The fact that the Sixers could lament a late-game foul with 1:33 left as the final nail in the coffin in the 94-83 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), is a testament to the Sixers’ grittiness.
Despite missing 20 shots during the first quarter and 17 more in the second quarter to barely shoot 30 percent in the opening half, the Sixers were a whistle away from turning it into a two-possession game down the stretch.
At that point, anything could have happened.
Instead, a possible three-point play for the Sixers turned into a seven-point swing for the Clippers when starting two-guard Hollis Thompson was whistled for a charge call on Blake Griffin.
From there, the Clippers scored the final four points to hang on to a 16-point lead they carried throughout the fourth quarter and turned around the momentum of the game. The Sixers had scored six straight points and forced two turnovers from All-Star point guard Chris Paul in the minutes before Thompson’s charge.
After that, the Sixers had no chance.
“By and large, our team has played with an aggression that I’m proud of,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I’m proud of what they did tonight.”
The Sixers didn’t go quietly. Trailing by as many as 21 points during the third quarter with a season-low 36 points scored in the first half, the Sixers gave themselves a chance. With 25 points from Evan Turner and a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) from Thad Young, the Sixers fought back into the game with aggressiveness and a little chippiness.
Turner got seven buckets in the paint as he tried, in vain, to get to the foul line. Turner’s aggression wasn’t reserved for his drives to the basket. The Sixers’ leading scorer also had a healthy banter with several of the Clippers’ players and a referee or two during the game. During the third quarter, Turner figured out a way to do both at the same time.
While protesting a call near the Clippers’ bench during the third quarter, Los Angeles bench player Ryan Hollins stood up and said something to Turner. Rather than telling Hollins to mind his own business, Turner told the center to be quiet in much more direct and colorful language.
Turner also found himself mixed into a little shoving match along with teammate Lavoy Allen and DeAndre Jordan during the fourth quarter.
“I think we tried to make it tough for them,” Turner said. “In the third quarter, they made some shots, but we tried to make it tough and more difficult for them.”
The Sixers struggled to find an answer for Paul, Jordan and Griffin. Paul scored 25 points on 10 for 18 shooting with 13 assists and had little difficulty getting to wherever he wanted on the floor.
“He never gives up the dribble,” Turner said about Paul. “When you’ve got those two athletes with you, and obviously he has a high IQ and everything like that, it makes it tough.”
Jordan benefitted from the Sixers’ 35.9 percent shooting, pulling down 21 rebounds to go with 11 points. Griffin, when not drawing charge calls, scored a game-high 26 points on 9 for 14 shooting to go with three blocked shots.
That trio shot it at a 62 percent clip while the rest of the team shot 11 for 43 (25.6 percent). And though the Sixers got a few shots to drop during the second half, the 3 for 21 shooting from the three-point range was crippling.
Though the Sixers got 47 shots in the paint, they were forced into taking 24 long two-pointers.
“We have to figure out some things in the half-court offense,” said Spencer Hawes, who was held to a season-low two points. “They scouted us pretty well. They took away what we wanted to do and we’ve got to figure out how to counter.”
The Sixers hit the road for two games starting on Wednesday night when they travel to Minneapolis. After that, the Sixers face the new-look Toronto Raptors on Friday night before returning home to face the Blazers on Saturday night.