For a two-minute span during the fourth quarter, the Sixers scored every time Thad Young got the ball. It started with a layup and a foul for an old-fashioned three-point play. Seconds later, Young got a steal and finished with a dunk.
Three missed shots followed before Young buried a 16-footer from the corner to make it a one-point game before a slick pass to Lou Williams for a layup gave the Sixers a one-point lead with 6:26 left.
But that was the high water mark for the Sixers during Saturday nights frustrating and disappointing 88-82 defeat to the Orlando Magic at the Wells Fargo Center. Just when it looked as if the team had turned the corner from slow starts in the first and third quarters as well as a dreadful shooting night from the starting five, the bottom dropped out.
The Sixers shot just 3 for 9 after scoring to take the lead, with one of those baskets a gimme dunk from Andre Iguodala well after the game was decided.
The Sixers poor shooting during crunch time simply underscored the major theme of Saturday nights game in that defense can only take a team so far. At some point, the Sixers are going to have to put the ball in the hole.
We just couldnt make a shot, coach Doug Collins lamented after the Sixers third straight defeat. Our starters shot 13 for 44 and we had open shots. It wasnt like we were not having open shots, so that was disappointing.
The Sixers committed just seven turnovers and held the short-handed Magic to 36.3 percent shooting from the field. Big Baby Davis scored a game-high 23 points, but he needed 21 shots to get it. J.J. Redick scored 19 points with 11 of them coming during the fourth quarter and All-Star Dwight Howard scored 20 on 4-for-14 shooting from the floor to go with 22 rebounds.
In other words, the Sixers made the Magic work for their points, its just that they had no counter move. Sure, Collins pointed to the big deficits his team fell into during the first and third quarters, but the fact is the Sixers shot consistently badly all night long.
Its disappointing to me for us to waste that kind of defensive effort and lose the game, Collins said. We had 82 points but I thought we had a lot of open shots. I really did. Spencer Hawes must have had five or six open jumpers, Thad had an open jumper on the baseline when we were down four. I could probably list three or four others. We have not shot it well.
Worse than the Sixers timing on the offensive end was their timing for losing another much-needed game. With the loss, the Sixers (29-26) dropped to two games behind Boston in the race for the Atlantic Division with 11 games remaining in the season.
If we would have won Saturday and Sunday, were in first place, said Elton Brand, who scored just seven points. We had to have this game.
The Knicks, in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference, have crawled to within one game of the Sixers and they hold the tiebreaker, to boot.
Its not just the Knicks the Sixers have to worry about, either. Milwaukee, just on the edge of the last playoff berth in ninth place in the East, are only 1 games behind the Sixers with one more meeting between the teams scheduled for the next-to-last game of the season. And, oh yeah, nine of the final 11 games are on the road.
Suddenly, the Sixers are nearly equidistant from winning the Atlantic and falling into the lottery.
We were strength in numbers and everyone was contributing and getting double figures and we were winning and blowing teams out, Brand said. Thats not happening now. We need to get the shots to the guys who are shooting a high percentage and kind of force feed it a little more than the strength in numbers kind of thing. Just let everyone get a chance is not working right now, you see Big Baby Davis got 21 shots tonight.
Collins sees a lack of chemistry within his current starting five and says hes going to give the group one more chance to figure things out before he makes some changes. Though he says he has to think about what changes to make, it seems logical that Jodie Meeks will be reinserted back into the starting lineup with Evan Turner moved back to the bench, considering that Turner went 3 for 8 and was a minus-22 in 19 minutes against Orlando on Saturday,
For whatever reason, its not a cohesive group, Collins said. Its just not. The minute we put Jodie out there and weve got Thad, weve got some movement and stuff. The game changed immediately. We need more speed.
Young led the Sixers with 20 points while Meeks scored 16 points on 5 for 6 shooting with four three-pointers. Still, the chemistry remains the issue with the current group of starters and the stat sheet gives a pretty good snapshot as to why.
Iguodala led the team with 10 assists and shot just 2 for 9, while point guard Jrue Holiday also went 2 for 9 with zero assists and three turnovers. Until he scored his first basket with 4:42 left in the game, Holiday was 0 for 5 from the floor with zero points, zero rebounds, zero assists and three turnovers.
As a result, the Sixers most consistent shooter over the past month, Brand, got just seven shots. Davis takes 21 shots, but Brand gets seven?
Absolutely Id love to get 21 shots against Big Baby Davis, Brand said. No disrespect, but I feel I could do something with it something positive with it.
Orlando, playing without top scorers Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson, had seven guys go more than 10 minutes in the game to snap a five-game losing skid. They shot 36 percent from the floor, yet won going away.
Apparently defense wins only some of the time.
Were playing great defense, but were putting ourselves in the hole, Brand said. Were getting good shots and open looks, but were just not knocking them down.
The Sixers get back at it on Sunday night when they take on the first-place Celtics in a game that wont decide the Atlantic Division.
E-mail John Finger at email@example.com