The loss dropped the Sixers to 17-24, denied them consecutive wins after a 19-point comeback against the Toronto Raptors on Friday, and gets them to the midway point of the season in far less than ideal positioning.
"We're very concerned," coach Doug Collins said. "We're seven games below .500, so you're going to have to play .500 basketball [in the second half of the season] to make the playoffs. So, sure, I'm concerned. But we're going to keep playing every night and see what we can do.
"We've got to find a way to put some wins together. It can't be lose one, win one, lose two. It's been Nov. 30 since we've been able to have a streak. That's where we are."
Like Friday, the Sixers dug a deep hole for themselves, getting down by 17 in the first half. Also like the Toronto game, the Sixers clawed back in the second half. Unlike Friday, they were playing one of the premier teams in the NBA, one that knows how to close out games when and take momentum away in mind-boggling quickness. And that's what the Spurs did in the final 5 minutes, 40 seconds.
A jump shot by Nick Young (12 points) gave the Sixers an 82-75 lead. The next time the Sixers scored a field goal was a floater in the lane by Jrue Holiday with 15.9 seconds to go. In their 14 final possessions after taking that seven-point lead, the Sixers shot 1-for-10 from the floor and turned the ball over four times while getting outscored, 15-3.
"A part of it was rushing shots," said Holiday, who finished with 15 points and eight assists. "We had the game in our hands, but coming down to it they're a veteran team and they did what they had to do to win. I think they rushed us to take shots that we didn't want to take, and they executed."
The Spurs, now 33-11, certainly did that in winning their fifth consecutive game. They got points on nine of their final 12 possessions, including a key steal and layup by Kawhi Leonard. An inbounds pass by Royal Ivey was deflected to halfcourt going toward the San Antonio basket. Lavoy Allen appeared to have a bead on the ball, but stutter-stepped to get his footing when trying to corral the ball. That allowed Leonard to swipe the ball in full stride and hit a layup to cut the lead to 82-79 with 2:50 left in the game.
"We threw that inbounds pass away and gave them a layup," Collins said. "That was huge. Normally, Royal doesn't throw that ball in, so we made a little bit of an error there. But I told Lavoy that has to be like a punter chasing a punt down in the end zone - give up the safety rather than the touchdown - knock the ball out of bounds. We tried to reach for it, they get it, and then the next [possession] Leonard hits a three. So bam, bam, bam and it's tied.
"Disappointing. It would have a hell of a win for our team against San Antonio. I thought we did a lot of good things, but, at the end of the day, our turnovers and our inability to execute when it counted was the difference in the game."
San Antonio's key players, most notably Tim Duncan (24 points, 17 rebounds and five assists) and Tony Parker (20 points, eight assists) were also big parts of the Sixers' demise, as they enabled the Spurs to not only overcome the late-game deficit, but win yet again without fellow star Manu Ginobili, who missed his fourth straight game because of a hamstring injury.
Evan Turner collected 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for the Sixers, while Spencer Hawes added 16 points and Thaddeus Young 14. The team traveled immediately after the game to Milwaukee for a Tuesday game, one in which they will have no chance of winning their second straight game.
Three Dog Night went no further than the number two in that song. The Sixers can't even seem to get that far.
Jason Richardson did not play because of synovitis in his left knee. Richardson had the knee drained last Thursday.
On Twitter: @BobCooney76