The play was for James Anderson to win the game for the Sixers.
Instead Anderson ended up throwing the ball out of bounds just beyond Thaddeus Young’s reach where he stood wide open for a corner three-pointer.
And with that, the Sixers have come up with nearly every conceivable way to lose during the current losing streak, which reached 23 games with the 93-92 loss to the New York Knicks Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
Frankly, the loss to the Knicks takes the cake.
Not only did the Sixers have a chance to win the game with a three on what should have been their final possession, but they also had a chance to tie it with a desperate three from Michael Carter-Williams when Carmelo Anthony converted on just one of two free throws.
Carter-Williams’ long three-pointer banged off the glass, rattled around the rim and popped out.
Of course it did.
The Sixers also scored 18 of the final 20 points in the game even while shooting a mind-bending 41 three-point attempts. The Sixers inexplicably had a chance to win despite going 10 for 41 from three-point range and 17 for 60 on shots outside of the paint. Their big run in the fourth quarter came after the Sixers were trailing by 17 points with a little more than five minutes to go in the game.
That’s when the Sixers went on a 16-1 run to set up what was supposed to be a final shot for Anderson. Considering it had been since Jan. 29 when the Sixers last won a game, head coach Brett Brown drew up a play for the win.
“I didn’t feel comfortable that we were going to beat them in overtime,” Brown said. “I felt like we needed to look at a three-point shot if it was there. If not, we’ll find something.”
The plan was for Anderson to shoot a three-pointer, which was as bold of an idea as going for the win. After all, Anderson had missed the last week of games because of a bruised quadriceps and had connected on just 1 of 10 three-point attempts.
But when Anderson found himself hounded by the Knicks’ defense, he drove toward the basket where he caught a glimpse of Young creeping toward the corner from the baseline. Anderson also could have found newcomer James Nunnally trailing the play just above the break in the three-point line.
Anderson opted to pass to Young, who had floated slightly out of the corner in order to properly space the floor. When Anderson committed to passing to Young, he says he felt a slap on his arm, fumbled it a bit and fired the ball out of bounds.
“There was an opportunity to drive and kick, but when I got ready to throw Thad the ball I was grabbed and the ball came off funny and he couldn’t get it,” Anderson said.
“It happened. That’s how the game goes.”
Brown said Anderson improvised well and nearly made a great play.
“It ended up being a broken play,” Brown said. “We were trying to get James a look. James didn’t have a look, so he caught it and drove it and that’s good. Thaddeus spaced out. That was sort of improvised and just a big play at a big time.
“It didn’t go our way.”
That should have been it for the Sixers. Actually, it should have been over when they were down by 17 points with 5:15 to go. However, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson pulled out his starters figuring there was no sense in running it up.
Woodson didn’t think he’d have to hustle to get his starters back in the game before it was too late.
“I had to,” Woodson said. “They scared the hell out of me.”
It would have been fitting if the Sixers had pulled it out considering how poorly they shot the ball. Anderson went just 3 for 14 and Young was 6 for 21, including 3 for 9 from three. Tony Wroten improved to 2 for 6 from the foul line a game after going 1 for 6. Only Carter-Williams shot a respectable 10 for 21 on his way to 22 points with a game-high 13 rebounds and nine assists.
And then there are the 41 three-point attempts, which is tied for the most in the NBA this season and shatters the franchise record of 35.
Just think of how the game could have turned out if the Sixers were making shots beyond the chippies …
“That’s what the game gave us,” Brown said of the 41 three-point attempts. “Forty-one is a huge number. I’m sure I’ll go back and say this one was contested and you could have drove that, but I felt like that’s what the game gave us.”
What will the game give the Sixers Saturday night in Chicago? In that one the Sixers will play without Wroten, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the game and will not make the trip. It also seems unlikely Wroten will be able to play Monday in San Antonio or Thursday in Houston.
The Sixers will have to win one of those games to stave off tying the all-time record for consecutive losses at 26.