ORLANDO, Fla. – The momentum the 76ers had a few days is dwindling.
Something about consecutive lackluster performances in road losses to the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks will do that. Now, one has wonder if the Eastern Conference’s third-place team could get bounced in the opening round of the playoffs, depending on the matchup.
The Sixers aren’t about to panic. They were without All-Star point guard Ben Simmons (stomach virus) and reserve swingman James Ennis (right quad contusion) in Monday’s loss.
But what it shows is that the Sixers (47-27) might still have a way to go to become a complete team. As key as Simmons and Ennis are, they couldn’t have possibly erased all of the Sixers’ miscues.
The Sixers have been terrible against the pick-and-roll, which has led to poor rotations and open three-pointers.
“I think we’ve been incredibly bad,” said point guard T.J. McConnell, who doesn’t think the losses were the result of overlooking opponents. “And we’ll get that fixed. You just got to be better.”
It’s crazy how things changed in a short period of time.
Back on Thursday, the Sixers were the talk of the NBA for positive reasons. They had capped a six-game winning streak the night before with a confidence-boosting win over the Boston Celtics.
Now, they’re a team trying to find rhythm in the remaining eight regular-season games.
Coach Brett Brown was asked his team message following Tuesday’s 119-98 setback to the Magic. He responded, “Let’s go home.”
Playing at the Wells Fargo Center for Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets will definitely give the Sixers an advantage. Philly is 29-9 at home.
However, the Sixers will have a tough time beating Brooklyn (38-37) if their defense doesn’t improve. And their shortcomings didn’t just pop up during their two-game skid. The Sixers have surrendered an average of 119.3 points over the last six games.
But to their credit, the players remain confident, even after their lackluster road trip.
“You know, they’re bad losses, but we’ll bounce back,” guard JJ Redick said. “We got eight games left to get rolling.”
Lange a candidate for St. Joe’s job
Billy Lange, a Sixers assistant coach, is in the running for the St. Joseph’s head-coaching job, sources said.
They said he was scheduled to interview for the job on Tuesday. The Sixers returned to Philadelphia in the early hours Tuesday after Monday night’s loss in Orlando.
Lange would give the Hawks a coach with NBA and college coaching experience. St. Joe’s fired Phil Martelli last week. He had been the team’s head coach since 1995.
Lange is in his sixth season with the Sixers. This is the first year he has been in charge of the team’s defense. The Haddon Heights native and Bishop Eustace grad was Villanova’s associate head coach for two seasons before joining the Sixers, in his second stint under Jay Wright. Between his Villanova tenures, Lange was Navy’s head coach for seven years.
His other coaching stops were at Eustace (head coach), Philadelphia University (assistant), La Salle (assistant), and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (head coach).