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Trying to explain Sixers' 'gut-wrenching loss'

They blew an 18-point fourth quarter lead to Memphis for overtime loss

ABOUT 30 MINUTES had elapsed from the time the final buzzer sounded Saturday night until Brett Brown finally made his way to the podium to address the waiting media.

The holdup? He wanted to watch the collapse of what he described as a "difficult, cruel, gut-wrenching loss," a 120-115 overtime defeat to Memphis, the Western Conference's second-best team.

His Sixers had just squandered an 18-point lead with less than 8 minutes remaining in the game, an epic failure of execution on both ends of the floor. So the coach went to the tape right away.

"You always second-guess yourself," Brown said. "You always want to be perfect. I want to be great for those guys. You're always wondering what you can do differently, should you have called a timeout, what were the defensive mistakes . . . It's a cleansing process that you just can't blink or think without seeing reality. What the hell just happened? We were up 18, how did it unfold?

"That's it. I need to see the truth. I need to see what just happened, and I've seen it. Some of it's disturbing, some of it you shake their hand."

And tip his cap he did. Brown had nothing but praise for Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who scored 22 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a game-tying triple as time expired in regulation.

For the second night in a row, the Sixers failed to execute in the fourth quarter. In Friday's loss to Brooklyn, they managed just 10 points. On Saturday, they scored 29 but couldn't finish off 48 minutes as Memphis got hot when the Sixers went cold.

In overtime, the Sixers went just 1-for-8 from the field.

"Not a great combination, is it?" Brown said. "I want to stand here and tell everybody that it's a great learning experience, and there is some truth to that; and that we have to execute better, and there is some truth to that. The truth of the matter is that's a gut-wrenching loss. That's a fact. And I feel for those guys."

The lack of late-game scoring has been a continuing trend. The Sixers average an NBA-worst 21.7 points in the final 12 minutes.

But what was surprising was the way Saturday's collapse happened, mostly due to the play of Michael Carter-Williams, who ended up posting one of the more forgetful triple-doubles he probably will have in his career.

He entered the fourth quarter Saturday having turned the ball over just once. He finished the night with six. He forced shots, made poor decisions and left Conley open for a couple of deep shots.

"I was trying to do too much, and that led to me turning the ball over," Carter-Williams said. "I took a couple of bad shots. I was pretty upset that the game even got to overtime and I let it get to me. I can't. It's something that I need to figure out."

Carter-Williams said that as a team, the Sixers need to figure out a way to finish games and cited a lack of experience as the main culprit in not being able to execute in the fourth quarter.

"It's a tough loss," he said. "It's pretty heartbreaking for the lead that we had and it's tough. But we got another one Monday and we just have to be ready and prepared for Boston."

Wroten adjusting

Saturday was Tony Wroten's second game back from a knee injury. And for the second straight night, the Sixers' leading scorer came off the bench.

Brown, faced with the dilemma of getting point guards Wroten and Carter-Williams enough touches, elected to go with a more traditional off-guard in Hollis Thompson to start alongside MCW for the second straight game.

"I think it's going to be hard," Brown said of Wroten's role change. "I give him credit because I'm sure it's frustrating. He was our leading scorer, he was playing a significant role and significant minutes. From human nature, you would expect that it's difficult. He's put the team ahead of himself and he's trying to find a way to get back in it."

Wroten played well in his 19 minutes Saturday, scoring 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting while dishing out five assists. However, he didn't see the floor during the final 10 minutes of the game.

New addition

The Sixers have signed Turkish big man Furkan Aldemir to a 4-year contract in the $12 million range. Sources said yesterday that the Sixers, having secured Aldemir's release from Turkish club Galatasaray and then obtaining him a visa, will formally complete the signing of the 6-9, 230-pound 23-year-old this week, perhaps as early as today.