Sixers found a way to lose in Miami
They could have ended the negative attention on losing streak but faded at end of game.
Losses by the 76ers are usually pretty mundane. A large deficit is created, the team finds a way to make it mildly interesting with a bit of a run, then loses at the end. It's enough to keep the players into it till the end, gives them reason for hope that they will eventually break the losing streak, which has now reached 14 to begin this season, 24 going back to last year.
Saturday night, however, was very different. Somehow Brett Brown's team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, getting outscored by 20-4 in the final 7 minutes, 14 seconds in the 96-91 loss to the Miami Heat.
For some understanding into how the Sixers blew a game in which they held a 15-point halftime lead, let's take a look at some of the numbers:
14: The Heat blocked that many shots by the Sixers, with center Hasaan Whiteside getting eight of them. Nine times the inside duo of Jahlil Okafor (5) and Nerlens Noel (4) saw their shot attempts rejected.
18: Robert Covington, back for his fourth game after suffering a sprained knee in the preseason finale, had missed that many three-point shots in a row to begin this season. He did find his stroke against the Heat, though, and quickly. In the span of 4:33 in the first quarter, Covington scored 13 points, including a pair of threes. He finished the game with 21 points.
Plus-2: During his 34 minutes on the floor, Sixers center Jahlil Okafor was that. By comparison, Nerlens Noel was a minus-22 during his 30 minutes.
64: After limiting Miami to just 32 points in the first half, the Sixers allowed that total to be doubled in the second half.
1-for-11: After a dunk by Noel gave the Sixers an 87-76 lead with 7:14 remaining, they missed 10 of their last 11 shots to end the game. The only make was a meaningless layup by Covington with 3 seconds remaining.
18: During the final 7:14, Brown made that many substitutions, trying to find the right offensive and defensive combinations. Obviously, none of them worked, at either end.
11: During the final 20-4 run to end the game, that's how many free throws the Heat made. That's just way too much bad defense by the Sixers.
This team has shown so much resiliency with all of the losing for the third straight season, but this one may really put them into a tailspin. It certainly doesn't come at a good time, as there are still four games remaining on this crazy, six-game road trip that has them crossing time zones three times. As the losses mount and the infamous records get threatened, national attention will start to grow, and that is something that Brown can't stand. You could see it two years ago when his team lost 26 straight, tying the NBA record, and it was noticeable last season when they lost 17 in a row to begin the season, one short of the record held by the 2009 New Jersey Nets.
Brown wants to keep this all internal. He wants his players to hear only his voice, read only his words, deal with only the local media. But it is inevitable that the coverage of his team will grow as they inch toward those abysmal records.
His biggest issue right now is still trying to figure out how to play Okafor and Noel together. The coach sees the smaller picture rather than the bigger one, and that is what is on his radar right now.
His team, though, will soon become much more popular than he cares to imagine, and for all the wrong reasons. Saturday in Miami, that could have all ended. Not surprisingly, it didn't.
The Sixers play in Minnesota on Monday, Boston Wednesday, Houston Friday and Memphis Sunday to finish out the road trip . . . Dwyane Wade moved to 49th on the all-time scoring list Saturday. His 27 points gave him 19,017 for his career . . . The Sixers' record over the past three seasons is now 37-141, a winning percentage of 20.8.