Stop us if you’ve heard this one before …
No, really. Stop it. We get it already. Give a standing-eight count or give these Philadelphia 76ers a TKO. They have taken enough.
Unfortunately, there are no reprieves in an NBA season and stopping the epic freefall the Sixers are entwined in these days is much easier said than done. In fact, after the 114-85 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay), game viewing has taken a car-crash type of spin. Everyone slows down to a crawl to see how bad it has gotten from loss to loss.
At least for the Sixers, things move at a snail’s pace on the defensive end. One could say the Sixers’ weak side, perimeter and transition defense was subpar.
That is if it existed.
“A lot of it is a mentality and some of it is execution,” head coach Brett Brown said about his defense. “There is a disposition that all individual great defenders have and any great defensive team has where there is a genuine pride that scores are problems and people that score are a problem and it manifests itself into a strong camaraderie and a cohesive defensive unit. We don’t have that.”
While defense was noticeably absent from the Sixers’ play on Tuesday night, it was the least of their problems. The team had a tough time getting shots to drop and an equally difficult time limiting turnovers. In this one, Evan Turner shot 3 for 14 while rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams turned it over seven times.
At least they were the guys getting the ball. Spencer Hawes, the Sixers’ lone seven-footer and best three-point shooter, squeezed off just six shots in 29 minutes in the loss. There were times when Hawes was open, but mostly he faced constant defensive pressure when he ventured out of the paint.
Only Thad Young seemed to get after it when the Sixers found themselves down by 21 points at halftime. By that point the team’s psyche was damaged enough and that has become an issue for the team.
Perhaps even an issue to worry over.
“The way we’ve been losing, it gets deflating,” said Young, who tied for the Sixers team lead with 15 points and nine rebounds. “As a team we’re trying to keep ourselves together and figure it out.”
And why wouldn’t these losses be deflating for the Sixers? Tuesday’s was the team’s ninth loss in a row and the eighth loss in a row at home. The Sixers have yet to win a game in February and with just three more chances left this month and games against Milwaukee and Orlando looming, the pressure is on.
Only Milwaukee has a worse record than the Sixers and Orlando isn’t that far ahead.
Deflating? Given that the Sixers have failed to break 90 points in three of the last four games and are shooting less than 40 percent in those games, yes it’s deflating. The same goes for an average margin of defeat of 39 points in those three losses.
During the losing streak, the Sixers have lost by double digits six times, by 20-plus four times and by 40-plus twice.
Yeah, there’s losing and then there is losing.
“I think there were some effort problems, no doubt. You can’t hide from that,” Brown said. “When you’re losing games and you’re at this stage of the year, there is a beat-down affect that we’re trying to avoid.
“I want these guys feeling good about themselves. I want them to find a way to help themselves and I want to help them help themselves. When you don’t feel great about yourself you see a bunch of problems that are consequential. My job going forward is to help them get better and be with them to demand some things and to expect some things, but to make sure we coach them.”
Still, one has to wonder if the Sixers have reached rock bottom. At 15-40, it’s difficult to judge given that the team was expected to be fresh for Tuesday night’s game coming off the All-Star break. Instead, it was more of the same.
To his credit, Brown remains undeterred. He knew it was going to be a tough year when he signed on with the Sixers, especially after more than a decade with the San Antonio Spurs where he was on the bench for a team that won four titles and took a fifth to the seventh game.
Yes, Brown is sure he knows what it takes to make a winner and it all begins on the defensive end of the court.
That’s where the Sixers have allowed a league-worst 111 points per game.
“At the end of the day, this program will be built on defense,” Brown said.
The Sixers are in the practice gym until Friday when they host the Dallas Mavericks. Following that one, the Sixers host the Bucks in the Ping-Pong Ball Bowl as the two worst teams in the league aim to get in position for June’s NBA draft.