Road-weary Sixers lay an egg at home against Timberwolves

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER James Anderson grabs ball from Timberwolves' Robbie Hummel.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER James Anderson grabs ball from Timberwolves' Robbie Hummel.
Posted: January 08, 2014

IT JUST WASN'T a good night to have the spotlight thrust upon them. Now that the Eagles' season is over, it would figure the 76ers could garner this city's sports attention now, right? After all, they had won four consecutive games going into last night, all on the road, the last coming against Western Conference powerhouse Portland. Only natural for the eyes to turn to the red, white and blue.

OK, so that's overdoing it, but the recent winning streak did bring about some curious talk from the home fans, and what else are you going to do on a cold Monday night (except maybe watch that BCS title-game thing)?

If there were additional eyes and ears fixed to the Sixers, their play didn't exactly prompt a return, as their legs appeared to still be on West Coast time in a 126-95 drubbing by the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Wells Fargo Center.

Not even a red-hot and strange start by Thaddeus Young could save the Sixers in this one. In the first quarter, Young hit a long jumper off an inbounds pass with 0.3 seconds on the shot clock, converted an alley-oop in which the defender touched more of the ball than he did and also drained a three-pointer that hit the rim, rolled on top of the backboard for a second, then went through the rim. Young, who earlier in the day was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, led the team with 20 points.

"I was tired [Sunday] and got a good amount of sleep," Evan Turner said. "But you really don't know how your body is going to react until you get out on the floor. I know when it is 7 o'clock, any night, my mind tells me it's time to play, no matter where you are or where you've been."

During the winning streak, the Sixers had done away with two demons that had possessed them all season: turnovers and opponents' three-pointers. There were only 13.3 giveaways on average in the four games, and opponents made only 25.2 percent of their threes.

The Sixers gave the ball to the Timberwolves 12 times in the first half alone (23 for the game) and allowed Minnesota to drain 16 of 26 from beyond the arc.

"Maybe it was [fatigue]," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "But that's the goal of not getting complacent and not feeling good about yourself in relation that you've accomplished something. Good teams become better. You learn you need to be greedy, and you need to show the people that we're better than what we showed.

"That's not us. That's not who we are. That's no reflection of the improvement that we have made and no reflection of them as competitors. I do give Minnesota credit, they are a hard team when they get rolling. They can score, they can shoot."

The Sixers were hanging close after the first quarter, trailing by only 32-29. But you got the feeling that the baskets were coming a lot easier for the Timberwolves and that it would be a long defensive night for the home team. Minnesota made that a reality by outscoring the Sixers, 73-45, over the second and third periods in putting a halt to the season-best winning streak.

"We were scoring fine, but that was fool's gold," said Spencer Hawes, who finished with seven points and six rebounds. "You let a team like that get clicking, especially the way they run their system, if you don't disrupt that [three-point] area, it's going to be a long night."

It was, and there is no rest for the weary as the team boarded a flight after the game for a meeting tonight in Cleveland with the Cavaliers.

"I've never seen a schedule like this, coming back from a West Coast trip," Hawes said. "But it's no excuse. You still have to play the game. It's not much like being home when you're here for a day."

Brown will never be one looking for excuses, and it wasn't the lack of physical presence that had him upset as much as it was the mental side of things.

"It's fair to point the finger at a physical side of it, to a point," Brown said. "You never feel like, after a trip, this is a home game. But that's the hardness, that's the grooming, the evolution of a program that has the ability to come back and head down, tail up and move forward. I do think that there is a physical side to what you saw tonight, but the mental side of it upsets me far more. I feel that, see that far more than a fatigue factor."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76