A deflating pair of losses. After defeating a tough Chicago Bulls team 105-99 on Friday, the Sixers have now been tripped up against two weaker teams. The Detroit Pistons on the road and against the Indiana Pacers at home 111-103. The game marks the first 76ers home loss in the New Year and brings their season record to 10-7 at home. The Pacers on the other hand snap a nine game road losing streak that dates back to November 30th when they defeated Sacramento.
In January you never stamp a game as a ‘must-win’, but this game was important. Indiana is one of the likely opponents in the Eastern Conference that’ll be challenging the Sixers for the final two seeds in the postseason. The first six seeds being virtually a lock for Boston, Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and the new-born New York Knicks. The last two fixtures that get to dance in the playoffs will likely come down to us and the Pacers, as well as Charlotte, Milwaukee and possibly Toronto.
The contest dropped the 76ers to tenth in the Eastern Conference standings at 15-23. The Pacers crawl up to 7th behind the Knickerbockers at 15-20 and hold a puny lead over the Bucks and Bobcats who trail a game behind. The Sixers-Pacers season series now tilts in favor of Indiana at 2-1 with one contest remaining on March 8th.
The defeat wasn’t the prettiest of ball games but the 76ers showed some fight after a lame start. Thanks to Pacers’ forward Mike Dunleavy scoring 15 points in the first quarter, the road team managed the game for much of the four quarters. The Pacers led by as much as 16 early on in the third before we came roaring back due to three-pointers from Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams.
Heading into the fourth quarter the score was in reach at 84-81. The Sixers grabbed their first lead of the match with a 9-0 run to begin the final period. The run included a pair of smartly taken charges by Marreese Speights and three Lou Williams buckets. However, that would be the climax for the Sixers on the evening.
Trailing 101-99 with a 1:30 remaining the Sixers featured a smaller lineup including Elton Brand, Andre Igoudala, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams. The Pacers attacked the post with Roy Hibbert’s size and he nailed a hook shot over EB to take a four-point lead. Doug Collins took a timeout and inserted Thaddeus Young onto the floor. Young didn’t let his coach down and nailed a layup to go down by two but was answered on the other end by Jeff Foster free throws.
What ensued was a bone-head mental lapse by the young point guard Jrue Holiday. Trailing 105-101 with :41 sec left, Philadelphia was attempting to get a stop and then score on the other end. As the Pacers milked the shot clock down Jrue idiotically fouled his former UCLA teammate Darren Collison with :26 sec remaining and 15 ticks removed from the shot clock. Collison nailed free throws: game, set, match. Pacers walk away with the victory.
To go along with Jrue Holiday’s mental collapse, Andre Igoudala played poorly. It was Igoudala’s first game since missing the previous seven and he still looks bothered by the Achilles tendinitis injury. Igoudala set up his teammates well dispensing seven assists, but only managed one point on 0-7 shooting from the field. On top of his poor offensive output, he allowed Danny Granger to score 27 points, with 11 coming in the fourth quarter.
Tough game to lose and agitating to see Iggy still hampered by injury. This young and untested ball club needs to keep their heads up moving forward and not dwell on the two game skid. Granted they were against beatable teams, the Sixers must be focused with the Bobcats and Bucks on their horizon at the Wells-Fargo Center. Two teams, mentioned earlier, that are competing with us for a shot at the postseason.
Philadunkia Notes :
Besides all the negativity, here are some positive bullets from the Sixers:
- –The bench played outstanding scoring a total of 52 points. With four double-digit scorers in Evan Turner, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young.
- –Evan Turner played exceptionally well. His defense has been stellar in his rookie campaign and his offense flashed potential. Turner had 14 points on the night and went 5-10 from the field. He was assertive attacking the basket and beat his opponents off the dribble. Turner even saw some crucial moments in the fourth quarter.
- –Marreese Speights went 6-8 from the field, scored 14 points, drew two offensive fouls and had a game-high 9 boards. With Spencer Hawes only seeing five minutes of floor time in part because of an early third quarter technical, Speights rose to the occasion and delivered one of his better showings. In his last five games he’s shooting well — 20-29 from the field — and his defensive effort has improved. Keep tabs on the young center from Florida he might see an increase in playing time.
- –Jodie Meeks has put together his third straight double-digit scoring night with 13 points and three trey-balls. Meeks is finally starting to heat up after having a cold winter and following my piece which proclaimed he could be losing his starting spot.