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."

NBA Notes: Derrick Rose reportedly in contract talks with Cavaliers

USA Today Images

NBA Notes: Derrick Rose reportedly in contract talks with Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers could be adding another former MVP to their roster.

Looking to close the gap on the champion Golden State Warriors, Cleveland is in contract talks with free agent guard Derrick Rose, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Thursday. Rose, whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, could sign a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, according to the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Cleveland has salary cap issues and is limited in what it can offer Rose, who made $21.3 million while playing in 64 games for the New York Knicks last season.

ESPN.com first reported the Cavs' pursuit of the 28-year-old Rose. Other teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, are interested in him.

Although Rose may not be the same player he was in 2011 when he was named the league's MVP while with the Chicago Bulls, he can still score and would be another nice compliment to LeBron James, a four-time MVP (see full story).

Heat: Haslem returns for 15th season
MIAMI -- Udonis Haslem believes he can still play, and the Miami Heat apparently agree.

The three-time NBA champion has signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal to remain with the Heat for what will be his 15th season. Haslem was already the longest-tenured player in Heat history, with all of his NBA seasons coming for his hometown team.

Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have spent the entirety of a career spanning at least 15 years with one franchise.

"It is a great, great, day to have Udonis Haslem sign a contract for his 15th season with the Miami Heat," team president Pat Riley said Thursday, when the contract was announced. "He isn't just Mr. 305, he is a true patriarch of the team. Today we are proud to announce that he is back to lead the Heat again" (see full story).

Jazz: Griffin inks two-way contract
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz signed big man Eric Griffin to a two-way contract Thursday.

Contract details were not released.

Griffin was a member of the Jazz during NBA summer leagues in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. He averaged 10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in Vegas.

The 6-foot-8, 205-pound center/forward played for Hapoel Galil Gilboa in the Israeli Basketball Premier League last season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.

This is the first time the Jazz have used the two-way contracts implemented by the NBA for the upcoming season.

Teams can sign two players to these deals in addition to the 15-man roster. The contracts allow NBA teams to better compensate Gatorade League players expected to spend time with the big league team. Griffin can spend up to 45 days in the NBA.

As a Sixers fan, could you actually say no to LeBron James?

As a Sixers fan, could you actually say no to LeBron James?

Admit it, you see that headline and you say to yourself, "Really?" A case needs to be made for the most dominant, all-around player the league has seen since M.J. A guy who will go down as a top-five player ever at worst, arguably one or two in the history of the game. You’re saying, "Here we go again," this is clearly click bait or someone who has lost their flipping mind. James Naismith wouldn’t even bother turning over in his grave when pondering this one.

I mean, this is LeBron James we are talking about here. Forget the individual numbers, which are staggering. The MVPs, All-Star appearances, etc. Never mind the fact that he would be only 33 years old in the summer of 2018, when he is eligible to be a free agent. Hell, he looked older in high school than he does now (minus that pesky hairline thing). Greek gods are envious of the guy’s body. You can even put aside his considerable acting chops in Trainwreck — maybe I went a click too far there. Try focusing on the team aspect for a minute. He has led his squad to the NBA Finals seven consecutive seasons, winning three.

So what’s the catch here? Why wouldn’t any Sixers fan in the name of Alexey Shved want LeBron James playing for their team?    

Let’s assume, for our purpose, he would want to come here. Big assumption. But let’s dream for a minute. The 2017-18 Sixers, first and foremost, remain upright. Injuries are not an issue.

Joel Embiid, while staying healthy, dominates on the floor like he does on social media.

Ben Simmons is, in fact, the visionary, ball-dominant, 6-foot-10 Magic Johnson Jr.

Markelle Fultz is the peanut butter to Simmons' chocolate.

Dario Saric continues to be the all-purpose, tough, steadying presence while improving his jumper.

JJ Redick provides that sniper this team hasn’t seen in decades.

And Brett Brown can flat out coach.

In other words, all things work out perfectly. Add to that the Sixers' deep pocketbooks and payroll flexibility despite the need to take care of said core players. Plus, James and Simmons share representation. The two have even been tweeting at each other the last few days, and LeBron even wished Simmons a happy birthday.

Voila. Seems like a match made in heaven, right?

Wrong. At least for some Sixers fans.

Let me preface this by saying I am a believer in “The Process.” Have been from the start. But there seems to be a faction of Sixers fans or “Processors” who are against bringing in an established superstar of the ilk of LeBron James. Is this a linear thing? A championship can be achieved only by those core drafted pieces, by the nucleus of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz and Saric? Would LeBron somehow sully the purity of those Lake Hinkotonka waters? Would Sam disapprove? Would his brilliant mind somehow spontaneously combust in a Starbucks in Palo Alto with the news of adding a such an expensive and established piece? Do we really know what Hinkie’s vision at this point would be? Wasn’t this a key part of "The Process?" Clear cap space, and when the time is right, spend money with the big boys. Not bad money. Not Timofey Mozgov, Joakim Noah or Chandler Parsons.

We’re talking LeBron Freakin' James here.   

Is there not a need for someone with his skill set? Is it a chemistry thing? Clearly, that can’t be it. James is a chameleon, able to play any of four positions if needed. And while he may not be 25-year-old peak LeBron, he will still be great for a couple of years. And he has clearly proven that he can blend with talent around him.

Is it as simple as just good old fashion LeBron hate for “The Decision” or his perceived whininess? Golden State added Kevin Durant to an established, championship winning core that proved it could win without him. And that group was able to put egos aside. I’m confident the Sixers' young nucleus could do the same.

Are we really in a position in this town  — of any sports cities — to put parameters on how we get to the mountain top? Who cares how you get there so long as you get one — and hopefully more?  

Not me.