If Collins had his druthers, that 4-ton wrecking ball that was banging away at the Spectrum yesterday will now do the same thing to the place the Wizards call home.
The first disheartening loss came after rookie Cartier Martin hit a wildly desperate three-pointer to send the game into overtime. The Wizards eventually won, 116-115. Last night, with the Sixers leading by three, Jrue Holiday fouled John Wall far from the basket. Smartly, Wall threw the ball toward the hoop on contact, and was awarded three foul shots, which he drained with 3.5 seconds left to force overtime yet again. This time Nick Young hit the killer basket from the right corner in that extra period and dropped the Sixers to 3-11.
But it never should have come to that. The Sixers led, 106-103, with 8.5 seconds left and rookie Evan Turner on the foul line. Plus, the Wizards were out of time outs. Turner, however, missed both and then came the Holiday foul.
The nation's capital has become a major pain to the Sixers.
"This one is worse," said a distraught Collins after the game. "All we had to do was just finish out the game. We made some critical mistakes again. That's been the story of our whole 14 games of the season. We've got to find a way to win a close game."
It's not going to happen with fouls like the one Holiday committed.
"I didn't think he was shooting," said a solemn Holiday about his foul on Wall. "He went up to shoot and my hand was right there. I didn't mean to foul him. I got my arm in there and he was going up to shoot, so . . . "
The outcome negated some positives for the Sixers, but also illuminated many weaknesses. Andre Iguodala, who had missed five of the previous seven games with tendinitis in his right Achilles' tendon, played 50 minutes and collected 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Mo Speights, filling in for an ejected Elton Brand, had his most productive offensive game of the season with 16 points and also grabbed nine boards.
Still, the good was wiped out by many negatives. The Sixers allowed JaVale McGee (24 points, 18 rebounds) and Andray Blatche (17 and 12) to combine for 41 points and 30 rebounds. And although Wall didn't start in his first game back after missing four with an injured left foot, he managed to get 25 points and six assists. Washington scored 68 points in the second half after scoring just 38 in the first and the Sixers shied away from a win like a scared child meeting Santa Claus.
Brand, who finished with 19 points, with all but two coming in the first half, was ejected with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter when he shoved McGee to the court after the Wizards guard had dunked to cut the Sixers' lead to 98-92.
"It wasn't frustration," said Brand. "We didn't match up correctly and he was going to get another dunk so I was just trying to stop it. I definitely tried to foul him, but I didn't want him to fall awkward like that."
The most awkward fall of the night was by the Sixers. Once again, their play late in the game appeared to be that of a team trying not to lose, instead of one that could grasp a win and carry it into the locker room.
"We made some mental mistakes there towards the end," said Iguodala. "Whatever group's out there, they're playing hard. Nobody's trying to lose, but we do a good job of losing close games."
And they do it in head-scratching fashion. Like how does Young, lately a notorious Sixers' killer who scored 19 last night, get so wide open to drain the winning three? Especially a day after Collins mentioned that Young always hits big shots against his team.
"They ran a play that we know, it's called Seattle," Collins said. "But Evan got picked on the baseline and he got caught on the play."
And that's all it takes for this team to absorb another loss. Like that wrecking ball banging against the bricks of the Spectrum yesterday, small cracks quickly become gaping holes, leaving the coach with a tougher loss than he encountered earlier this month.
Gilbert Arenas started for John Wall and had 17 points, but also eight turnovers . . . Thaddeus Young had his sixth-straight game in double-figures, getting 15 points in 24 minutes, shooting 7-for-8 from the floor . . . The team flew to Toronto after the game and will face the Raptors tonight.
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