Tonight at the Air Canada Centre, the 76ers lost in double overtime to the Toronto Raptors, 119-116. The end-of-game plays went like this: long missed three pointer by Jrue Holiday at the end of regulation, missed game-winning free throw by DeMar DeRozan with 1.8 seconds left in the first overtime, and finally a missed baseline three pointer (in and out) by Lou Williams at the end of the second overtime.
Note: Big man Marreese Speights left the game in the third quarter with a right hamstring strain. Speights stepped awkwardly while trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. He immediately waved over the trainer and went back to the locker room. He did not return, but afterwards coach Doug Collins did not seem to think the injury was serious.
The Sixers will not practice tomorrow (Thursday), and will return to the court at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday.
The good from tonight: Holiday finished with 18 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds and Turner finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. For the second consecutive game, the second unit (this time Craig Brackins, Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams, and a little bit of Jason Kapono) played the starters out of a hole and played with energy.
The bad: the starting unit was weak, falling behind 24-19 at the end of the first quarter, and digging a 12-point hole with only a few minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The frontline of Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Elton Brand did not play well together. Iguodala was 0 for 3 from the floor and Young and Brand combined for only 5 defensive rebounds (although that's more than last night against the Celtics). By comparison, Holiday/Turner grabbed 18 defensive rebounds.
A quote from Collins: "They’re my leading rebounders in exhibition going into the game tonight. My two guards are my leading rebounders. That is a positive, but you’d like that not to be out of necessity. But that’s a huge concern for our team if we can’t rebound the ball or defend the paint."
Collins said he told his starting frontline that he was disappointed in their play. ("This game, to me, was an evaluation of our abililty to play at home, travel, get in, and then play a back to back," Collins said. "And I was disappointed in my starters [in the frontcourt].")
In the final quarter and both overtimes, Collins went with mix-matched lineups and didn't play either Iguodala or Young. It was mostly a mix of Holiday, Turner, Lou, Brackins, Brand, and Meeks. Brackins and Meeks both look like energy guys that can just come in and score. Brackins plays almost exactly the opposite of Turner; Brackins is loose and easy flowing and isn't afraid of any shot, while Turner looks like he's playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders. After the game, Collins said Brackins "showed he has a bright future." He scored 15 points in 22 minutes.
A few more things:
*Before the game, Collins said he was stripping the offense away from the starting unit. His exact words: "I’m going to try to let our first unit that’s starting play without a lot of sets, where there’s a play call because I think that’s where a lot of their struggles are coming right now, just trying to get into the play. So maybe just some more random offense, but with some rules. Not just run and chuck, but some rules to help us out."
You get the vibe that Collins is trying anything and everything to get the starting unit into some sort of offensive rhythm. And it just isn't happening.
*Yes, there are concerns with this team, but in a 180-degree spin from last season, all of these players seem completely in tune with what Collins is saying. At the end of regulation, Holiday used a pick-and-roll, didn't go to the basket, and settled for a heave from well beyond the line. As Holiday was walking back to the bench, Collins met him on the court and put his arm around his shoulder. Collins made a gesture, clearly telling Holiday he needs to take the ball to the basket in that situation. Holiday began to form an excuse why he couldn't and Collins looked him in the eye and said, "Listen." Holiday stopped short, listened, and left the exchange nodding his head.
"He sees that we’re going out there and playing hard, giving it our all, trying to win," Holiday said afterwards. "We’re trying to change something around here. We have coach’s back, and coach has our back. The least we can do is go out there and play hard for him."
*It could be a rough first 10 games of the regular season. Collins admitted before the game that figuring out an offense that would work for this team has been tougher than he anticipated. When asked after the game if two weeks -- the Sixers open with the Miami Heat on Oct. 27 -- would be enough time, he was pretty straight forward.
"No, no, no, come on now," Collins said. Later, he continued: "I’m still trying to figure this team out and it’s going to continue to take me every single day. I work 12 to 14 hours a day trying to find out the best things I can do. At the end of the day, I told the guys the will to compete on a nightly basis will help you win games in this league. And I think that’s been the hardest thing. I think they’ve pick and chose spots to compete in the past. And we just can’t do that, we don’t have enough talent to do that."
And that, right there, is the truth.