Must-win game for Sixers tonight?

The Sixers started this five-game road trip with a total dud in Milwaukee, losing by 28.

Two nights later, they played the same sluggish, sloppy game for the first 24 minutes against the Jazz in Utah and found themselves down by 21 points in the first half. They turned into the team that we've seen for most of the last couple of months in that second half against the Jazz, and took a lead with less than 12 seconds left in the game. But a missed foul shot here, failure to grab a loose ball there, and another late defensive lapse on an inbounds play led to an overtime defeat.

At the team's light practice at the Lakers practice facility on Tuesday, the team seemed at ease after watching tape of the overtime against Utah. Mistakes were pointed out, assistant coaches and players challenged the team to do better. Coach Doug Collins pointed out veteran Tony Battie as being one of the players who spoke up and praised him for it.

The reasoning for the recent losses have been due to many reasons. The team is battling fatigue, as they recently completed a six-game in nine-day trek. There are also injuries to leaders Andre Iguodala (knee) and Elton Brand (hand).

None of those reasons, however, can be used as excuses, not at this time of the year.

Every team has their bumps and bruises, and you need not look any further than tonight's opponent, the Clippers, to see how tough scheduling can be. The Clippers have played 17 of their last 20 games on the road.

The back-to-back losses by the Sixers mark the first time that has happened to them since mid-January. They had been 7-0 after their last seven losses entering the week and 16-4 after their last 20 losses.

Here are some keys for the Sixers tonight against the Clippers.

*Start the game with energy. In the past two losses, the Sixers showed absolutely no juice at the start. That lasted throughout the loss at Milwaukee and through the first half in Utah before they woke up in the second half. They can't afford another slow start.

*Start the defense out front. Jrue Holiday has not been playing very good basketball lately, particularly on the defensive end. If Clippers point guard Mo Williams can get going early, this could be another long night.

*Win. The team needs one desperately, because of the timing. There is only 14 games after this one, and all are tough for different reasons. The players need to start feeling better about themselves. A win would also give them a tie for sixth in the East with the idol Knicks.


To read our earlier post with an update on Andre Iguodala, click here

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