NEW YORK -- There was no complex answer or obscure basketball nuance that only those close to the game could see and understand in the Sixers’ 130-94 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night at the Barclays Center (see Instant Replay).
It was very simple.
“We can’t guard anybody. We can’t guard our own man,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the team’s seventh straight loss. “It starts with individual breakdowns and we’re just trying to put out fires all behind it.”
Brown isn’t quite doing it justice. The Sixers’ defense hasn’t just been terrible over the past two games. It’s been historically bad.
For the second straight game, the Sixers allowed an opponent to hit 21 three-pointers and have given up 269 points in those matchups. The 42 three-pointers shattered the NBA record for most allowed in a two-game span as both the Nets and Trail Blazers on Saturday night set franchise records.
Meanwhile, the Sixers allowed at least 15 three-pointers in a game for the sixth time this season. That’s also an NBA record … just 26 games into the season. And just to add to the defensive woes, Nets guard Joe Johnson scored 29 points … in the third quarter (see video).
Johnson put together one of those once-in-a-lifetime stretches in which everything he pushed in the direction of the basket went in. He hit eight three-pointers in the third quarter from nearly every spot behind the arc and went 10 for 13 from long range in the game (see 6 observations). Actually, Johnson’s postgame shot chart looks like target practice at a carnival bull’s-eye game.
Johnson made four threes from above the break, three from the right corner and three more from the left corner. On one of those three-pointers, Johnson was fouled and knocked to the ground by James Anderson.
Needless to say, Johnson made the foul shot.
Amplifying the Sixers’ defensive woes is the fact that Johnson scored the fifth-most points in a quarter in NBA history and the most against the Sixers in one quarter. However, Johnson’s 37 points is only the fourth-highest scoring night against the Sixers this season.
Arron Afflalo (43), Kyrie Irving (39) and Caron Butler (38) had more points, but maybe not bigger nights.
“It just seems that I was in the right spot at the right time,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of wide-open shots and it was like when I was coming off pick-and-rolls, guys weren’t even guarding me, so I made a couple of tough shots, but for the most part I was [wide open].”
Yes, there’s the problem. Certainly the Sixers’ perimeter defensive woes have been well documented this season and Johnson wasn’t even the only player for the Nets to have a big game on Monday night. Point guard Deron Williams scored 13 points on just eight shots and dished out 13 assists that went for 34 points.
But it gets deeper than all of the three-pointers and the avalanche of points. On defense, the Sixers aren’t just bad, according to Brown, but they also are annoying. Brown said the team whined to the refs, bickered and on top of that, didn’t guard any one.
“I think it started with our inability to guard our man,” Brown said. “Our transition defense is that poor. I think we cry too much to the referees for fouls. We don’t get back. We whine a lot right now and we have to get over that.”
The way things have developed over the past two games have not sit well with Brown or veteran Thad Young. Hardworking and prideful, Young has not gotten used to losing despite his seven years with the Sixers. There was frustration and a terseness in his words in summing it up after the game that cut through the heavy mood in the locker room.
There is nothing fun about the way things have developed for the 7-19 Sixers, says Young.
“You can’t swallow it. You have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to figure things out,” Young said. “We have to get guys off the three-point line, make them take layups and tough twos instead of easy threes. We make a lot of mistakes on defense and we can’t have that.”
With 11 straight losses on the road and six of the next seven games to be played away from the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers need to figure out things quick. At the very least, the Sixers need to make scoring a little tougher for the opposition.
“The last two games confirm that we have some issues defensively that need to be fixed or it’s going to be beyond a long season,” Brown said.
The Sixers are off until next Friday when the Nets visit Philadelphia. Can they keep them under 130 points?