Fresh off of a 2-6 road trip, the Philadelphia 76ers (15-21) were looking to get back on track against the resurgent Brooklyn Nets (20-15). Under new head coach PJ Carlesimo, the Nets are now 6-1 and have taken over second place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. Unfortunately, a third quarter run propelled the Nets to a 109-89 victory over the Sixers.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams, with the Nets making an early first quarter run before the Sixers erased with a nice showing in the early second quarter. Damien Wilkins, the Sixers veteran guard, made a pretty up and under late in the half to cut the lead to 1, and then a Spencer Hawes three-pointer with 13 seconds left cut the margin to 48-47 Nets. That would be the score at the end of the first half.
Jrue Holiday was really the only person keeping the Sixers in it in the first half, with 14 points and 8 assists in the first 24 minutes. Spencer Hawes made some nice contributions as well with 12 of his own (fueled by two three-balls).
The third quarter was a completely different story. The lethargic Sixers had no answer for the Nets, and the barrage of Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, and Deron Williams helped the Nets go on an 18-2 run to start the half that completely buried the Sixers. The third quarter would end with the Sixers having been outscored 35-14, and the Nets took a commanding 83-61 lead into the final frame.
With his team down big, Doug Collins rested his top players, Holiday and Hawes, in the fourth quarter in favor of the young guys, namely Maalik Wayns, who was recently re-signed to a 10-day contract, and Arnett Moultrie. Wayns had a couple of nice drives and layups, but it wasn’t enough to make a dent in Brooklyn’s lead.
Keys to the Sixers’ Loss:
The Philadelphia 76ers simply cannot rebound when it matters most. Tonight against the Nets they were dominated on the boards; in fact, the thrashing was so bad that at one point in the third quarter, Reggie Evans (23 rebounds) had more than the entire Sixers team. They looked silly.
The Nets outrebounded the Sixers 50-32, and their 15 offensive rebounds led to 20 second-chance points and were simply heartbreakers for a fatigued Sixers squad. The big guys, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes, only combined for 7 rebounds while the Nets’ frontcourt, consisting of Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, combined for 30.
2. Foul Shooting
Yet again, the 76ers were simply dominated at the charity stripe. The Sixers only attempted 10 free throws, converting 0n only six. Meanwhile, the Nets made 19-of-22 (86.4%), +13 differential.
While the officiating hasn’t been kind to the Sixers, the foul differential was only +1 in favor of the Nets. The Sixers simply are not good at getting the rim and initiating contact; meanwhile, Lopez and D-Will consistently drove into the lane and forced the Sixers into fouling situations. The Sixers aggressiveness, or lack thereof, has held them back offensively all season.
3. Shot Selection
Did I mention the Sixers’ three air balls tonight? They may have made 48% of their shots, but a lot of those came in garbage time. And when the game was starting to open up in the 3rd quarter, the Sixers continued to settle for poor step-back jumpers instead of taking it to the hoop. Nick Young, Evan Turner, and Jason Richardson combined to go 11-for-29 (31.3%) and they were the biggest culprits tonight.
Spencer Hawes and Jrue Holiday, meanwhile, combined to go 13-for-20 (65.0%) because they took open jumpers and got to the rim with consistency. If the Sixers want to develop some continuity on offense, they need to start taking better shots.
Play of the Game: Spencer Hawes’ Juke-Dunk
Late in the first quarter, with the Sixers down 24-20, Spencer Hawes made the play of the game. Setting up on the right block, Hawes took a pass from Holiday, faked a pass to Richardson, feigned a move to his left, and with the defender going the wrong way No. 00 took the ball right to the hoop for a slam dunk.
Players of the Game: Jrue Holiday (PHI) and Deron Williams (BRK)
Holiday was the best man on the court for the Sixers once again. Playing only 30 minutes, Holiday managed to accrue 19 points and 8 assists, numbers that showed how efficient he was with the ball in his hands. The Sixers got in a bad habit of keeping the ball in Evan Turner or Nick Young’s hands at the start of the possession, but if they want the offense to flow, it needs to go through No. 11.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn’s All-Star point guard, was equally as important for the Nets. 7-for-11 and 3-6 from beyond the arc, all of Williams’ 22 points were daggers in the hearts of the Sixers. When the Sixers were making a run and took a small lead, Williams would knock down a big three and swing the momentum back in the Nets favor.