A foul odor in this loss for Sixers

Posted: February 20, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS - This loss left the coach and players just about speechless and the team president pacing back and forth for 15 minutes after the game, bitterly complaining about the final call to anyone who would listen.

For the first time this season the 76ers have lost three games in a row, last night's happening with one-tenth of a second to play when Andre Iguodala was called for a foul on a driving Kevin Love, who hit both free throws to give the Minnesota Timberwolves a 92-91 victory.

After Lou Williams missed a 19-foot jumper and Love corralled the rebound with 3.6 seconds left, the T-Wolves ran an inbounds play in which the ball went to Love, who faked a handoff to guard Ricky Rubio near the top of the three-point line. Love then spun and went down the lane, where he was met with resistance from Iguodala, who came over to help on the play. Iguodala reached for the ball - and replays show he certainly did grab a good chunk of it - but was called for the foul. Love hit both foul shots, capping his team's 23-for-26 night from the line, to just 8-for-10 for the Sixers.

"The guy just made a play to the basket and looked like he had his guy beat so I kind of helped in," said Iguodala, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. "I thought I forced a jump ball but they saw it differently."

All coach Doug Collins would say about the deciding play was: "I'm not going to go there." As he spoke, president Rod Thorn was still seething in the hallways of the Target Center.

The Timberwolves (16-16) have a luxury the Sixers (20-12) don't right now. After the two teams were soft-tossing long-range bombs with dominant guard play in the first half, the Wolves decided to use their heavy arsenal in the second half. That's when Love (20 points, 15 rebounds) and gargantuan (6-11, 290) Nikola Pekovic (17 and nine) started to get the ball in the paint and force the issue. Love had 14 of his points in the second half and the 6-11, 290-pound Pekovic had 13.

It was the fourth time this season the Sixers have lost a game late, joining the disappointments they suffered earlier this year on last-second shots against Denver, New Jersey and the Clippers.

"We're four stops away from having 24 wins," said Collins, referring to the close losses. "We've had four games like that and we've lost four of them. We had Deron Williams and Chris Paul and Andre Miller and today. It's a shame. We haven't been able to get that critical stop. Our guys have played very hard and we held the two big guys [Love and Pekovic] to 11-for-30 [shooting]. Once again, we keep a team under 39 percent shooting [33-for-85], 19 percent from three [3-for-16].

"It was the foul line again. [Minnesota's] 26 free throws to 10. So that's the difference to the game."

While the Sixers concentrated on packing in their defense in the first half to negate the size advantage of Love and Pekovic, their perimeter defense suffered. Guards Ricky Rubio (game-high 22 points) and Jose Barea (14) combined to shoot 9-for-14 in the first half and score 26 points. The rest of the T-Wolves shot 8-for-30 and scored 18.

"We got off to a great start and did a lot of great things," Collins said. "They're very physical, so you try to guard that paint as much as possible and that's why those guards had a lot of freedom, because we were trying to make sure we defended that paint and tried to make sure we did a good job on Love and Pekovic."

It worked well in the first half as the Sixers stretched the lead to as much as 11 and got solid play from Jrue Holiday, who had been struggling of late. Holiday finished the game with a team-high 20 points.

But the second half was not a similar tale. With Minnesota's bigs getting better looks inside and the Sixers relying mostly on perimeter play, the game became a game of contrasting styles. It worked for both teams as there were 15 lead changes, the biggest obviously coming with that one-tenth of a second to play.

"I've been in the league 7 years, so this isn't the first time a situation like that has happened and it won't be the last, so you just have to move on," said an obviously dejected Iguodala. "Both teams played good basketball; it was a good, competitive game. It just came down to the last play."

There were many other factors that played into the outcome, such as the foul-shooting disparity. It was also curious as to how the Sixers had a 46-36 scoring advantage in the paint, led in second-chance points (21-16) and had a 16-11 margin in fastbreak points.

But all that will be remembered, at least immediately following the game, was that final play.

"It's frustrating around the board because it's a loss," said Williams, who finished with 13 points. "We're kind of sliding a little bit. I think we played an aggressive game, we attacked the game just like they did. It happens."

More often than the coach, the players or the president certainly would like, though.

Sixshots

The Sixers finished with just eight turnovers . . . the Sixers bench scored 35 points, below their season average of 44 . . . The team traveled last night to Memphis, where they will play the Grizzlies tomorrow night.

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