Doug Collins has said all he can say. While players and media throw half-warranted complaints at him, the team just keeps on losing. With this no-show of a loss to the division-leading Boston Celtics, the Sixers have lost 4 in a row, tumbled to 8th place in the Eastern Conference, only 2 games above .500, and with a one-game cushion on the Milwaukee Bucks. The playoffs are not only a non-guarantee, they're becoming increasingly unlikely. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce filleting the Sixers' innards did little to help anybody's cause but our own.
Collins' post-game interview was more of a Pep Rally for the Celtics, whom Doug flowered with compliments and celebratory golden crowns while deflecting any and all criticisms of his Sixers. Aside from simply saying "WE BLOW", he referenced his starters' urine and whirling dervishes. He also said the next game the Sixers win will be the most difficult win of the season. Hyperbole beware, the Sixers next three games are against the Nets, Raptors, and Nets. If that's difficult, then I'm a sausage.
So tanking seems to be in full force. The game was over by halftime, and the most hilarious part of it all is that it was the defense that came up short. Open looks were as prevalent as LOST plotholes, popping up every possession in the form of a KG jumper, a Brandon Bass slow release automatic, a Ray Allen three, or a smoke monster. The closeouts were lackluster enough to have me counting the players to see if Boston was on a Peco Power Play. They were just always open. The previously reliable defense is no longer.
The important thing to take away from this is that a season is not made of 20 games. It's a full marathon that requires patience and a sizable sample before making any sort of assessment. A team is never as good as they seem during the highs and never as bad as they seem during the lows. There are peaks and valleys to every season, the Sixers just happen to go through them at a more severe rate than most other teams. They are, as we have always said, a mediocre team that played over their heads early on and now find themselves in a long, crippling rut. It will get better, but possibly not before it's too late.
The brain trust at Liberty Ballers is unified in our stance in rooting for losses and not making the playoffs (though Derek doesn't think it matters either way). A playoff birth would be another false feather in the cap of this middling franchise. A vain victory that only sets them further back in their apparent quest for a championship. The team needs to, for all intents and purposes, start over. They're the same team as last season and the longer they wait before tearing it down, the further away a contending Sixers team will be.
- Evan Turner usually plays well from a rebounding and defense perspective, but comes up short on the scoreboard. This game saw the reverse. He scored 10 points on 6 shots, including a few nifty baseline jumpers. Two of his misses barely rimmed out. But he turned it over 5 times, played poor defense, and wasn't quite the force on the boards he normally is. I guess the people who like points are happy? IDK.
- A big reason ET didn't pull in those rebounds is because previously invisible Nikola Vucevic emerged from the Doughouse to tally 14 points and 13 boards with 2 nice blocks inside. Vuce was rather terrific at times, playing active ball in place of the horrific Spencer Hawes and foul-ridden Elton Brand. He was probably the best Sixer on the court tonight, and could be in line for a starting spot over Hawes if Collins' Lineup Shakeup (the name of my 60's soul cover band) goes through as promised.
- Avery Bradley is a beautiful man.
- Jrue Holiday was super active early on but fell into shadow after the first quarter. Became a passive non-entity as the game went on. Started deferring, stopped attacking, and blended in. So it's apparently now popular to say you've given up on Jrue. I think this is dumb, but OK. My thinking, as it's always been, is that he's capable of being a very good point guard and the 3rd "guy" on a really good team. So if you can move him for a big man, you certainly consider it. But to say you've given up on him at age 21 with how good he is on defense, how surprisingly good the jumper is, and how he can get to the basket with a variety of moves - it's really silly to me. There's a ton for him to work on but he's a core guy and rightfully apart of the future.
- Jodie Meeks was turrrrrible.
- Brandon Bass made 312 consecutive shots at one point this game. His release is the longest release of all time, yet he had days on days on days to set himself and drain midrange jumpers.
- Both Sam Young AND Craig Brackins played. If you didn't tune in for the 4th quarter (God bless you), you missed their resurrections.
- I don't know why this is, but Andre Iguodala decided today was the day he'd take terrible long two's out of the rhythm of the offense and with defenders in his face. Most of his makes were dunks in transition. He got ran through so many screens defending Paul Pierce, the man had to be wiped.
- Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams are awarded no points for showing up to this game.
- Sasha Pavlovic, really.
- Tony Battie didn't play, which I think means the Sixers actually won. Check the rulebook.
Eleven games remain. Next one is Tuesday in New Jersey, where Billy King could suit up at center and the Nets would most likely win. The Bucks play Oklahoma City tomorrow - a win would make this race absurdly close and put the Sixers in a perennial must-win against NJ. The skin of their teeth would be apt verbiage here.
And the tank train just keeps on chugging.