As usual, Sixers fall in Dallas

ASSOCIATED PRESS Sixers' Thaddeus Young pulls in a rebound against Mavericks center DeJuan Blair in the first half.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Sixers' Thaddeus Young pulls in a rebound against Mavericks center DeJuan Blair in the first half.
Posted: November 20, 2013

DALLAS - Tony Wroten hasn’t been around long enough to know what a chamber of horrors Dallas’ American Airlines Center has been for the 76ers.

He found out the hard way last night.

Try as he might to stop it, Wroten, in his first season with the Sixers, played an integral part in an all-too-familiar result, a seemingly inevitable, 97-94 loss to the Mavericks.

The defeat was Philadelphia’s eighth in a row at Dallas, and its 12th in its past 15 games against the Mavericks.

Wroten had no idea that was the case when he repeatedly went to the basket with abandon as the Sixers battled the Mavericks down the stretch. He only knew that his drives, as well as those of Evan Turner, had helped carry the Sixers offensively through almost three quarters of holding a lead.

But history — and a suddenly impenetrable Dallas defense — was against him. His first two fourth-quarter forays to the basket ended with a blocked shot and a turnover, the second of which turned into a Jae Crowder dunk that capped a 9-2 Dallas run and left the Sixers down by 79-73.

That was only the beginning of the nightmare. The Mavericks blocked six shots in the fourth quarter, victimizing Turner four times, as the two men who had led the Philadelphia charge all night shot a combined 3-for-13 in the final period.

Turner, who led the Sixers with 26 points, was so frustrated by a Mavericks defense he thought was too aggressive, he was called for a technical foul with 2:54 left for his remarks to the officials.

"I saw two of my teammates get their lips split," Turner said. "Obviously, frustration boils over. To a certain extent, there’s only so much you can take, and I lost my cool. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I see Brandon [Davies] get his lip split and Tony get his lip split, and then I see [a Mav] just get blown on and there’s a foul called.

"I lost my cool, that’s my fault. It wasn’t worth it. As the leader of the team, I shouldn’t have done that to my team."

That wasn’t the only self-inflicted wound. The Sixers, who shot a mere 38 percent from the field, made only 12 of 22 free throws and were a horrid 3-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter of a tight game. Wroten, who entered the game shooting .605 from the line, made just three of nine and was 1-for-4 in the fourth quarter.

"As hard as I try not to, it’s in my head," Wroten acknowledged, "because I’ve worked so hard, especially on free throws. So missing six free throws, it’s definitely something I have to get back in the gym and keep working on."

On the plus side, the Sixers improved exponentially from their previous game, a 135-98 loss to New Orleans. The defense forced 20 Dallas turnovers, picked up 12 steals and held the Mavericks, one of the NBA’s highest-scoring teams, to fewer than 100 points.

"Our guys responded to a really poor performance in New Orleans," coach Brett Brown said.

"I think this was one of our best — if not the best — defensive games we’ve played.

"They want to do the right thing. They want to get better. They want to try to fix things that we all talked about and saw on videotape. … I give our guys credit, They came ready to play."

Nerlens Noel's games don't count in the standings. They aren't played in front of cheering crowds or TV cameras.

But for the 76ers and their prized rookie center, they are as important as any games on the NBA schedule.

The former Kentucky star is out indefinitely as he rehabs his surgically repaired left knee, and there is a good chance he won't play at all this season. But he is on the court everyday, working with coach Brett Brown and assistant Greg Foster on his shooting, a process Brown said is starting from "ground zero."

"And we're not budging for a long period of time," the coach said. "We'll spice it up a little with different games, but it is what it is - a bunch of different ways to shoot one-handed, a bunch of different ways to get his guide hand up. But you will not see his off hand touch the ball for a good 3 months."

The reason for that is that the construction project of Noel's shot is a major one. The 6-11 Noel is supremely gifted athletically, but he needs a longer-range offensive weapon, Brown said, to completely unlock his potential.

An outside shot, Brown said, is "a part of his game that's going to make his world so much easier as he gets older. Because he's so athletic, if people have to play him from a reasonable distance, his speed and his bounce and his length are going to get him to the rim. It's the key to unlock him enjoying basketball and growing into a very, very good player."

Brown said he adds a competitive aspect to Noel's drills - giving him goals to make a certain number of shots in a row, for example - to keep him motivated.

But the bottom line is that the shooting work is an investment in a player the Sixers clearly believe is their future.

"There are times when I felt maybe I'm putting him in a bad spot in front of people, doing stuff that is clearly development work, and I don't want to demean him," Brown said. "But that's his game . . . that's his stage. It's not with referees and a full house, but that's his game.

"I'm convinced - and I've seen it already - his form is better. It's a total rebuild of his shot, and I think we can all make money if we invest that kind of time throughout an NBA season."

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