During the course of a season, most NBA games fall into one of a handful of categories.
There are those nights where everything goes right and a lower-ranked team is able to knock off a contender. There are other days where a particular player gets hot, and there's little that the opposing squad can do about it.
And then there are those matchups that are little more than "schedule filler." Most of the time, these games fall at the end of a road trip and/or a back-to-back, and neither team seems exceptionally motivated to play.
Saturday night's game falls into the latter category for the Philadelphia 76ers, so it wasn't all that surprising to see them slog their way through a 103-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center.
Early on, Sixers' assistant coach Chad Iske appeared to be leading candidate for whatever Brett Brown's version of the "Ace of Spades" award is. Iske spent the past 14 seasons with Denver prior to joining Brown's staff, and it's safe to assume that some of the nuggets (pun intended) that he picked up while out West were incorporated into the game plan.
Faced with a swarming defense, Denver shot just 39 percent from the floor in the first half as the Sixers went into intermission with a 53-49 lead. To be fair, Denver was without starting point guard Ty Lawson, who injured his left hamstring against the Boston Celtics on Friday.
Strong third-quarter performances by Nate Robinson and Timofey Mozgov (eight points each) helped the Nuggets tie the game at 77 prior to the final period - a stretch in which the Sixers clearly decided to pay homage to The Roots as everything fell apart. To wit, the team:
- Committed 7 turnovers
- Allowed 12 points in the paint
- Was outscored 26-15
- Shot 7-for-20 from the floor
- Attempted 0 free throws
Surprisingly, the 76ers' reserves played fairly well during the fourth quarter - the wheels didn't fall off until the starters (who shot 4-for-14 in the final 12 minutes) trotted back on the court. Of course, their return came mere minutes before Jordan Hamilton's magical 67-second run in which he knocked down 3 three-pointers. What once was a meager four-point Denver edge quickly mutated into a 99-88 Nuggets lead with 3:22 to go.
The fickle finger of blame for tonight's loss will point to Evan Turner, and rightly so: The Sixers' leading scorer finished with just six points of 3-for-12 shooting. He was much less aggressive against the Nuggets than he's been in recent memory (his 12 attempts is just one more than his season low), and he went the entire game without earning a trip to the free-throw line.
Tony Wroten scored 20 points (on 20 shots), yet had just one assist in more than 32 minutes of action. Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes essentially played the Nuggets' bigs to a draw, but Denver's tenacity on the glass as a team (20 offensive boards, 52 in all) is the reason they were able to escape Philadelphia with a win.
One important takeaway from Saturday: Over the past two games, the Sixers have attempted 27 free throws to their opponents 59. Some of the discrepancy is due to the absence of Michael Carter-Williams (who is currently hospitalized with a knee infection), but it's a stat that bears watching over the next week or so.