The season is three games old and mark all three of those in the loss column.
Here at Conseco Fieldhouse, the 76ers lost to the Indiana Pacers, 99-86, and dropped to 0-3 on the season. Lou Williams scored 18 points in the first half, keeping the Sixers to 51-51 at the break, but the third-quarter offensive lull, which we've seen many times from this team, meant this was another run-away victory for the other team.
In the first 9 minutes of the third quarter, the Sixers scored only 5 points and committed 8 turnovers. You didn't need in-depth analysis to figure the Sixers weren't rebounding from that.
Or, as was the case at crucial moments throughout the game, rebounding at all. In the final couple of minutes of the game, the Pacers grabbed back-to-back offensive rebounds that drained the clock.
Yes, it's early. Yes, the Sixers have played two very good teams and a decent team on their home court. Yes to all of that. The team is playing hard, which is very nice and at times is easy to fall back on, but essentially this whole thing should be about winning and figuring out a way to build a team that will win.
In that vein, Sixers coach Doug Collins offered this statistic after the game (which he said he shared with his team as well): No player on the Sixers roster has a winning record as a professional. That actually struck me as quite amazing. Obviously there are the mainstays that you know don't have a winning record because they've been with the Sixers their entire careers (Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, etc.), but to think that even the added veterans and transplants (Andres Nocioni, Tony Battie) don't have winning records is amazing. It's a statistic that is common sense once you think about it, but still quite representative of the uphill battle this team faces.
Afterall, there are habits learned during a 27-55 season, or during successive 27-55 seasons.
"It's one thing playing passionately and it's another playing emotionally," Collins said after tonight's game. "I thought we started playing emotional. You can't play basketball emotionally. We have to break a lot of losing habits. And that's what my job is."
Here's this quote from Iguodala: "In this league, you have to have a solid unit who can complement each other in order to win. And right now we're not on the same page. We're playing a little selfish … on the court we're a little too selfish instead of looking out for one another to play better basketball as a unit."
Did we mention it's early in the season? It's early still. Very early.
Here are a few observations:
*The problem, as Collins pointed out, is with the offense. This team doesn't have a player it can dump it to at any given moment and the team's guards, who are all young, tend to get frenzied in these situations. Inevitably, the game will shift to this pace, and in those stretches (i.e. the third quarter of tonight's game), the Sixers are just plain out of luck until Collins figures out a way to simplify the offense ... simplifying it to a form simpler than it already is.
*Before tonight's game, Collins said that he had to make sure to get center Spencer Hawes out of the game sooner. Collins said he wanted Hawes to play hard for about 6 minutes and then he would get him out. That's exactly what happened. Hawes came out midway through the first quarter. Only thing is, those first 6 minutes of each half were basically all of Hawes' minutes for the entire game. He played 13:30, finished with 4 points and 2 rebounds. On the other side, Indiana center Roy Hibbert played 33 minutes, scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out 5 assists and spent most of his time on the court running all over the place and getting the crowd involved. They love Hibbert in Indianapolis.
*Marreese Speights has now played a total of 15 minutes in three games. He's scored exactly 4 points in three games and spent the majority of tonight's game as the last guy on the end of the bench. Something is going down with this situation, there's a disconnect between Collins and Speights somewhere along the line, and it's something to keep an eye on as we go forward. Before tonight's game, Collins said he is as "sad as anyone" that Speights is playing so poorly and called it "disappointing."
*Jason Kapono went from starting small forward to a DNP.
That's it for tonight.