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

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

BOX SCORE

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: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

It never happened between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. Same for Michael Jordan and Karl Malone or Jerry West and Bill Russell.

While there have been 14 rematches in NBA Finals history, this year's meeting between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors will be the first trilogy in league history.

After the Warriors beat the Cavs for their first title in 40 years in 2015, Cleveland got revenge last season with a comeback from 3-1 down to give the city its first major championship since 1964. Now they meet for the rubber match starting June 1 in Oakland.

While this may be unprecedented in the NBA, it has happened once before in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball with matchups that included some of those sports' biggest stars.

There was Babe Ruth vs. Frankie Frisch in the 1920s and then a pair of memorable three-peat matchups in the 1950s featuring Otto Graham against Bobby Layne in the NFL and Gordie Howe against Maurice Richard in the NHL.

Warriors: Durant once team’s 2nd choice
Truth be told, Golden State's former coach wasn't sure the Warriors needed Kevin Durant.

The Warriors were already small-ball sensations, capable of piling up the points with their daring drives and sizzling shooting. So rather than add another scorer, Don Nelson figured Golden State might be better off getting a dominant man in the middle to shore up the defense in the 2007 NBA draft.

Nelson thought the Warriors needed Greg Oden.

That was 10 years ago, leading up to the heavily hyped draft in which the Oden-Durant debate raged throughout basketball. And now, as Durant leads the league's most potent team into the NBA Finals while Oden is long gone from the NBA spotlight, it's easy to forget that a lot of people agreed with Nelson.

"I think everyone felt that there were two players there that were going to be prominent players, but one thing you can't count on is injuries," Warriors executive Jerry West said. "So Greg really never had a chance to have a career, where Kevin's obviously been more than advertised."

Celtics: Thomas unsure if he’ll need surgery
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas wanted to keep playing in the Eastern Conference finals, but team doctors and officials convinced him he needed to shut down his season for his long-term health.

"They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what's more important," Thomas said Friday, a day after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "But I definitely wasn't trying to hear that at that point in time."

Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in the second-round series against Washington. He played three halves against the Cavaliers before limping off the court in the middle of Game 2.

The Celtics lost that game by 44 points to fall behind 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, then announced the next day that Thomas was done for the season. Still, they beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland the next game before falling easily in Games 4 and 5.

"Eastern Conference finals, that's the biggest stage I've ever been on," Thomas said at the team's practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. "To not be able to go back out there in that second half and continue that series was painful. Like it hurt me."

Speaking for the first time since the end of his season, Thomas said he might need surgery but it's "not the No. 1 option right now." He will have to wait for more tests until the swelling goes down, he said (see full story).

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.