-game winning streak.

That was until Corey Brewer, who had made four shots from three-point range, added a fifth with 9.2 seconds remaining.

The Sixers were still up two with 7.1 seconds to play and Turner on the line for a pair of free throws to ice the game. He missed both shots to give the Nuggets a final chance.

Denver found Brewer out of a timeout for another three-point attempt. This time he was fouled on the shot by Damien Wilkins with 2.1 ticks remaining on the clock and buried all three free throws to give the Nuggets the win.

“I was just trying to challenge the shot aggressively and not give him a clean look, but I was a little too aggressive and I cost my team a win tonight,” said Wilkins, whose shot at the final buzzer was blocked.

“It was interesting with a lot of misfortunes, but even still, I can’t foul a guy shooting a three-pointer when we are up two. We didn’t deserve to win that game and over-aggression cost us one.”

While the Sixers’ lack of execution in the clutch clearly played a major role, not everyone believed that was the deciding factor.

“That is not what lost the game,” Turner said of the Sixers’ late-game miscues. “Situations occurred and we don’t point fingers at anybody because that was some crazy stuff that just happened. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s been rough. It almost seems like a fluke to me.”

Still, the Sixers had their chances to put the game away. They entered the fourth quarter down by four but were able to turn it around.

Holiday drained a three and Wilkins scored the last of his team-high 24 points on a jumper to give the Sixers an eight-point lead with 2:06 left to play.

A team with players that have been through several regular seasons and playoff battles should know how to close a game like this out.

Not the Sixers. Not on this night.

“We had guys out there that played in 18 playoff games,” Collins said. “You don’t need to ask. I don’t know. I mean I didn’t have anything to do with Corey Brewer. We made a mistake and left him. We missed two free throws and had a shot-clock violation. I don’t know if that has anything to do with being calm or not.

“We made bad plays. We had the game in hand. We have to win that game. Denver is riding high, but we have to win that game. We are out here scratching on the road. We are not giving up on the season. We’re not going to make the playoffs, but we are not giving up on the season. It is disappointing.”

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.