Sixers suffer latest 'deflating' loss to Cavs

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Sixers suffer latest 'deflating' loss to Cavs

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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.

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

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For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench (see feature highlight).

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season, he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.”