CHARLOTTE - Before their game even started last night against the Charlotte Bobcats, the 76ers were in a hole, as rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams was back in Philly nursing a sore knee. Then, as has been the norm lately, they got themselves in a bigger hole in the first quarter.
Charlotte made 14 of its 25 first-quarter shots and scored 36 points. In the past three games, teams are shooting 63.1 percent (41-for-65) in the first quarter against the Sixers and averaging a little less than 37 points. The Bobcats, the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, rode that hot first quarter to a 105-88 win at Time Warner Cable Arena, handing the Sixers their 13th loss in 20 games.
"We have to go back and look at it [recent first quarters]," said center Spencer Hawes, who finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. "Tonight, we just let them get in too good of a rhythm early. The team averages [league-worst 88.8] points, but they have a lot of capable scorers. We let their guards and wings get going early, and that's the best way to have a good game, see your first couple of shots go in. I don't know what we've got to do, but we have to figure it out quick."
For Charlotte, forward Jeff Taylor, starting for the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, tied his career high with 20 points, and Al Jefferson collected his fourth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker scored 18 each for Charlotte (9-11), which had its highest point total of the season.
"I feel like that whole first half was not good defensively," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "They scored 43 points in the second half, and that was respectable. The first half was just a problem. We have to find ways to, individually and teamwise, to improve defensively, or it's going to be a really long year.
"They are really good on catch-and-go stuff, and their long, really long wings. I feel like they exposed our perimeter defense that way. Al Jefferson was 6-for-21, that really wasn't the problem. It's guarding that first dribble, and their perimeter people did a really good job of exposing some problems that we have to fix."
Tony Wroten led the Sixers with 21 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, filling in for the injured Carter-Williams. Evan Turner scored 16 and Hollis Thompson added 12. The three veterans of Thaddeus Young, Turner and Hawes combined to shoot only 13-for-36 (36 percent).
Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams did not make the trip with the team in order to stay home and get treatment on his ailing right knee. While he wouldn't officially say that MCW won't be in the lineup tonight when the team hosts the Denver Nuggets, coach Brett Brown said it's probably a safe bet.
"I think some of it is related to bad luck, and some of it is the nature of his body and being young and big minutes and other things. I'm sticking more with bad luck than a trend. I think his competitiveness and his toughness is a good thing, where he'll learn to get through things as time unfolds, but these recent ones, he should be sat, he should be left at home. I don't think it's going to be a pattern.
"He's taken a bump, there's a little bit of an infection in there, there's some inflammation, there's all those types of things that say he shouldn't be [flying]. So we decided to err on the side of caution, and I'm glad we did that. We all wished obviously that he was playing, and so does he. It's not something that you look at as a negative. I just feel likes it's a series of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances. For Michael, this is all early days, and this is just all part of the process, and I'm leaning on his toughness and his competitiveness when anything minor comes up, he'll be there."
Williams missed four games earlier this season with a sprained arch in his left foot.
There's always an extra long handshake and conversation between the coaches when Brett Brown's Sixers face the Steve Clifford's Charlotte Bobcats. Clifford cut his coaching teeth under the guidance of Bob Brown, Brett's father. It was 30 years ago when Clifford asked the older Brown whether he could be a volunteer on his college coaching staff.
"When I was young I saw him at clinics and at camps a lot and up there, he's bigger than life," Clifford said of Bob Brown. "I was a high school coach and he was a coach at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. I kind of begged and talked him into letting me come as a volunteer and he was good enough to not only let me go there but let me live with him and got me jobs and kind of got me on my way. My goal was not to be a college coach or anything. I thought that I would be a high school coach and a special-education teacher. That's what my dad did, and it was a good life. So I knew going with him wasn't really a risk, because he was so well known that I thought I'd get a better high school job. And then I liked the college, I liked the recruiting, he helped me a lot and my career just kind of went from there.
"I met Brett through his parents, and I guess we're both kind of basketball junkies. We got along instantly and became friends. Then from being in the NBA for all of these years whenever we get a chance we get together."