BROOKLYN - Following a 51-point loss on Monday, at home, to the San Antonio Spurs, the 76ers players and coach Brett Brown talked of the lackluster performance being an anomaly.
Yes, the Sixers lose with regularity. Rarely, however, do they do it in the fashion that includes complacency and laziness.
Thursday night, the first quarter looked frighteningly familiar to Monday for Brown, as the Sixers fell behind by 11 and scored only 13 points. They played hard and better, but still couldn't pull out a win and fell to 1-22 on the season with a 100-91 loss. The Nets have now won six of their last seven at home and improved to 7-15.
The Sixers took a six-point lead in the third quarter because of some unlikely circumstances. Despite having a horrid shooting night (Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, Isaiah Canaan and Hollis Thompson were a combined 0-for-22 from three), they stayed in the game by forcing turnovers, protecting the ball themselves and being aided by unlikely scorers T.J. McConnell (career-high 17) and Richaun Holmes (14). Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
In the fourth, Brown chose to go with the struggling Canaan down the stretch of the game instead of McConnell, which proved to not help matters at all.
"We were hoping to make some perimeter shots (in the fourth)," Brown said. "We knew that we we're going to play through Jahlil. T.J. actually had an unusual perimeter game for him; he made some threes. But, by and large, you feel like Isaiah can be better paired with Jahlil down the stretch to give Jahlil something to pass out to and not play in a crowd. That came into it.
"When you look at our four shooters going zero-for-22 . . . To think if you went 3-for-22, you had a tie game. There are a lot of good things. That's not the same game we played (against San Antonio).''
But in the end, it was the ending that did them in, yet again, as they got torched in the fourth quarter by 30-17. In that deciding quarter, Brooklyn limited the Sixers to 7-for-17 from the floor and forced four of their 11 turnovers. Plus, the Sixers got to the foul line just four times, making only two.
Andrea Bargnani came off the bench for Brooklyn and led the Nets with 23 points. Thaddeus Young scored 18 to go with 11 rebounds, and Shane Larkin had 14 points.
The main positive to come out of the evening for the Sixers was the play of Okafor, who had struggled since his off-the-court incidents in Boston on Thanksgiving that resulted in a two-game suspension. Despite a slow start, he warmed as the game progressed, made six of his last 10 shots and connected on all of his eight foul shots.
"You can see, with all the stuff that's been going on in his life, inevitably there's a weight on him," Brown said. "He played with a bounce tonight. He looked great at the free throw line. He looked great rebounding. We've done a lot of studies physically on him to figure out how to best play him. He had a hell of a game tonight."
Problem was, he didn't have much help around him.
If you watch Tony Wroten play basketball, you know patience isn't one of his virtues on the court. He's not much different off it. He is a bundle of energy just waiting to get his body moving, the jokes flowing.
Thursday in Brooklyn, Wroten played in his third game since coming back from the torn ACL he suffered last January. And for the third time he was on a minute restriction, now up to 16. He had nine points and two assists in close to 17 minutes Thursday.
The playing time usually comes in four-minute clumps during each quarter. It's the quickest four minutes of Wroten's life right now. It's like owning a Ferrari and driving on a road with a speed bump every 50 feet.
"It's going terrific. It's great to finally feel healthy," he said. "Oh, I can't stand the 16-minute thing. Any competitor would hate it. You always want to play more. But we have to do what's in my best interest.
"When I first get in, I don't think about it. But when I know that four minutes is coming up, I start thinking about it. I don't want the ball to go out of play or there to be any fouls, just so I can keep playing."
Wroten will sit out Friday when the team hosts the Detroit Pistons. His minutes, and ability to play back-to-back, will grow as the games come. For now, he'll remain as patient as he can possibly be.