They failed in most of those categories again last night, and fell to the Toronto Raptors, 94-86, at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was the same story that has been playing out throughout this young season for the Sixers, who lost their fifth straight and dropped to 2-10. A close game slipped away as the team's inability to keep opponents off the boards late in games, and not being able to score themselves, again did them in as they had just one field goal in the final 7 minutes of the fourth quarter.
"It's the same old, same old," said forward Elton Brand, who led the Sixers with 27 points. "It seems like we could have pulled it out. We had the lead and we can't get stops at opportune times, and we turn it over at misfortunate times. We get turnovers and we don't even get attempts at the basket. That's a killer when we're trying to close out these ball games."
The problem seems to be not knowing who to go to when a bucket is needed. Point guard Jrue Holiday (17 points, seven assists) seems confident enough to give it a try, but his inexperience often plays a role in a negative outcome. Rookie Evan Turner has no conscious when trying to make a big play, but he's played a total of 11 games in the league. Dumping it down to Brand seems a formidable solution, but when he gets swarmed by defenders, no one seems to move to an open spot on the floor.
"My biggest concern is in close games can we get defensive stops and can we find a way to score," said coach Doug Collins. "We had a couple opportunities, had some shots that we missed. That was tough. We don't have that guy you can go to, and I don't say that to discourage our guys, but Elton's a guy you get the ball to and they smother him, and they're gonna force us to get that ball out of there. We really just don't have that guy that's going to make that play. Jrue made a couple nice plays in there, but just couldn't finish.
"But that's the essence of NBA basketball. You've got to be able to play close games and we did not do that."
They did not, getting outscored 25-15 by Toronto (3-9) in the final quarter while making just five of 18 from the floor, and turning the ball over five times.
Though they don't seem to have anyone right now who can make a big shot, there doesn't appear to be many who shy away.
"We were down one [in the fourth] and they get loose balls popping out and get two-on-one fastbreaks and things like that," said Turner, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, his second career double-double. "Sometimes you have to trust each other. Sometimes I think we fall too much into trying to do things ourselves with the ball. You've just got to play without thinking. We all pay our dues and eventually it will even out.
"Back in college, I closed them all, baby. If the ball is in your hands you have to step up and take the shot. If you are scared, there's no point in playing."
No, but the results for the Sixers thus far this season have been mostly frightening. Last night Raptors forwards Andrea Bargnani (30) and Sonny Weems (25) combined for 55 points, going 22-for-36 from the floor. Bargnani had his way both inside and out against the Sixers' front line, which didn't get much bench help on the night, getting just 14 points and limited defensive presence.
"[Bargnani] is a tough matchup," said Collins. "There was no question he was a tough matchup. He is a 7-footer who can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, he can post. On a critical play of the game, they went to him and he scored."
Which is the kind of player Collins desperately wants on his team right now.
But he doesn't have it. So he'll have to draw up ways to somehow find it. Probably by going back to the basics.
Swingman Andre Iguodala was out of the lineup for the fourth time in six games because of tendinitis in his right Achilles' tendon. Collins had no definitive answer on when Iguodala would return.
"I just ask him on a day-to-day basis, 'How you doing, how you feeling, when do you think you'll be back?' I'm going to leave that up to him. As a man who had a lot of injuries in his career, nobody knows your body like you do. When he's ready to go, he'll let us know and he'll be out there. We definitely need him.
"I think he understands the length of the season. I think this last time, he came back a little bit too soon. I don't think he'll do that again. I think he'll make sure he's ready to roll and be out there the rest of the time."
The prepaid attendance was announced at 12,164, but there seemed to be half that many in the building. It wasn't a tree-falling-in-the-woods type of crowd, but it was darn close. A Lithuanian contingent that consumed six rows in Section 123 to cheer on Toronto's Linas Kleiza raised the decibel level to barely audible . . . Thad Young finished with 10 points, his fourth-straight game in double figures . . . The Sixers had 10 more offensive rebounds than Toronto (16-6) . . . The team will practice today then host the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow. *
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