Tough to watch Sixers' mind-numbing mistakes

ASSOCIATED PRESS Thunder star Kevin Durant dunks on Sixers' Jarvis Varnado during the second quarter of Tuesday's game.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Thunder star Kevin Durant dunks on Sixers' Jarvis Varnado during the second quarter of Tuesday's game.
Posted: March 07, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY - There haven't been many positive signs surrounding the 76ers of late, as the losing streak reached 15 on Tuesday with a 125-92 rout at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It ties the franchise mark for the second-most consecutive losses in team history, behind only the 20 straight in that dreadful 1972-73 season.

But it was more than just Tuesday's loss to the powerful Thunder; it was the glaring mistakes in that game that again left coach Brett Brown and anyone else following the team scratching their heads.

There were little expectations going into this season and the Sixers have done their part not to exceed any of them. The talent level is well below NBA standards. There are new players via trade and 10-day contracts (and more will be coming soon), which obviously hinders the product on the floor. Right now this team can't compete physically on most nights with other NBA rosters. But it is alarming how mentally weak this team appears to be. Night after night Brown appears to be preaching the same instructions, both at the offensive and defensive end, but to no avail.

Here are some of the lowlights from Tuesday:

* Just 11 seconds into the game, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka rolled down the lane after a pick, was left wide-open, got a pass from Russell Westbrook and deposited a layup while getting fouled. A middle-of-the-lane pick-and-roll, one of the most common plays in all of pro basketball, and it looked as if the Sixers defenders had never seen it before.

* On the Sixers' final possession of the first quarter, Tony Wroten tried to attack the rim, only to have his shot blocked by Perry Jones with 3.9 seconds remaining. Not only was the attempt blocked, but Kevin Durant corralled the ball and passed ahead to Jeremy Lamb, who hit an open layup at the buzzer. The fact that no one thought to get back on defense when Wroten drove the lane, where he often gets his shot blocked, is mind-numbing.

* Not once but twice, Durant, who is kind of known for his scoring, was left open when OKC was inbounding the ball under its own basket. The first time he deposited a layup. The second time he missed a little 3-footer on the baseline. How do you lose sight of Durant, ever, at the defensive end, especially around the basket on an inbounds pass?

* When will the Sixers' guards, particularly Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten, realize that driving the lane and getting their shots blocked isn't a good thing? OKC had 10 blocks, and it was tied for first in the league in that categlory going into last night. But it happens way too often night after night on those two guards. At some point they are going to have to learn to hit floaters, pull-ups or dish the ball out to someone.

* Durant, the league's leading scorer, poured in 42 against the Sixers, a night after LeBron James torched the Charlotte Bobcats for 61. Durant probably could have matched James' number, but coach Scott Brooks mercifully sat him for the entire fourth quarter. He scored his final points on the Thunder's last possession of the third. Durant started the possession with the ball in his hands beyond the top of the key. Brown instructed two players to run at Durant and try to get the ball out of his hands. They did that, but then lost Durant, who strolled down the lane, got the ball back and deposited a layup for his 42nd and final points of the game.

* Westbrook, just six games back after missing 27 with an injured knee, collected 13 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes and 17 seconds of play. That is the second-fastest time to post a triple-double in NBA history, behind some guy named Jim Tucker who did it in less time in 1955.

Losing to the likes of the Thunder (46-15) is nothing to be ashamed of, especially for a Sixers team so full of unfamiliar faces and borderline NBA talent. But the redundancy of their maddening play is more than alarming.

"We struggle," Brown understated. "I think we're the last team in the league in making threes in percentage and so it's the dish-offs that we want, it's still the kick-outs that we want and we still love the attack. But when you drive - and it was a problem in my old days when Tony [Parker] had to find Timmy [Duncan] or Manu [Ginobili] had to go to dunk - you better go [to the basket] to mean it.

"I encourage, and we will continue to develop that attack mentality, but now what do you do with that? I thought at times we did better because we have been so poor. Any hint of improvement seems like we're starting to catch on and getting it.

"We have so much further to go - Michael as a point guard, us as a team."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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