For the past couple of weeks, the Sixers managed to get by with timely defense and strong play from their bench.
Today they got neither.
The fifteen or so minutes I waited for Doug Collins to appear for the post game presser probably seemed like an eternity for his players that no doubt had endured his wrath after an embarrassing 114-111 overtime defeat at the hands of the lowly Sacramento Kings. The Sixers, who led by as many as twelve points never looked like they had full control of the game. ” We played with fire too much and we got burned.” said Collins after watching his team now blow double digit leads in back to back games. In the past weeks the Sixers have been able to draw energy from their bench which has been considered one of the NBA’s best. Today, the bench was as ineffective as the starters and matched their lack of energy shooting 4 for 26 from the field for 14 points – the biggest field goal being a Lou Williams three-pointer as time expired to force overtime. The Kings bench outscored the Sixers bench 35-14.
The Kings were led by Marcus Thornton who scored 29 second half points and hit big shot after big shot. Samuel Dalembert who was returning to Philadelphia for the first time since the trade that landed the Sixers Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni added 13 points and controlled the glass with a season-high 19 boards. The Sixers were outrebounded 58-36 their second-worst output of the season (out rebounded by 18 by Miami Friday night). Spencer Hawes had a season high 15 rebounds, Elton Brand (15 points) didn’t grab his first rebound until the third period. Brand and Hawes had their hands full going against the frontcourt of DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Dalembert. ” Their front line really hurt us today, that and their bench out scoring us.”
Collins had been in wary this game for sometime now one – the Kings have been a different team since the Sixers blew them out in Sacramento nine days ago and secondly, the noon start weighed heavily on Collins’ mind, “The noon start today did us, I was worried. I could see that we didn’t have that normal go.” Collins seemed concerned of the recent roll the Kings had been on, “Sacramento has gone on the road and won at Milwaukee, who needed to win and won at Indiana, who needed to win.” Collins added, “It’s not like I didn’t warn these guys how well they were playing.”
The Sixers led by as many as twelve in the second quarter and managed to go into the half leading 49-44. Turnovers and poor rebounding by the Sixers kept the Kings in the game as local products Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson played well in front of a healthy contingent of family and friends.
The third quarter saw three lead changes and three ties as Thornton scored 19 in the period to put the Kings up three after three periods.
The fourth quarter belonged to Jrue Holiday, who took over the scoring responsibility for his team as he went perfect from the field and the line for 16 points. Backcourt mate Jodie Meeks once again saw extended minutes in the fourth as he scored 5 of his 22 in the fourth. On the flip side, reserve studs Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young shot a combined 3 for 23 for 9 points.
It seemed like the Sixers had the momentum as they forced overtime on a beautiful play run for Williams as he dropped the three at the end of regulation. The Kings would lead most of the way but the Sixers despite some questionable shot selection still had an opportunity to tie the game with 1.9 seconds left in overtime.
Collins chose Andre Iguodala to take the last shot – and according to Collins, it will remain that way for the duration. “Ball is going to be in his hands - he’s going to drive the basket, he’s gonna make a play for us.” Collins continued, “ He’s either gonna get fouled or score. He has the size to see up over people and if they’re smothering the pick and roll, I feel confident that he can make a play out of that.”
Coming off back to back loses, including a winnable game today, the Sixers have a date in Chicago tomorrow night. Collins remains confident. “We’ve played 73 games and been through some of the toughest losses and you’ve seen us bounce back.”
After producing 21 turnovers, leading by 12 points and still losing to one of the NBA’s worst teams - I’m hoping there’s some bounce left.