TORONTO - Brett Brown had a 2-day hangover that lasted until yesterday morning. Not the type of hangover from too much holiday partying - the coach is too glued to game tape all the time for any of that. Brown's hangover was caused by his team's performance on Wednesday when it turned the ball over 26 times against the Minnesota Timberwolves and blew a 19-point, first-quarter lead.
Brown was still talking about that game as his team prepared for the Toronto Raptors yesterday, still seemingly punch-drunk by what he witnessed at the Target Center.
So it was understandable last night when the Raptors roared out to a 15-point first-quarter lead aided by, you guessed it, a slew of turnovers that had Brown appearing ready to explode.
Though they scratched back to tie the game a couple of times, the Sixers could never get the lead, could never overcome those six first-quarter turnovers, and fell once again, 108-100.
"Obviously, we just have to keep fighting," said Evan Turner, who scored 21 points. "We have to keep working and something is going to go our way eventually. You play your defensive strategy [to begin the game], but if guys hit threes, guys hit threes. Against us, it seems like everybody has their hot hand. You just have to keep battling, stick with the game plan the whole four quarters and take it from there. But if guys hit shots, they're hitting shots."
Terrence Ross was one of those guys, making all but six of his 16 shots, including four three-pointers, en route to 24 points. DeMar DeRozan, a budding star in the league, led Toronto (8-13) with 27 points while Amir Johnson shot 8-for-11 on his way to 17. Center Jonas Valanciunas scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Kyle Lowry dealt 11 assists.
With a loss in their fifth straight game and 13th in 15, you have to wonder what the mental status of the Sixers is. Are they starting to stray from the plan that Brown has laid out, getting frustrated to the point of disconnect?
"I really don't" think so, Brown said of a possible disconnect. "I'm with them, you bleed with them. You feel like they're so close and I want them to experience success. I'm their coach and everybody might judge it differently, but I feel like they've earned the right to go get some wins. We've been close but we haven't been able to close games out. We win together and we lose together. I don't feel there is a disconnect.
"It always comes back to how you started. We dug ourselves a hole and we clawed our way back into it where, again, we could have found a way to win that game. I give [the Raptors] credit. They made some big shots, made some big threes when they needed to. Again, I'm happy with our guys' effort. They didn't roll over, they really tried to play it through in the end."
Tony Wroten led the Sixers with 23 points, which included five three-pointers. Thaddeus Young added 18, Spencer Hawes 15 and James Anderson 13 off the bench.
You got the feeling watching Brown on the sideline that this one meant a little something even more for him. His intensity level during the game was even above his normal high-level.
"Yeah," said Turner, "he said earlier today that he felt good and this was a day we we're going to win and turn things around. We all thought that. It's tough that we couldn't pull it out."
An all-too-familiar theme of late.
Before this season Brett Brown spent all of his NBA years in the Western Conference with the San Antonio Spurs. For much of Brown's time there, that was the dominant conference. Now that he is in the East, Brown gets to see many of the teams he rarely encountered. It would be hard for him to be impressed. Heading into last night's action there were only two teams above .500 (Indiana and Miami) and Boston was the leader in the Sixers' division - at 10-14.
But none of that has made its way into Brown's thoughts.
"I don't even look at it and don't even care," he said. "I'm just insular in what we're trying to do in our closed little world and trying to build something step by step. You really don't pay much attention to the outside part of the league until you're on somebody's door step like here in Toronto. It's like everything we're trying to do is, 'Look at us, focus on us.' I think to date we have done that and it's different than what I've been used to. It's a whole different approach but I'm very comfortable with it."
His viewpoint was usually from the top looking down, now it's just the opposite.
For the first time since a trade on Monday sent out Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray and brought in Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson, the Raptors had a full roster as all physicals had been passed and a day of practice gotten.
They were also dealing with the rumor that Kyle Lowry will also soon be gone, perhaps to the New York Knicks. Not exactly easy for the Sixers' coaches to prepare for a team that you haven't seen play.
"Now I see them with Lowry, and he is just a pit bull, he can get things done," Brown said. "Vasquez is another good addition, a good player, a big point guard. They have some athletic wings and big guys inside. I wouldn't point at any specific area like you used to do with Rudy. I think in general they do have the athletes that can cause you problems. It does put curveballs in the mix. We don't really change that much for most people because of the stage that our young team is in. It has caused a little bit of problems."