Since the start of the 1985-86 NBA season, there have been only two games where a team has attempted 25 or more three point attempts without making more than 2.
Now there are three.
The Sixers knocked down only 2 of their 25 three point attempts last night against the Bucks, joining the Boston Celtics (1-25 from three on November 1st, 2014) and the Denver Nuggets (2-25, February 20th, 1997) on this particular list of futility.
"A lot of times you go into games and 1 or 2 [of your top offensive threats] are down, but we had a bunch of people that were down," Sixers coach Brett Brown said after the game.
The problem started with Brown's two point guards, the same guys largely responsible for the Sixers exciting come from behind win against the Cavaliers just two days earlier. Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten combined to shoot just 5-32 from the floor and 0-11 from three point range, with Michael Carter-Williams also adding in 4 turnovers.
The two have combined to make just 1 of their last 23 three point attempts, with Wroten going 2-21 from three after connecting on 4 in the Sixers loss to the Suns on January 2nd. Three point attempts have made up 36.2% of Wroten's field goals over the last 3 games, attempting 7 per night despite making only 9.5% of them.
"I don't really have any explanation besides I was terrible tonight.," Michael Carter-Williams said after the game. "My shot wasn't falling. I tried to get my teammates involved and do other things out there, but the game just wasn't going our way."
The Sixers struggles were hardly limited to just their point guard play, however. Robert Covington, who had connected on 8 of his 14 three point attempts over the previous two games and is shooting 42% from three on the season, shot only 1-11 from the floor, including 1-9 from deep. It's also the second consecutive game where Covington has failed to make a two point field goal. The Sixers also got a 1-8 shooting performance from Henry Sims, starting once again for the injured Luc Mbah a Moute, who continues to sit out due to turf toe.
The Milwaukee Bucks have made incredible strides defensively this season. Just one season after ranking last in the league in defensive rating the Bucks have jumped all the way up to 5th best in the league. They're 2nd in the league in forcing turnovers and 7th in the league in 3 point percentage allowed. The game was certainly going to be more difficult than it may have appeared on paper, and the Sixers struggling against the Bucks length and athleticism wasn't entirely surprising.
But not that difficult. The Sixers threatened to have their lowest shooting night, in terms of field goal percentage, on the season before a last minute Furkan Aldemir bucket pushed them up to 30.1%. They shot 8% from the three point line and committed 24 turnovers to only 14 assists.
The game really wasn't as close as the final score indicated, with the Sixers going on a 13-2 run to end the game.
"They're a playoff team. So I don't want to take anything away from the good defensive job that they have done," Brett Brown said about the Bucks after the game. "[But] I think that when you really look at some of our looks, we had a rough time doing anything."
"Not taking anything away from their club, they're a good team, they have long players, but if you watch the game we just didn't hit anything," Michael Carter-Williams added. "It wasn't like we took terrible shots, at times the ball just was not going in the hoop."
For as rough as the offense was, it seemed as if it were turnovers, and the transition defense that became necessary due to those turnovers, that really frustrated Brown.
"You add 24 turnovers into just a horrible shooting night and it's deflating," Brown said. "We were lost most of the night, and that resulted, in my opinion, in our poorest game of the year."
If those sound like recurring problems, it's because they are. The Sixers are in the midst of a 14 game stretch where they have committed 285 turnovers to just 259 assists. Their 17.2% turnover percentage is by far the worst in the league, with the league average being 13.4%. No team has had a turnover percentage this high since the 1999-2000 NBA season.
And the impact those turnovers have had on the Sixers is defense is predictable. The Sixers have given up the third most points per game in transition and the most points per game off of turnovers by a considerable margin. The Sixers give up 23.5 points per game off of turnovers, with nobody else in the league giving up more than 19 per game.
Even with the struggles, Brett Brown didn't stop coaching. Brown used 4 timeouts in a 6 minute run in the 4th quarter despite being down by 20 points or more virtually the entire time.
"I'm upset. The game, at that point, is beyond trying to claw that one back," Brown explained after the game about his use of timeouts. "At that point it's just, we're at home. We're in front of our home fans. The thing I love about this group is they play hard. They play with spirit. And at times tonight we didn't at all.
"If you don't play with spirit, and you shoot 8% from the three point line, and you have 24 turnovers, it produces a long night, and one that I'm not proud of," Brown went on to say. "That's not who we are. We can take hits, we can lose games, but not that way. And that's the reason that those timeouts were rattled off."
Luckily for the Sixers, the NBA will keep them busy. With 6 games coming up over the next 10 days they will have ample opportunity to move on from this game and forget it ever happened. On a night like last night, that's about the best thing you can say about that game.
Brett Brown Post Game Press Conference