I was doing it. You were doing it. And obviously the players and coaches were doing it: Looking ahead to Monday’s showdown in the United Center against the Chicago Bulls. It’s one of those feelings you don’t want to happen but you just get bored in a siutation that isn’t as fun as what is to come. It’s human nature.
And luckily most hardcore sports fans today are concerned with the exhilarating March Madness tournament, so this overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings could be overlooked. Or at least hopefully, because this was one of the worst losses of the Sixers season.
Up 96-91 against the Kings with two minutes left and one of your best players, Jrue Holiday, is having one of the best games of his career (28 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists). His deep three pointer just gave the Sixers (37-36) a comfortable five point lead and was three of his 16 points in the final quarter. Somehow Doug Collins managed to keep the ball out of Holiday’s hands down the stretch, instead calling for Iguodala isolation plays. The result was a Sixers collapse, a fluky comeback capped by a miracle three ball and ultimately an overtime downing at Wells Fargo Sunday afternoon.
I won’t blame today’s loss entirely on coaching. There were some defensive failures — Marcus Thornton going off for 19 points in the third and 32 total on four three pointers. There was the bench factor, or nonfactor for the 76ers. Lou Williams and Thad Young combined to go 3-of-23 from the floor. Still the fourth quarter problem is something that just isn’t going away.
Marcus Thornton couldn’t miss. He started the run with 1:20 left, hitting a runner and a three to tie things up at 96. The isolation would continue with Iguodala but he could only make 1-of-2 free throws (he was a horrendous 4-of-10 from the line) giving the Sixers a 97-96 lead. The Kings would find the way to the line four more times thanks to silly fouls from Elton and Lou to take a 100-97 lead with four seconds left.
Then the impossible happened. Lou Williams sprints up the floor, pulls up from 32-feet and connects on his first jumper of the night to take the Kings to overtime at the buzzer. Unexpectedly Williams hit that jumper because outside of the desperation heave, he had quite possibly the worst game of his season. His dreadful 1-for-12 happened in only 14 minutes of action! He was truly ‘showing his love’ for ball-hogging.
Still it’s the Kings and the Sixers should’ve been able to prevail at home in overtime. Philly now falls to 2-7 in overtime games. Defensively the Sixers had frustrated DeMarcus Cousins all afternoon but he finally found his groove in overtime. The rookie had five points, two assists and two offensive boards in the extra session and finished with 12-7-6. The Kings join the list of the Jazz, Thunder, Magic and Pistons as teams who have forced the inside game down the throats of the Sixers bigs.
Each team shot 36 free throws, but Sacramento made 29 compared to the 76ers 26. Andre Iguodala can be pinpointed for this lapse. AI9 went 4-of-10 from the line, lowering his free throw percentage to 70.2. Iguodala shot close to 80 percent during the month of February but that was his only worth free throw praise this season. Iguodala ranks 116th out of 129 NBA players in free throw percentage. Even Tim Duncan is in front of Dre. That’s ugly.
Hawes played down the stretch and nearly had a double-double at halftime. He was as aggressive as I’ve seen him all season, clearly trying to show up the King’s management. As good as his 16 and 15 were, they didn’t overmatch our old friend Samuel Dalembert’s 13 and 19 plus some bone crushing screens. Sacramento finished with 58 rebounds. The 76ers had only 36.
There role players really just outshined ours today. Beno Udrih’s huge three late in the fourth and his free throws. Jason Thompson athletically grabbed 11 boards and scored 15 off the bench. Even Tyreke Evans (who barely looked healthy enough to play) scored 10 in 23 minutes and hit 5-of-6 free throws. Philadelphia received an unconventional outing from its gore role player group.
It literally stings for me that Jrue Holiday’s best game of the season and nothing to show for it. He controlled this game for the most part. Dazzling spin moves, superb pull up jumpers. It was a spectacle to watch. Collins didn’t feel safe leaving the 20-year-old the keys to the offense and instead left the keys to his worst free throw shooter. This loss was completely out of the blue and shouldn’t have happened. I thought Doug Collins had reared his guys past this stage of overlooking an opponent and playing lethargically and comfortable first quarter leads (27-18).