WASHINGTON Typically, Doug Collins can find a silver lining in any stormy cloud. Even if his team gets taken to the woodshed, there usually is something he can use as a jumping off point for the next game.
That has been the case for most of the season until Friday nights 97-76 loss to the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center (see Lynam's Instant Replay). The only thing inside this dark cloud was a thunderstorm.
I could just see that we werent ready, for whatever reason we werent ready, Collins mused. You get down and you think youre going to turn on some switch or whatever and those guys just knocked us around.
Collins knew Friday nights game was over before it ever really got started. When he called a timeout at the six-minute mark of the first quarter, Collins says it was evident that the Sixers were in for a long night. The team was being bludgeoned inside, giving up 34 points in the paint during the first half, and they were blasted on the boards as well.
During the second quarter the Wizards grabbed 15 of the 23 possible rebounds, including six offensive boards to the Sixers four defensive rebounds.
Indeed, it was a long night for the Sixers.
We got what we deserved, said Elton Brand, who shot 3 for 3 in the first quarter, but only took three more shots for the rest of the game.
Brands stat line simply exemplifies how out of sync the Sixers offense was against the Wizards, though the defense certainly left plenty to be desired, too. In just his second game with the team since signing a 10-day contract after playing in the D-League, Cartier Martin went 8 for 12 with four three-pointers for a game-high 20 points. Rookie Jan Vesely grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, and even more insulting, threw down a pair of emphatic dunks.
Certainly the stat sheet and the scoreboard dont properly explain how ugly this one was for the Sixers.
I could go down the list and it wasnt good, Collins said.
If the Sixers play on the court wasnt bad enough, the fact that the team fell out of the top spot in the Atlantic Division for the first time since the second game of the season just pours salt into the wound. Indeed, with the loss to the lowly Wizards coupled with the Celtics win in Minnesota pushes the Sixers to a game off the pace in the division with 15 games to go in the season.
Worse, the loss sends the Sixers to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference, which means if the season were to end today they would be matched up against the Miami Heat again in the first round of the playoffs. Thats exactly the spot the Sixers do not want to be given that they are 1-15 against the Heat dating through the 2009-10 season.
This was not a good time, Collins said about the loss.
Still, there is a lot of basketball to be played, but given the way things shook out on Friday night, Collins isnt sure what to expect when the Sixers get back to action on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center against Atlanta. The Sixers shot 36.6 percent from the floor and went 3 for 14 from three-point range, including an 0 for 6 from Jodie Meeks a game removed from a career-best seven three-pointers against Cleveland.
Meanwhile, only three players hit for double digits in scoring, led by 14 from Lou Williams and Thad Young. In addition to Martins 20 points, the Wizards also got 17 from Jordan Crawford and 16 points and eight boards from Nene even though he sat out most of the fourth quarter to rest his ailing back.
They played back-to-back. They were hungrier. They wanted that win. Hats off to them, Brand said. They played really hard on a back-to-back and we didnt come with the energy and poise we usually play with on the road. I cant say this is a clunker they came and did what they wanted to do in every aspect of the game.
As for that silver lining, there is one the Sixers play again on Saturday night. With the Hawks coming to town, the Sixers have a chance to bounce back from a disappointing defeat and to gain ground on a team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Certainly the Sixers will want to bounce back and show that Fridays loss was some sort of deviation from the norm
I have no idea, Collins said. I have no idea.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org.