Spotty defense continues in Sixers' loss to Hornets

Spotty defense continues in Sixers' loss to Hornets
January 16, 2013, 4:35 am
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Its been an all-too common theme for the Bynum-less Sixers this season. Just when it appears as if the team has rounded a corner and shored up its defense, it turns in a clunker.
The latest manifestation of this trend came in Tuesday nights 111-99 defeat to the last-place New Orleans Hornets, a team the Sixers held to just 62 points in a game earlier this season. In the latest loss, the Sixers allowed the Hornets to shoot 53 percent from the field and 55.6 percent (10 for 18) from three-point range to roll to a relatively easy victory (see Instant Replay).
Moreover, the Hornets dominated the boards, scored more in the paint and got to the free throw line more often.
But whats more troubling for the 16-23 Sixers is that head coach Doug Collins doesnt see any sign of things changing. One night the Sixers will be up just like they were in victories over the Celtics, Grizzlies, Lakers and Rockets and the next they will give up piles of points in losses to the last-place Suns or Hornets.
Its disappointing to say the least, Collins said. I was hoping to build on what we did against Houston, but we couldnt get any stops. They out-ran us, out-rebounded us, they beat us in the paint, they out-executed us, they beat us in every way they possibly could and thats disappointing.
In last Saturdays victory over the Rockets, the Sixers clamped down on defense late to hold on for a 107-100 victory. Over the final three minutes of the game, the Sixers forced the high-scoring Rockets to miss eight straight shots as they surged for the victory.
But against the low-scoring Hornets, averaging just 91 points per game heading into Tuesday, the Sixers defense couldnt find an answer. Guards Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez combined to score 42 points, while perimeter players Ryan Anderson and Xavier Henry came off the bench to score 25.
Then again, Collins didnt expect much to change after the solid game against Houston.
Ive got to see it more than once, Collins said. Turning the corner to me is consistency. As I said before, we havent won two games in a row since Nov. 30, so until I see that consistently, its hard for me to get excited. But, I mean, we almost scored 100 points, we had plenty of offense.
Oh yeah, Collins talked plenty about the fact that his team had not won back-to-back games since Nov. 30. In fact, he reminded his team of the fact before Tuesdays game, hoping to motivate it into two straight victories. But Collins neednt have bothered. His players knew quite well they hadnt been winning. In fact, over the last 18 games the Sixers have won just four times and are 6-16 since winning consecutive games.
According to captain Thad Young, the Sixers are getting frighteningly closer to a make-or-break point of the season even though the halfway point of the campaign is still a week ago.
In other words, its getting late early, says Thad Young.
In my mind its the last straw, Thad Young said. Weve got to figure out a way to get ourselves back into the game. We tried our best and it just didnt work out.
Still, give the Sixers credit for making things interesting on Tuesday night. Though they dug themselves into double-digit deficits in every quarter against the Hornets and fell behind by 20 points early in the fourth quarter, the Sixers somehow found a spark to whittle away at the lead.
They got within two points early in the third quarter and chopped that 20-point deficit down to into single digits with nearly four minutes to go thanks to a lightning-quick rash of scoring from reserve Nick Young, who gunned his way to 14 points in a little more than five minutes of action in the final frame.
Ultimately, Nick Youngs barrage was just window dressing as the Hornets pushed the lead back to as many as 14 points.
Again, it all gets back to defense. Thad Young says the Sixers cant guard the pick-and-roll and Collins says the team doesnt have enough quickness on the perimeter. They also dont have a presence in the paint, either.
In other words, its a mess.
The disappointing thing to me is night to night, I dont know what Im going to get, Collins said. I think some of the people watching our games wonder what in the heck are we doing. Sometimes I wonder. Its not like Im not trying.
The Sixers get to give it another try on Friday night when they host the last-place Toronto Raptors.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com.