'IT JUST FELT so strange. I can't put my finger on it. I've been in this league a long time and I've never felt anything like it. It just felt weird."
That was how 76ers forward Luc Mbah a Moute described his team's offense wednesday night in a 104-95 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls, which dropped the Sixers to 14-50.
The numbers back up Mbah a Moute's assessment. Consider:
* The Sixers had 16 assists on 36 made field goals.
* They shot a floor-record 41 three-pointers, making only 11.
* They went close to 9 minutes without scoring a field goal, missing 14 straight field-goal attempts during that time.
* Six-foot guard Isaiah Canaan played close to 30 minutes, and didn't register an assist.
* They shot 12-for-25 from the foul line.
It is all pretty dizzying when you think about it, but all so what the Sixers are about right now. There simply is little offensive identity to the team, so trying to find it somewhere, anywhere, was what they did against the Bulls, who improved to 40-26.
Had the Sixers been able to make even a decent amount of their foul shots, the outcome undoubtedly would have been different. And if Chicago didn't get a humongous effort from diminutive Aaron Brooks, it definitely would have. The 6-foot, 160-pound Brooks scored 18 of his 31 points after halftime, none bigger than a fall-away three-pointer from the right sideline with 43 seconds left in the game to tie the game at 92.
The Sixers had a shot to win it on their last possession, but Mbah a Moute missed a wide-open 16-footer with 2 seconds remaining.
"Aaron Brooks hit some tough shots," said Nerlens Noel, who finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and four steals before fouling out in overtime. "There was times when we were a little out of sync [offensively]. I thought it was a little sporadic tonight."
Despite a Chicago lineup that was totally depleted by injury, there was still an aspect of the Bulls that scared 76ers head coach Brett Brown.
With key Chicago players Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson all sidelined, Brown knew that the Bulls offense would take a hit. But that wasn't the area of Brown's concern. It was the Bulls' defense and his team's spotty offensive that concerned the coach.
A 51-51 game at halftime got away from the Sixers when they failed to get a point on their first 16 possessions of the third, going 0-for-12 from the floor, with three turnovers and a pair of missed foul shots. Had the Bulls done better than making only three of their 11 shots during that time, things could have really gotten ugly. But when Robert Covington deposited a layup for the Sixers with 4 minutes, 21 seconds to go in the third, Chicago's lead was only 60-53.
Naturally, the Sixers made six of their first nine shots in the fourth en route to scoring 29 points in the final 12 minutes to send the game into overtime. In that 5-minute stanza, the Sixers shot 1-for-10.
"The start of the third period, there were a lot of quick shots," Brown said, "and I didn't think the ball switched sides. There were a few contested shots, but, by and large, I didn't think we got the ball through some hands. That part of the game offensively most definitely hurt us. I just felt like we ran nothing. We really didn't have a purpose offensively. I think the tape will confirm that."
The tape also will confirm that Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic did a nice job of helping Brooks pick up the offensive slack. Gasol went for 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Mirotic had 16 and 12.
The Sixers were led by their own pint-sized guards, as Ish Smith led the team with 23 points and Canaan scored 20. Covington scored 12 off the bench, and Thomas Robinson grabbed 15 rebounds in close to 18 minutes.
But none of those individual efforts could overcome the turbulent offensive night that ended with the Sixers shooting 34.6 percent from the floor.
"It's a valuable win for us," Gasol said. "This team [Sixers] is playing well. They play freely, they're athletic and they play hard. We're shorthanded, and we just got done playing four games in 5 nights. A lot of handicaps, but we got it done, and that gives us confidence."