The 76ers took Maurice Cheeks’ message, delivered in the disheartening aftermath of Friday night’s loss in Boston and talked about it before practice Saturday. But there was no evidence in Sunday night’s 103-92 loss to the Chicago Bulls that the message — nobody ever said exactly what it was — ever got through.
Three days after Thanksgiving, this was just leftover turkey. The appetizer was better at this table, though, because the Sixers led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter. The rest of the night, though, was all about humble pie. Neither the style nor the rotation changed, other than Royal Ivey getting 14 minutes as a backup guard. The ball didn’t move from side to side very much. The defense shriveled up after the first quarter and never regenerated.
It’s one thing to have your heads handed to you by the defending champions in Boston. It’s quite another thing to fall behind by 19 points against the Bulls, who aren’t in the same galaxy as opponents and who were playing their seventh game in succession on the road. At this point, its’ not whether the Sixers can play with a post player, or whether the need time to assimilate Elton Brand and five other new players into their system. This is just about playing ball, playing the game they all know how to play, living up to what they say they can be.
They’re a perplexing 7-10, and have lost their last four. To a man, from the coach on down, they say they have to live off their defense, creating opportunities with quick hands, strong rebounding and the open-court approach that triggered last season’s late run to the playoffs. Hopefully, that was one of the subjects they discussed when they met Saturday.