Sixers lagging after road trip

Posted: January 10, 2014

WHAT THE NBA schedule giveth, the NBA schedule taketh away.

The norm for the 76ers during the holidays is for them to trek out West while their home at the Wells Fargo Center hosts "Disney on Ice." Sometimes that trip can be a problem as the losses and mileage mount, and the recovery period can take some time.

Other times, like this season, it can turn into a bonding experience that carries over onto the court and yields unexpected success. The five-game trip produced four straight road wins that ended a 13-game losing streak away from Philadelphia. Found was defensive cohesion and offensive compatibility.

Then the Sixers returned home. With barely a day of rest, they hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves before having to get back on a plane and face the Cavaliers in Cleveland a night later. Those two games resulted in losses by a combined 49 points. The defense, so good at covering the three-point line during the winning streak, seemed forgetful on that subject once again, as the T-wolves and Cavs combined to make 29 of 54 (53.7 percent) from beyond the arc. The offense, which had scored more than 100 points in its seven previous games, averaged just 94 in the past two losses.

Thaddeus Young, named Monday as the Eastern Conference's player of the week after averaging 25 points in three games, went scoreless against Cleveland on Tuesday, the first time that has happened to him in nearly 3 years, and Evan Turner scored just four in the same game.

The games prompted this response from head coach Brett Brown: "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." Those words were spoken after the Minnesota game. Then after the spanking administered by the Cavaliers, Brown said: "I have no idea about the team that I just saw the last 2 nights. The fatigue must have played a far greater factor than I anticipated. It's one of the great challenges of the NBA."

This is a season full of challenges for Brown as he continues to see which young unknown players on his roster might be able to have careers in the league and which of the veterans might fit into the future plans of this organization. They met the challenge of the West Coast trip with a string of their best basketball of the season. The even tougher challenge is proving to be recovering from that excursion.

After a practice today that no doubt will be quite vigorous, the Sixers will have a chance to right the ship on this weekend. They'll host a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, with the Detroit Pistons coming in on Friday, followed by the New York Knicks.

The release of center Daniel Orton on Tuesday means that center/forward Arnett Moultrie soon could be ready to see some action. Moultrie has been sidelined all year after hurting his ankle in offseason workouts and required surgery. With Moultrie probably back soon and Lavoy Allen playing better, Orton was the odd man out . . .

The Sixers and the New Jersey Devils, both owned by Josh Harris, plan to announce a sponsorship deal with an online gambling company in a news conference today at 4 p.m. at the Prudential Center. Scott O'Neil, CEO of both teams, and Norbert Teufelberger, the chief executive of digital entertainment that operates partypoker, confirmed the multiyear agreement in a statement last night. Teufelberger said his company was excited to offer Devils and Sixers fans great digital content and unique game-day experiences. Former Sixers Allen Iverson, Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins are expected to represent the team at today's announcement.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

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