More than likely, the Detroit Pistons are not going to make the playoffs.  They’re in the middle of finding a new owner which visibly has affected effort among the veteran squad all season.  But Saturday night the Pistons rallied together in the fourth quarter, capitalized on dire Sixer mistakes and ended up prevailing 112-109 in overtime.

This loss is unforgivable for a team playing as well as the 76ers (15-22), coming off their best win of the season against a streaking Bulls team.  Since the 3-13 start, the Sixers have gone 12-8 during the hardest part of their schedule, mostly by protecting the basketball and forcing tough shots on defense.  Somehow the Sixers lost without trailing once the entire fourth quarter

A revealing statistic so far in the 76er season shows why a playoff run might be too much to pull off from such a young team.  Philadelphia is 1-7 in games decided by less than five points.  Far too many times in each of these games Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand evaporate in the clutch by not demanding the ball enough.  Too many times Lou Williams begins to play one-on-one basketball.  It is a combination of coaching too.

The Sixers late game struggles almost fall more on the strategy part.  It’s clear this team isn’t on the same page when the score is close late in games.  There was still a chance to get off a good look with 3.5 seconds left in regulation and it seemed the Sixers didn’t even have a play drawn up.

I know this was the second of back-to-back games after a grueling road trip. I know the Sixers are missing Iguodala. But my colleague Nabeel Ahmadieh and I were ready to anoint the Sixers as a team clicking together prepared to make that push for a .500 record. Saturday night’s deciding factor in The Palace was age. The Sixers have nine players who average 24 and the Pistons lineup is full of guys who are capable of winning a game in the fourth.

Here are the top five reasons why the Sixers lost this game; one that could come back to haunt Philly in April, like the first two Washington losses.

  1. All Lou Williams needed to do was hit one of two free throws with six seconds left to extend the Sixers lead to a two possession game. But the 82 percent charity stripe shooter choked down the stretch by missing both, a situation all too familiar in close games for Philadelphia this season. In turn, lanky forward Austin Daye somehow found himself wide open in the corner, swishing a three and forcing overtime. Williams was forcing up garbage much of the night on his 17 shots and 0-for-4 total from three point land.
  2. Bless his heart, but opposing players matched up against Andres Nocioni’s defense have been able to glide past him like ghosts. Tonight it was Tayshaun Prince (23 points, eight boards) who raided the paint on Nocioni scoring eight straight points down the stretch before Daye’s incredible three.

Other wings taking the game into their own hands without Iguodala in the lineup isn’t anything new though. Dorrell Wright’s 28 points keyed Golden State’s win over us, Rashard Lewis was the Wizards only offense for a long period of time Nocioni was also pathetic on the offensive end too.  

  1. Jrue Holiday—15 points, 12 assists and three steals—may have looked like he accomplished a lot from the box score, but more of his aggressive scoring was needed on a night where he played 41 minutes. Holiday came out of the gates on fire with eight points and five assists in the opening docket. Holiday picked up two quick dumb fouls and was forced the bench for much of the second quarter. He made a few nice passes the rest of the evening, but he never was able to fully immerse himself back into the game. A guy who is becoming this teams best player should be playing as aggressive as Lou Williams was tonight.
  2. The Sixers let the league’s worst rebounding team have their way the entire evening. Seven players had at least four boards. Rookie Greg Monroe had his best career night scoring 16 and collecting 13 boards. There was a sequence in the third quarter where it was almost like a girls basketball game. Monroe missed shots underneath the hoop three consecutive times, grabbed each board and finally put the ball in the bucket. Detroit had 15 offensive boards compared to Philadelphia’s eight.

I guess I should note that without Evan Turner, the Pistons may have handedly won the game. ET led all Sixers in scoring with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Turner played mostly point guard in the second and third quarters and now knows his sweet spot on his awkward mid-range jumper. He is still uncertain of how to consistently attack the NBA rim and only threw up one shot in the paint at Detroit.

It’s starting to become a problem that Philadelphia doesn’t have one shot blocking presence on the roster. The Pistons had six blocks themselves. It was easy to tell in parts of the game the Sixers were shying away from the longer Detroit team. Spencer Hawes has been ineffective so far in 2011, forcing Collins to fling Marreese Speights into action and he’s done astonishingly well. Against the Piston bigs, Speights managed 10 points and seven rebounds in only 14 minutes.

Speight’s increased amount of minutes and skillful performance show that Hawes has been a big liability in losses. Marreese is averaging eight points and  5.3 boards in less than 15 minutes of play so far in January. Those are both higher than Hawes’ season averages, plus Speights’ defense has gotten exceedingly better. Those of you who read my stuff regularly for this site know I’m always one to throw out a lineup change. Speights has four career starts in three seasons. His recent efforts may have warranted a start or at least a game where he can log 20 minutes.

Philadunkia Notes :

  • In overtime the Sixers were miraculously able to cut the Pistons lead to just one, after trailing by seven with 20 seconds to go. Credit three’s by ET and Jodie Meeks to even make the game close. Meeks’ fleeing double-teamed attempt as time expired hit just off the back iron.
  • 34 points and 73 percent shooting in the first quarter was among the best 12 minutes of basketball Philadelphia has played all year.
  • Jodie Meeks played just 19 minutes after his 24 point scoring wave sunk the Bulls on Friday. He was able to tally 11 points but was on the bench most of the fourth.

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