The Sixers simply can't catch a break

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The Sixers simply can't catch a break

The Sixers got more bad news. Is there any other kind for them?

Thaddeus Young has had his best season as a professional. He leads the Sixers in rebounds per game (7.6) and he’s fifth in the NBA in points in the paint. He’s played good defense, too. Doug Collins called him the Sixers' “most important player.” When Young went down with a hamstring injury on Monday, it was obviously unfortunate for a team that hasn’t had many positive headlines this year.

That trend continued on Wednesday. The Sixers faced the Indiana Pacers, a good team but a team that was playing its third game in three nights. It didn’t go well for the Sixers. They got thumped 88-69 at the Wells Fargo Center. It was a season-low point total for the Sixers.

“[The Pacers] can get you in the mud,” Collins said. “And that’s what they did tonight. They got us where we just stood around. They can throw that ball in the post and pound you … I don’t even know. We looked like a team that played 10 games in 10 nights. That’s the kind of energy we played with [Wednesday].”

During the ugly outing -- which snapped a three-game winning streak for the Sixers -- it was reported that Jason Richardson will have surgery on his knee next week and is done for the year. According to a Sixers spokesman, Richardson recently saw his third specialist, Dr. Jonathan Glashow from Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. Richardson is expected to see a fourth specialist “as early as [Thursday],” the spokesman said. The team also added that no decision on surgery has been made yet.

Either way, it was not a cheery update on the 32-year-old shooting guard. (To review, the Sixers apparently got one good knee out of four in the Andrew Bynum/Richardson deal.) Add all that -- the injuries to Young and Richardson, along with the regular and lasting on-court struggles -- to the seemingly never-ending Bynum saga and you have a pretty sad season for the franchise so far.

“It’s part of basketball,” Spencer Hawes said. “Guys go down and everybody has dealt with it. We’ve been lucky up until this point to not really have anything major. You know, [Jason Richardson], outside of him, guys haven’t really been out for any long period of time. With Thad out, it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys.”

An opportunity? Perhaps that’s true for individual players. Maybe Arnett Moultrie will get more minutes now. He had his best game as a pro against the Pacers. That’s not such a grand statement considering he’s played in just 15 games this season and spent time in the D-League. Still, Moultrie had 12 points and was on the floor for over 20 minutes against Indiana, his best numbers on both fronts this year. Sixers CEO Adam Aron was so excited at one point that he tweeted this:

“Not sure who is hotter right now Sxers Dream Team in black or Arnett Moultrie, in his best game so far.”

So there’s that. An opportunity for Moultrie. He’s probably excited. That’s about as good as it gets at the moment. The Sixers had big hopes for this year, but those aspirations are fading quickly. They are 21-27, which puts them four games behind the Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also just four games ahead of the sad-sap Detroit Pistons in the postseason race. Right now, the Sixers are adrift.

The fans know it. It’s become a national laugh line, actually. One Philly resident tweeted about buying 18 tickets to the Pacers game for less than $1 -- not $1 each, $1 total. It was quickly picked up by Deadspin and lampooned.

It’s OK, though. The Sixers appear to be in on the gag. Consider this exchange between one reporter and Collins after the Indiana defeat:

Reporter: “It looked like you went to a lot of zone to try to combat their size.”

Collins: “We didn’t play any zone tonight.”

Reporter: “Really?”

Collins: “None.”

Pause.

“Maybe we were just standing,” Collins quipped. “It looked like we were playing zone.”

At least they still have a sense of humor.

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.