The contrast amid the rubble of the 76ers' loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday was stunning.
The Timberwolves' bench left its mark. By halftime, Minnesota's reserves had outscored the Sixers', 32-4. By the finish, four reserves had scored in double figures, and the final tally showed that Minnesota's bench had outscored the 76ers', 57-23, on the way to a 105-88 victory.
On a night when the Sixers (10-8) held Kevin Love (six points, 10 rebounds) way under his season averages (21.7 points, 15.3 rebounds), it was the Timberwolves' reserves who proved the difference.
The disparity between the teams' bench productivity underscored how the Sixers' bench, last year a force, has fallen off dramatically.
Last season, according to the website hoopsstats.com, the Sixers had the fourth-most-productive bench in the NBA. With Lou Williams leading the way, the bench averaged a healthy 38.8 points per game. Including Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, the subs helped the Sixers win many games when the starters struggled.
But Williams is no longer a Sixer, and Young and Turner are starting instead of subbing. Additionally, the Sixers have nine new faces on the roster, and the only one who starts is shooting guard Jason Richardson.
Hoopsstats.com ranks the Sixers' bench, averaging 27.9 points, 24th overall.
"Last year when we went to the bench we could come in with Lou, Evan, and Lavoy [Allen] and score 40 to 50 points off our bench and win games," coach Doug Collins said after practice Wednesday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"One of the things we did last year pretty regularly was win the bench battle. If we are going to do that this year, we're going to have to have better starts to games. That's a big part of it."
Nick Young, one of those new faces, leads the reserves in scoring with 9.6 points per game. He has missed the last two games with a hyperextended big left toe, and the Sixers hope to have him back Friday against Boston.
Some players on the bench who are not injured are not playing up to the level the Sixers need from them.
Since scoring 14 points, pulling down nine rebounds, and blocking four shots in a win over Cleveland Nov. 18, Spencer Hawes has failed to score more than seven points and grab more than six rebounds in a game.
"I'm not worried about Spencer; he'll bounce back soon," point guard Jrue Holiday said.
The Sixers need Dorell Wright to bounce back as well. A lethal shooter from outside, Wright, who two seasons ago averaged more than 16 points while starting for Golden State, averages 7.8 points and is shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor.
"It's not time to panic," Wright said. "It will come around."