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What's causing the Sixers to struggle?

Taking a look at areas in which the Sixers need to improve.

Sixers coach Brett Brown. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
Sixers coach Brett Brown. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)Read more

TWENTY ONE three-pointers? One hundred and thirty-nine points?

There weren't high expectations for the 76ers coming into this season, but Saturday - when they lost to the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, 139-105, and allowed those 21 treys - was the low point of a season that has produced seven wins in 25 games, including six straight losses and 10 of the last 11.

But this season isn't about compiling wins. It's about evaluating talent, determining who may be an asset to hold on to, and who may improve enough to be a valuable commodity in a trade.

One thing that is painfully obvious is that coach Brett Brown is trying to win gunfights each game with most of his players armed only with slingshots. Simply put, there is that much of a difference almost every game in the amount of talent Brown has to work with, and the team he is facing.

Here is a look at some areas that have led to the Sixers' struggles this season.

* Defense: Brown has implemented a high-tempo offense, but it has hurt his team on the defensive end because when the Sixers get quick shots they are often not very good at getting back in defensive transition. Also, the shot selection has to get better. Running doesn't always equate to jacking up a shot as soon as possible. They'll have to learn what is a good, quick shot and what isn't.

* Turnovers: Again, the tempo will lend to more turnovers than fans would normally expect. But, this team has some maddening turnover habits. Tony Wroten has gotten better and played pretty well in the absence of Michael Carter-Williams for 10 games. But he still turns the ball over way too much. And it's not so much the amount of turnovers by the Sixers (almost 18 a game) but the way they turn it over. Carelessness cannot be part of your offensive makeup when you are so short on talent. Lazy passes, unnecessary fancy passes and an annoying reluctance to make the easy pass when it's there.

* Michael Carter-Williams: He missed his 10th game of the season on Saturday and the team fell to 1-9 when he is on the bench. He had a sore foot that cost him four games and is battling a skin infection in his knee that has had him sidelined for the last six. The Sixers are so much better with him, if only because it means Wroten is coming off the bench as the backup and they are not relying on a lot of minutes from Lorenzo Brown.

* Getting to free throw line: At the beginning of the season the Sixers were getting there regularly. Now, not so much. Teams know what the Sixers are trying to do with the running game and have adjusted. Teams know that if they can collapse the lane and force the Sixers to the outside, it makes things a whole lot easier.

* Opponents' three-point shooting: There have been nights when opponents have hit an average number of threes against the Sixers, but it was still alarming how open they were when shooting those shots. Protecting the paint is understandable for this team that doesn't have a strong defensive presence inside, but their inability to get out on shooters is alarming. In the NBA if you hesitate on your rotation for a half a second, that usually leads to open shots. When you have players who aren't ready for this league, that's what happens. In eight of the last nine games opponents have attempted 20 or more three-pointers (in the other game the Orlando Magic attempted 19). The Sixers leave teams so wide open that it's impossible not to try, even if outside shooting isn't their strength.

Six shots

Sixers center Daniel Orton was suspended for one game without pay along with Portland center Meyers Leonard for an altercation during Saturday's game. The NBA ruled that Leonard initiated the altercation by body-slamming Orton, who retaliated by elbowing the Trail Blazer in the mouth. Orton will sit out tonight's game vs. Brooklyn . . . After playing Brooklyn tonight, the team doesn't return to action until Friday when it hosts the Nets. The Sixers play the Bucks in Milwaukee the next night, then have off 6 days before embarking on a five-game holiday road trip . . . Portland's 71 points in the first half on Saturday were the most the Sixers have given up in a half this season. They allowed 70 in the first against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 1.