I’m not sure who had less energy last night down at the WFC — the 76ers on the basketball court or one of the smallest home crowds I’ve seen in several years. But can you really blame people for not showing up? After all, last night’s contest featured two 2-9 teams each playing the second game in a back-to-back set.
When all the ugly basketball was over, a road weary 76ers team fell at home last night to the lowly Toronto Raptors (one of the NBA’s worst franchises — ever) because they got handled in the fourth quarter. The Raptors left the City of Brotherly Love with an eight point victory as well as bragging rights among the NBA’s cellar dwellers and put the Sixers in a nightmare 2-10 situation.
The Sixers played decently through the first three quarters and actually entered the final period with a two point lead. We were only able to muster up 15 points in the most crucial part of the game, but Philadunkia fans should have known this was coming. In the three previous losses (Cleveland, San Antonio and Dallas) the Sixers had at least one terrible quarter offensively where they scored just 15 points. But to have that quarter come at home against one of the league’s worst defensive teams (27th ranked) is inexcusable.
And even despite the monotonous fourth quarter, the Sixersstill had chances to win withunder three minutes left. The score was tied up at 85 with3:20 remaining. After an enormous offensive board from Elton Brand (the Sixers actually had a season high 16 o-boards last night) Nocioni chucked up a horrible shot, Jrue Holiday grabbed the miss, but then insisted on rushing the possession and hurled the ball into the third row. It proved to be a very costly turnover as at the other end Bargnani hit a turnaround jumper to give Toronto a an 87-85 lead. The Sixers would not get score even for the rest of the game.
The Sixers weren’t done being sloppy though. With just over one minutes left we only trailed by three points. Elton Brand received the ball in the high post and then for some extremely unintelligent reason decided to pick up his dribble, where the Raptors collapsed on him, forcing him to throw it out of bounds.
The 76ers disintegrated down the stretch because no one became aggressive. Brand is a player who prefers to shoot jumpers in clutch, rather than go in hard an absorb some fouls. And he was having serious trouble even getting an open look in the fourth. Just two of 19 shots on the evening were in the last 12 minutes. That’s a problem if he’s your second highest paid player on a team. Rookie Evan Turner was probably the most aggressive player, but he kept dribbling way too much around the three point line, often getting trapped himself.
The real message I’m trying to preach is that the Sixers looked elementary offensively with the game on the line without Andre Iguodala. Iguodala has been exceptional in late game situation prior to this season and I’m guaranteeing that if he was available for the fourth last night the Sixers would have prevailed. But he wasn’t and the Sixers dropped their 5th straight game.
- This final nails in this L were delivered on a series of plays with 1:42 remaining in the game and the 7-6 trailing 87-86…On the next Sixers possession, Holiday missed an ill-advised long jumper early in the shot clock. Then down the other end Weems scored an easy layup. Now down 89-86 (They wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the game.), Brand and Holiday combined to commit an ugly TO when they mishandled an exchange. Nocioni fouled Weems at the other end and he knocked down 1 of 2. Down 90-86, Nocioni throws a bad pass and Reggie Evans grabs it. Two FTs for Calderon extends the lead to 92-86 with :35 remaining. GAME OVER.
- From my notes early on I kept underlining how much the Raptors were hustling on the defensive end. They were playing like there was something on the line, forcing the Sixers to shoot just 36 percent from the field.
- Andrea Bargnani simply owns the 76ers (18 & 9) per game last year and it was hard to watch at times last night as he schooled a variety of Sixers defender who tried to guard him and dropped 30 points. Bargnani usually spots up around the three point line but Toronto employed the strategy of taking right at the Sixers bigs, a tactic that has become a common theme in 2010-2011.
- The Sixers bench was beyond weak last night. They coughed up leads several times thanks to 6-32 shooting. Louis Williams was 0-7 and Thad went 4-13.
- The Sixers shot 4-for-32 outside the paint.
- Weems scored 25 points for Toronto. That’s 11 points above his average.
- The Sixers grabbed more rebounds (48-44); scored more fast break points (23-8); got more buckets in the paint (56-38) and were even in the TO department (13 all), yet still lost this game.