Tired Sixers handed crushing loss by Hawks

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Tired Sixers handed crushing loss by Hawks

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These are the dog days of the NBA season, Sixers head coach Doug Collins said immediately after his team suffered a 124-101 loss to the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Need proof? Just take a look at Jrue Holiday's stat line from Wednesday night.

Need more? Check out what Holiday did on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Two games, two assists, six turnovers and 15 missed shots in 55 minutes.

Oh yes, these are the dog days indeed.

“I’m tired,” Holiday said. “There’s a lot of fatigue and I try to take care of my body as best as possible, but that’s not really an excuse.”

Holiday is struggling as the Sixers limp to the end of a disappointing season. Wednesday's defeat dropped them to 31-47 with four games to go. But Holiday's struggles are not appearing seemingly out of nowhere. A glance at the season-long stat sheet shows that the Sixers' All-Star point guard had been trending downward for a few weeks.

The culprit? Too many minutes, too many games and too much responsibility all thrown his way at once.

For Holiday, the season has been like he just learned how to doggy paddle and was immediately thrown into the deep end.

“Imagine if we were a playoff team right now and getting ready to go into the playoffs,” Collins said. “That’s what I talked about with the growth. The added minutes, added responsibility, an All-Star -- every time you go out there to play now [opposing players get ready].”

But that's the way it's going to be for a player the Sixers have gone all-in on. Opening night Holiday got a four-year contract extension. With Thad Young, the Sixers have two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle they have been putting together for the past decade.

But at 22, Holiday has been thrust into the limelight quickly. Given that he plays the most demanding position on the floor, the candle has burned at both ends.

It's not that Holiday can't handle it. He just didn't have enough help.

Obviously, Andrew Bynum was supposed to provide the help to boost the Sixers into the elite of the Eastern Conference. Obviously, that never happened.

Bynum would have been pretty helpful on the boards against the bruising Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night when they out-rebounded the Sixers by 33 with Reggie Evans grabbing 24 boards.

Bynum also would have been a great deterrent to the Hawks' fastbreak, too. Without the reinforcements, the Hawks scored 25 fastbreak points, forced 15 turnovers and notched eight steals.

Holiday was charged with five of those 15 turnovers.

“We so used to value the ball,” Collins said. “We led the league last year in fewest turnovers. Too many times I look down and I see too many points off turnovers. We were minus-12 [in points off turnovers] tonight. If we’re down in that stat, chances are we’re not going to win the game. That’s a real barometer for our team.”

The Sixers have had a small margin for error all season long. As such, the increased turnovers required speed and the Sixers haven't had it this year. Where other teams could beat them in transition for dunks and kick-out threes, that element was missing this year for Collins' crew.

“One of the things we’ve missed this year is speed on the wings,” Collins said.

They did have hustle an energy from Young, who finished the game with 28 points on 14-for-20 shooting. Young scored 22 points during the first half for a Sixers' season best and also helped the team build an early eight-point lead.

But it didn't last no matter how hard Young worked.

“I wanted to come out and show that I had energy and I’m still trying to win games,” Young said. “I’m focused finishing the season the right way and continue playing as hard as I can.”

The Sixers return to action on Friday night when they travel to Washington to face the Wizards. After that, the Sixers return home for the last game of the year at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday against Cleveland.

The season wraps up with a game in Detroit on Monday and the finale in Indianapolis next Wednesday.

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. 

“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.”