So, first I want to say that I skipped last week’s review because of the all star break shortening the previous week. Also, the Sixers had a pretty dismal week, and I wasn’t really too keen to write about it. This week? Pretty average, but the Bulls game, which will be discussed in detail later, was pretty fun, as was the Thunder game.
The Sixers obviously started the second half of the season in Detroit looking to break a surprising five game skid. They had already beaten the Pistons handily twice this year, and, unfortunately for Detroit, this game wasn’t any kinder. The game started brightly for the Pistons as Greg Monroe led a 12-8 run to start the game, but after a spree of turnovers, the Sixers grabbed the lead back at the end of the quarter, and never looked back. They started the second quarter with an 11-0 run, and took a sixteen point lead into the half. Amazingly, the Pistons didn’t score from outside the lane in the first half. Obviously, the second half wasn’t much better as the Sixers pulled away. With much of the Palace crowd dissipating, heckling fans could be heard loud and clear, and they were, with one shouting, “I cannot watch this stuff anymore.” The next day, a fabulous story on one of the darkest days in NBA history probably rubbed salt in the Pistons fans wounds, but the Sixers inflicted enough pain already.
Next, the Sixers faced the Thunder. Now, when looking at the schedule for the week, I kind of thought it would be easy to go 2-2, because the Pistons and Warriors are pretty easy wins, and the Bulls and Heat have the two best records in the league. Because of that, 2-2 sort of seemed like it would be a disappointment.
Against the Thunder, the 7-6 seemed on the brink of beating one of those two teams. They had a seven point lead midway through the fourth quarter after a Jrue Holiday jumper, and Kevin Durant seemed off of his game. Then, the Sixers late game struggles came to the forefront as they missed their next 10(!) shots. Kevin Durant decided he didn’t want the Thunders win streak to come to an end, and he scored eight straight points for the Thunder. Serge Ibaka made two free throws to put the Thunder up, and it set the game up for a gut wrenching finish.
Kendrick Perkins made 1 of 4 free throws sandwiching a Lou Will missed three, and this gave the Thunder a three point lead with twenty seconds to go. On the next possession, the Sixers needed a three to tie, and instead gave the ball away to Kevin Durant. He made just one free throw, leaving the Sixers in the game, and Dre’ almost made the Thunder pay with a three. Now the Sixers were within one point of OKC, and Durant was at the line. He made the first, and again missed the second. This was stunning, as he is a great free throw shooter, and it seemed like the Sixers would have a shot to tie or even to win, but Russell Westbrook somehow got the offensive rebound. He made two free throws after being fouled, and that sealed the Sixers fate.
Seriously, though, how do you let Westbrook get the rebound in that situation? It wasn’t like this was anything different from the rest of the game though, as the Thunder highlighted the Sixers weaknesses by dominating the boards, with a 17 rebound advantage, and by getting to the foul line 22 more times than the Sixers. The 7-6 obviously do not have any real good rebounders, and no great rim attackers, and the Thunder are fantastic at highlighting those weaknesses. Now, it is no shame to lose to a team like OKC, best in the league, but with the recent struggles, this would have been a huge win for the 76ers, and they let it slip away.
Next, they played Golden State, and the Sixers rolled over the hapless Warriors in a game referred to afterwards by Elton Brand as a “must win.” The game was decently close until the fourth quarter, but the Sixers turned a ten point lead into an eighteen point lead with a ten to two spurt. I am not going to talk too much about this game, because I do not want this to go to something like 1500 words, but I will note that Evan Turner played the point for that run that broke open the game, and anything Evan Turner does good is fantastic.
So, that leaves us with one final game of the week against the Chicago Bulls. The Sixers came into the game sort of being the Bulls kryptonite, having won three straight against the top team in the east. The Bulls had their full complement of players to surround Derrick Rose this time, different from last time when the Luol Deng, Rip Hamiltom, and C.J. Watson were all out.
The game started out as a very close, back and forth game, with the Sixers slightly better than Chicago. They took a six point lead into the half, and it was well deserved, with the Sixers playing hounding defense. The third quarter went Chicago’s way, and the game was all knotted up for a thrilling finish in Philadelphia.
That thought seemed to go out the window quickly. The Bulls went on a stunning 15-2 run, with the help of three triples, and the Sixers seemed dead and out of the game. Then, they went on a spirited run and somehow got the game back within two points a couple times, with the score 91-89 after this run. The late game struggles would come to the forefront again.
In The Horror Show: Part 12 (The 12th game decided by seven points or less), Andre Iguodala got it started by airballing a three, and the Sixers got it right back off a turnover, only for Thad Young to miss. At least he hit the rim. Derrick Rose nailed a floater, and Dre’ hit the backboard with a three (Should we be happy it wasn’t an airball?), killing the Sixers chances.
But seriously, can these close game get any worse? I was going to go off on this, but thankfully Sean already did better than I could, so you’re spared my rant. Anyway, the Sixers need to get better in these situations, and I will leave it at that.
So, to sum up the week, it was disappointing. The Sixers had two easy games, won both, but lost two winnable games at home to the league’s elite. The Thunder and Bulls games were both awful at the end, and this is a worrying problem. Also, I cannot believe I am saying this, but Spencer Hawes, please come back. The big man needs to be healthy for the stretch run so they can have a big presence inside.