Undermanned Sixers blow 17-point lead in OT loss to Magic

Undermanned Sixers blow 17-point lead in OT loss to Magic


ORLANDO, Fla. -- It goes without saying that the 76ers are accustomed to playing undermanned the last few seasons, but the team took it to a whole new level Monday and it cost them dearly in a 112-109 overtime loss to the Orlando Magic (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers started the game with nine eligible players, one of whom arrived on a flight from Philly just three hours before tip-off. They finished the game with just six (three players fouled out and a fourth finished one foul short of disqualification).

And still they could have snuck out of town with a victory had the last-minute arrival, Justin Anderson, converted a drive in the final seconds of regulation. He didn't.

In fact, the Sixers hardly made any shots in the fourth quarter and overtime, going a combined 10 of 34 (29.4 percent) as they gave away all of a 17-point, second-half lead (see feature highlight).

"You fight with what you're left with," Sixers coach Brett Brown said about his undermanned team. "I think our guys embraced that situation. We played with a beaten-down team, but it shows the character of the team and how we've been trying to play almost the entire year."

The tired shots and even more tired legs took a lot of the luster out of a career-best night for Richaun Holmes (24 points, 14 rebounds) and great performances from Robert Covington (24 points, 13 rebounds) and Nik Stauskas (20 points, five boards). This came just 24 hours after the Sixers beat Boston Sunday.

"Playing back-to-back is no excuse," Holmes said. "We got the lead and should have been able to keep it. We played hard, had a chance to win the game and didn't do it."

The 76ers' defense was sharp again, limiting Orlando to 37.6 percent (35 of 93) shooting for the game and only 9 of 28 (32.1 percent) in the fourth quarter and overtime.

But the Sixers got beat in the only spot they couldn't defend: the free throw line. Orlando hit all 11 free throws in the fourth quarter and 8 of 9 in overtime, including 4 for 4 in the final 11 seconds to seal the win.

The Sixers were 1 for 2 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and didn't shoot a free throw in overtime.

"That discrepancy is brutal," Brown said. "Trying to win on the road, in a back-to-back situation with a beaten-down team, those types of things are hard to overcome."

What was even more difficult to overcome was the lack of bodies at the end of the game. Already without Jahlil Okafor (knee) and Gerald Henderson (rest), the Sixers had Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot foul out during the fourth quarter, while Holmes picked up his final foul in OT.

Saric, who won the game for the Sixers when they visited Orlando a month ago, played only 26 minutes before fouling out Monday. Saric was on his way to another big night with 18 points and five boards, but got his sixth foul with 3:52 left in regulation. 

"Not having Dario, we get impacted all over the place," Brown said. 

"You're losing the Rookie of the Year on offense and defense," added point guard T.J. McConnell. "He's a solid defender and you know what he can do offensively. To lose him with a good portion of the fourth quarter is tough, but we can't rely on just him game in and game out. Somebody has to step up."

Best of NBA: Spurs smack Cavs from top of Eastern Conference

Best of NBA: Spurs smack Cavs from top of Eastern Conference

SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cleveland Cavaliers 103-74 on Monday night in a showdown that turned into a major letdown for the defending NBA champions.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs, who won their fifth straight.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In addition to scoring a season-low 17 points, Cavaliers superstar LeBron James was injured late in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the base of his neck. He remained on the bench for a while receiving medical attention, then headed toward the locker room and didn't return to the game.

His status was not immediately known (see full recap).

Thunder use late run to surge past Mavs
DALLAS -- Russell Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper with seven seconds left and the Oklahoma City Thunder erased a 13-point deficit in the final four minutes to beat the Dallas Mavericks 92-91 on Monday night.

Westbrook scored 37 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, with 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his third straight triple-double and 37th of the season.

The Thunder finished on a 14-0 run, capped when they gained possession on a replay reversal with 13 seconds to go and Westbrook hit the decisive shot from just beyond the free throw line over Wesley Matthews. Westbrook scored 12 of the final 14 points.

Dallas didn't call a timeout, and Harrison Barnes missed a long 3-pointer just before the buzzer, clinching the first losing season for the Mavericks (31-42) since 1999-2000, the season that owner Mark Cuban bought the team with Dirk Nowitzki in his second year (see full recap).

DeRozan, Raptors notch 6th straight victory
TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored 36 points and Cory Joseph had 15 points and 13 assists as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic 131-112 on Monday night for their sixth straight victory.

DeRozan, selected the Eastern Conference player of the week earlier in the day, set the pace early by scoring 18 in the first quarter. Joseph added six rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors (45-29).

Elfrid Payton had 22 points and nine assists for Orlando (27-47). Evan Fournier added 20 points, and Nikola Vucevic had 12 points and 15 assists.

It was the first game between the teams since the Raptors traded Terrence Ross to the Magic for Serge Ibaka in February.

Ross finished with 17 points and two rebounds, while Ibaka had 16 points and seven rebounds (see full recap).

Report: Kings receive permission from Sixers to speak with Sam Hinkie

Report: Kings receive permission from Sixers to speak with Sam Hinkie

You can't make this stuff up.

After getting what is generally regarded as fleeced once upon a time by former Sixers general manager and president Sam Hinkie, the Sacramento Kings are reportedly interested in his services.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Zach Lowe on Monday, the Kings have expressed exploratory interest in Hinkie. Sources told ESPN that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive sought and received permission from Sixers owner Josh Harris to speak with Hinkie.

The Kings needed the Sixers' permission to speak with Hinkie because the executive is forced to sit out the entire 2016-17 season based on a non-compete clause in his contract that took effect when he resigned in April 2016.

The report states Hinkie's level of interest in the Kings or what his role would be alongside current president/GM Vlade Divac was not immediately known. It also says other undisclosed teams have sought permission to speak to Hinkie.

The Kings later released a statement denying the report: "The Kings are not hiring Sam Hinkie and have no plans to bring anyone in above Vlade."

Hinkie, hired prior to the 2012-13 season, engineered the Sixers' massive rebuild. The team struggled mightily during his three seasons at the helm as it finished with a 47-199 record. He stepped down on April 6 of last year and his role as team president was ultimately filled by Bryan Colangelo.

However, Hinkie set the Sixers up for the future by his continued flipping of players for assets. That includes perhaps his best deal, which involved the Kings.

In July 2015, Hinkie dealt the rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic to Sacramento for Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson. More importantly, the Sixers also got the rights to swap first-round picks in the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts and an unprotected first-rounder in 2019.

The Kings made moves to recoup some of those lost assets at this season's trade deadline when they shipped star big man DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi for 2016 No. 6 overall pick Buddy Hield along with veterans Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway and a 2017 second-round pick.

"But I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years," Divac said to the Sacramento Bee. "I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I'm right, great. If I'm wrong, I'll step down. But if I go down, I'm going down my way."

Hinkie went down in Philadelphia on his own terms, too. Now his terms may involve working with Divac -- or even taking over his job.

Just remember, Vlade, trust the process.