The look was one of total befuddlement and the reaction was dispersed more than once from 76ers coach Doug Collins’ mouth. “I don’t know, I just don’t know,” is what he said repeatedly when asked about his team’s performance following Wednesday’s sloppy, lethargic and sometimes stupid play against the Phoenix Suns that left them at 15-18.
The team was coming off a very nice effort against the Los Angeles Lakers the previous night, a game in which they did a terrific job defensively of allowing cold shooters to take bad shots, did a nice job of defending Dwight Howard on the inside and forced Kobe Bryant to take 29 shots to accumulate his 36 points.
The next night in Phoenix, that was all out the window. The defensive rotations were slow and Luis Scola, who appeared to be wide open most of the night, torched them for 21 points. The Suns beat the Sixers to loose balls and when they needed key rebounds, they simply decided to go and get them.
The Sixers hurt themselves with 17 turnovers, many coming in head-scratching ways. Despite posting the second triple-double of his career with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Jrue Holiday also turned the ball over 6 times and missed 10 of his 16 shots. There was a stretch during the third quarter when Holiday gave the ball away on three of four possessions, lending to Phoenix winning the quarter by 27-17. There were outlet passes quizzically intended for centers, many forays into the lane that ended with in more turnovers than any type of success.
Though Holiday’s numbers were mostly impressive, there seems to be bit of a recurring problem to his game. At times, he simply tries to do too much – whether it’s a pass in the lane among four defenders or trying to dribble penetrate when nothing is there. But the problem isn’t Holiday, really. The problem is that he is trying to do so much because no one else is consistently doing much of anything, save undersized Thaddeus Young, who scored 13 against the Suns, his 23rd consecutive double-figure game.
“I thought he (Holiday) came back (in the second quarter) and he was really trying to force some things and it was like he was just trying to force some passes and I told him to just read what’s there,” said Collins. “I thought once the third quarter started they got a little bit of a lead and I though they got control of the game. We had a chance, but we never came up with a big rebound. It was disappointing.”
The loss means the Sixers still haven’t won back-to-back games since November 27 and 30, when they improved their record to 10-6. Since then, they’ve gone 5-12 and it could be getting worse very quickly as they play at Oklahoma City (24-7) and at San Antonio (26-8 going into tonight's game against Knicks) on Friday and Saturday to close out their 8-game road trip. The loss also came to a Phoenix team that had lost six in a row before beating the Sixers.
“I know Alvin (Gentry, Phoenix coach) and those guys needed the game, they had lost 6 in a row, it’s just disappointing for us to be out on the road and we didn’t have a chance to maybe get a game like that and they were a little bit more physical with us. It was disappointing.
“We’re a team that sort of depends on everybody and we ride Jrue so much. If he gets a little bit off it’s tough because we count on him to do so much for us. We had some moments but it was not fun to watch.
“We have to let that game go and we have two very, very tough games coming up in Oklahoma City and San Antonio,” said Young. “We have to try to take what we’re not doing right and capitalize and play the next game. It was definitely a game that we saw we could steal a win. It’s always good to have momentum trying to go into good team’s places and trying to beat them. But we don’t have that momentum now. We’ll just have to try it as we go.”