Jan 7, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT
In the words of a man whose name is an anagram for “oral sex,” all we need is just a little patience. Philadelphia 76er fans were losing their collective minds a couple days ago after the team’s unexpected road upset in Portalnd, and not totally unreasonably so, considering the win was their fourth straight on the road and the team was starting to look like a squad that might actually have playoff contention–a veritable worst-case scenario for the team’s long-term prospects–on the brain.
But as I said back then, the winning streak wasn’t as dramatic as it seemed. Three of the teams they beat were lousy squads the Sixers caught at pretty much the exact right squad, and the Portland win was about as fluky and unrepeatable as any Philly was likely to have this season, maybe even including the Miami game. The hotness was not meant to last, and I figured it would cool its boots sooner rather than later–though I’ll admit I was a little terrified about the potential consequences if it didn’t.
Well, no matter anymore. The Sixers can’t undo four wins’ worth of damage in one night, but it seems like whatever mojo they were summoning over their recent West Coast swing has now officially dried up with the team’s 126-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. Combined with a Nets win in Brooklyn last night, they’re now back to a comfortable 4th in the Atlantic Division, possibly to fall to last tonight with a loss to Cleveland on the road and a Knicks win against Detroit tonight.
It was the same old story for the Sixers–poor three-point defense, lackluster rebounding, and far too many mental errors and terrible decisions with the basketball. They let up 16 threes and turned the ball over 22 times. They got destroyed by Kevin Martin and Kevin Love outside and Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love (again) inside. It was enough to make you nostalgic for the unapologetically crappy 76ers teams of a couple weeks ago.
But really, it wasn’t as bad as it looked, just like the Blazers win wasn’t as good as it looked. The Sixers didn’t do a great job defending beyond the arc, but watching the game, it felt more like the Wolves making a lot of shots than the Sixers really blowing rotations or losing their men on the perimeter. They let up a ton of offensive rebounds, but that’ll happen on occasion playing a frontline of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic with your own big man combo of Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. That’s the NBA: Sometimes shit happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. Last night it did.
The turnovers were a bit much, though. Maybe it was inspired by playing the Timberwolves, one of the league’s best-passing squads, but the Sixers–particularly Spencer Hawes, who seemed intent on proving he could out-outlet Kevin Love–went for way too many home-run-type passes that weren’t really available to them, and absolutely killed their own momentum on about a half-dozen separate occasions throughout the game. It’s always good to see the team playing on the aggressive side, but the Sixers were just downright careless a lot of the time, and that’s not really acceptable.
But yeah, point is, every game’s a new chance for this Sixers squad to get back to their losing ways, and they did in a big way last night. It’ll be interesting to see if it drags into their game tonight against the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, who may or may not have their banged-up franchise player Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and also may or may not be debuting their recent blockbuster trade acquisition Luol Deng (for the price of Andrew Bynum, who may show up soon enough on the Heat or Clippers or may just be done with this whole basketball thing). Seeing whether the team can recover from the dispiriting loss tonight may have a bearing on their next week or so of games, most of which are at home and winnable in theory.
Regardless of what happens tonight, the good news about the Deng-Bynum swap is that it means trade season is officially in full effect, and will no doubt be impacting the Sixers sooner rather than later. As always, we place our faith in our EGOT winner of a GM, and trust that winning or losing, tanking or contending, he can steward this Philly squad into a brighter tomorrow. In the meantime, stay frosty, Thaddeus Young.
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