SURE, IT was their 22nd loss in 24 games, including all 13 they've played at home. The game was similar in that it was a blowout loss, the Sixers turned the ball over way too many times and the defense was suspect at best.
That was all familiar. But the effort during the 105-87 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday was unrecognizable to coach Brett Brown, as was the play of one player in particular.
Tony Wroten, the team's leading scorer and probably most dynamic offensive player, was on the floor for close to 30 minutes off the bench. It was his third game back from a sprained knee; just 2 nights earlier he had thrown in 17 points in 19 minutes. While there is little doubt he is probably a bit disappointed being relegated to the bench in favor of shooter Robert Covington, it appeared Wroten was on his way back to the early-season form that produced some terrific scoring and assist numbers.
Then came the Celtics game, and on a night when the whole team appeared semi-conscious, Wroten was invisible. During his close to 30 minutes, Wroten took all of three shots, missing them all, going scoreless with just one assist and four turnovers.
As everyone knows, wins won't come easily for the Sixers this season. They probably won't come at all if Wroten isn't contributing at the offensive end in some way.
"I'm just trying to find my niche here, just trying to come off the bench and help the team," Wroten said after yesterday's practice. "When I was out, we won two games so I'm not trying to come in and do anything over what I'm supposed to do. I've just got to continue to try to find my ways and hopefully it will come together."
That is almost the exact opposite of what you'd expect to hear from the very confident Wroten. It's almost as if coming off the bench has sapped him of some of his powers.
"I'm just trying to get back into the rhythm," he said. "I'm not starting so I've got to try to find things and get started real quick. It's not like when you're starting, where you have to get it going [at the beginning of the game]. Sometimes coming off the bench is harder than starting because you've got to get the intensity up. I'm just trying to find my way. I'll continue to be more aggressive because I'm trying to help the team win."
He won't do that by taking three shots in 30 minutes, and the coach knows it.
"For me, you've got to put these guys where they can be best used," Brett Brown said. "He's a scorer. He's an attack, push it, close-your-eyes-sometimes type of guy. Right now he is [Michael Carter-Williams'] backup point guard. When he comes in the game I want him pushing it and attacking the rim and do what he does and the rest of the group playing off him. There will be times in the not too distant future, and it happens a little bit more and more each game, that he plays with Michael. But at the minute, that's how I'm playing him and he will come in with Michael. When he's all by himself, and he's Michael's backup and Michael's getting 34 minutes a game, Tony deserves to play a lot more than 14 minutes. But during those 14 minutes we should play through him and play off him and allow his talent - attacking the rim - sort of be our compass."
Monday night that compass had no sense of direction. It wouldn't surprise if Wroten finds his way quickly, as his confidence in himself probably will steer him that way. But if this sub stint continues to take away production, Brown will once again have to tinker with the lineup.