To many, the Philadelphia 76ers are often a breath of fresh air for struggling teams. Playing the Sixers ends up being a hard reset, an opportunity to get back to basics, and a confidence booster — but, of course, the Nets are not like most NBA teams.
The 76ers, who were on a 13-game losing streak, started on a 10-2 run following an assortment of bricks from nearly everybody on the court. The Nets are familiar customers in terms of losing to the Sixers, providing them with one of their eight wins back in February after Jahlil Okafor went bananas — but could they learn from their past mistakes?
Without Okafor, you’d imagine (OK, maybe not) that the Nets could take care of one their fleetingly rare chances to get a step closer to double-digits wins. However, they came out slow and ugly, standing still on offense and even stiller on defense; their matador-style formation providing the Sixers with plenty of open looks and layups early on. In fact, other than Brook Lopez, it’s hard to tell if the Nets were even engaged before Tony Brown swapped out Donald Sloan, Markel Brown, and Wayne Ellington for Karasev, Kilpatrick, and Larkin, but the results were not much better.
Thanks to Lopez and Thaddeus Young’s combined 6-14 shooting (seriously, the only positive), the Nets were down just 27-21 after the first quarter. Their effort picked up (in a minor way) in the second, but they still found themselves down by ten with 7:44 left in the half. Lead by Hollis Thompson (9 points) and Robert Covington (12 points, 4-4 3PT), the free-flowing Sixers lit up from behind the arc, going 7-16 for the opening quarters.
The second half began with a scary moment involving Young, Sloan, Covington, and Jerami Grant. An inadvertent kick to the face forced Covington down and motionless for nearly 10 minutes. After being stretchered out (get well soon, Robert!), the Sixers surged to another double-digit lead. Noel, one of the league’s best shot blockers, nearly erased Karasev, Young, and Lopez in a one minute span, but the Nets, in the penalty, did some damage (18-22) from the free throw line.
As is with any great and typical Nets game, despite their best efforts, they were only down five going into the fourth quarter. Thanks to a couple buckets from Kilpatrick (more on that later), the Nets cut it to a one-possession game for the first time since the game’s opening moments. Larkin, who didn’t make a shot, managed to steal the ball 4 times, but made little waves otherwise.
Following some surprisingly important contributions by Elton Brand (2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block) and Carl Landry (16 points, 8 rebounds), the Sixers pushed back to a 10-point lead. The Nets, looking increasingly more desperate, threw up shot after shot as T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas, who self-alley-ooped himself earlier, were too much to handle.
(Has that sentence ever been written before?)
Even with a 7 turnover advantage, the Nets did little to change their ill-fated destinies. The last time the Nets lost to the 76ers, we noted how much they were masters of their own demise — tonight, they were buried alive from the opening tip.
There have been many, many lows this season, but dropping 2 out of 3 to the Philadelphia 76ers has to take the cake.
The stats: 24 PTS, 10-17 FG, 7 REBS, 1 AST, 3 BLK, 1 TOV
With Okafor shelved for surgery, one might assume that he’d be, easily, the best player on the court. Which, in theory, may still be true, but he was engulfed by the overall Nets madness. Despite his best efforts, the Nets were behind much of the game, but his classic jumpers and push shots kept them within arm’s length.
Brook Lopez is really good at basketball, it’s just too bad the Nets only have one of him.