SATURDAY'S LOSS to the Denver Nuggets, in which the 76ers led by eight going into the fourth quarter and by four with 2 minutes, 41 seconds remaining, was still stinging coach Brett Brown after the team held another spirited practice Sunday at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
He was hoping that the Sixers Family Day in which players, coaches and their families gathered for an afternoon of fun at the Palestra after practice, would help alleviate some of the late-game angst the team has been experiencing.
It might take a whole lot of Family Days for that, though.
"Saturday was a tough loss," Brown said of the 108-105 defeat, the team's ninth after holding a lead in the fourth quarter. "But I have much respect for the way they handled today with their attitude and their effort. I see a commonality that the league knows that (Robert) Covington and Isaiah Canaan are our best perimeter scorers and they put their best starting defenders on them and they bend us over. The league knows that T.J. (McConnell) is struggling, and it's (shooting) not his strength right now so they go under, by 11 feet, on every single pick- and-roll and guard the paint. When Jahlil (Okafor) is with us, they do what most teams do and they front the post, they double him, they get it out of his hands and then we handle it too much and we get into late clock a lot with two guys with their best defensive players on them.
"We've been doing it for a month and a half, trying to execute at the end of games, trying to run purposeful offense at the end of games. We have a three-play package. It's just a tiny, little window. So we just need to do it better and be more deliberate and set better screens and be tougher and stronger with the ball. That's what I see."
Perhaps what he'll be seeing soon is someone to help him walk down the final minutes of games when his team is holding a lead. Okafor is scheduled to come back Monday against visiting San Antonio after serving a team-issued two-game suspension. He did miss practice Sunday with an upper-respiratory infection, however, so he is questionable.
Saturday marked the return of guard Tony Wroten, who tore his ACL 11 months ago, and Brown said that point guard Kendall Marshall, acquired in the offseason but also sidelined with a torn ACL, should make his Sixers debut this week.
Perhaps not too far in the future the starting lineup could be Marshall at the point, Wroten manning the shooting guard spot with Covington at the small forward and Nerlens Noel and Okafor in the middle. That would mean you could bring Nik Stauskas, Hollis Thompson and Canaan off the bench to provide some outside shooting threat and Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson to provide some shutdown defense. It's a little bit of relief for Brown to just get some semblance of a full roster, something he hasn't seen for the first quarter of the season.
"If you look at (Wroten's) stat sheet, you may say that he hurt us," said Brown of Wroten's line against the Nuggets, which included four points and five turnovers in 13 minutes. "I don't see that at all. I think that he came in and did some things that you appreciate him back. You see at the end of games where people can't create their own shot or get to the rim by themselves, he can. Although you can look at limited minutes with five turnovers, you just get glimpses of what he was and what he can do. He's unique to our group.
"And then Kendall practiced today and you say, 'Wow. That is an NBA point guard.' He passes the hell out of it. It's not like he's a track star but he's a big man, he's a smart player, he's physical, highly intelligent. Point guard and NBA IQ, which makes up some of the foot-speed issues. He really just ran the gym today."
And when you've lost so many winnable games, that's exactly what you're looking for as a coach.
Isaiah Canaan also missed practice Sunday. Brett Brown said Canaan sprained his ankle during pregame workouts on Saturday. He is day to day . . . Brown praised the toughness of Richaun Holmes, who came off the bench Saturday for 10 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes . . . After hosting San Antonio Monday, the Sixers finish out the week with games in Brooklyn on Thursday, home against Detroit the next night, then in Toronto on Sunday to start a three-game road trip.