Sixers lose season-worst 8th straight game

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Sixers lose season-worst 8th straight game

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Sixers did not get demolished. That was an accomplishment in itself.

Still, they did suffer a 105-100 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in their final game before the all-star break to close out a three-game road trip (see Instant Replay). The defeat was a season-worst eighth in a row for the Sixers.

 While people are not in this business for moral victories, Sixers head coach Brett Brown was pleased to see his team resemble the group he has come to know this season.

“We got down 14 and I brought the starters back in earlier than I normally do, and we tied it up,” Brown said. “To be humbled the last few games as we had been and to be down points on the road in a loud building, I am proud of what we did.”

The Sixers lost their previous two games to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors by a combined 88 points. It would have been easy for the Sixers to fold up in the last game before the extended break.

Instead, the Sixers had all five starters score in double figures. Evan Turner scored 21 points. Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams each had 19 points. Spencer Hawes had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. James Anderson added 15.

All that offense put the Sixers in position to tie the game up at 91 apiece when Carter-Williams got a tough layup and a foul with 2:10 remaining.

The Sixers' threat didn't last long, as Jazz reserve Alec Burks went on a personal 9-0 run over the next minute and a half to give them a nice-sized cushion.

Anderson drilled a trio of three-pointers in the final 18 seconds, but it wasn't enough to get the Sixers over the hump.

“It came late. I wish it would have come a little earlier,” Anderson said. “I made two but I missed another two. But it did feel good to be in a rhythm like that. I actually had my legs under me tonight. Anytime I can get my legs under me and prepare for the shot, it helps.”

The Sixers entered the game shooting 31.3 percent from three this season. That number has fallen off a cliff over the past two games, as the Sixers connected on a dismal 5 of 45 attempts from long range.

Hawes helped change the team’s three-point fortunes by hitting two long balls early in the third quarter to help prevent the game from getting out of hand.

“If that’s what the game tells you is open, then you are going to have to have some people who have the ability to make those types of shots,” Brown said. “They give such a crowd to our team in general that Spencer stepping back out of that and making bigs have to find him. That is a weapon.”

Utah had its own weapons starting with its bench. The Jazz reserves outscored the Sixers' bench, 56-10 on Wednesday. Burks did most of that damage, finishing with a game-high 26 points.

The Jazz also were plus-10 points at the foul line and plus-10 in second-chance points in the game.

The Sixers have 28 games remaining after the extended break, starting with a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 18th at the Wells Fargo Center.

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

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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.