MINNEAPOLIS – The words have been repetitive, and so are the results.
After each of their last four games, the 76ers talked about fixing an inability to close out victories. But at some point in each game, the same problem arose.
As a result, the Sixers (13-13) take a four-game losing streak into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. Minnesota (16-11) has won three of its last four games.
The problem is magnified by the fact the Sixers have been dealing with injuries to key players.
Joel Embiid (back tightness) and Robert Covington (lower back bruise) are questionable. The team has also been without players Markelle Fultz (right shoulder rehabilitation) and Justin Anderson (shin splints) for some time.
They should get a lift from the return of T.J. McConnell. The backup point guard was sidelined for five of the last six games with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. He has not played in the last two.
“We need to find a way. Players, coaches, all of us,” Dario Saric said of closing out games without several top players. “We need to be much smarter. I know we are a young team, but we have to be less nervous and find a way to finish.”
Phoenix guard Devin Booker scored 19 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter of a 115-101 Sixers loss on Dec. 4. On Thursday, Brandon Ingram’s three-pointer with 0.8 seconds lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-104 victory over the Sixers.
On Saturday, Ben Simmons’ dunk with 4 minutes, 43 seconds remaining gave the Sixers a 96-91 lead. But they went on to miss their final six shots and committed three turnovers while being outscored 14-2 the rest of the way.
The next night, the Pelicans put the game out of reach with a 21-5 run. Former Sixer Jrue Holiday did most of the damage in the fourth-quarter when he made 5 of 6 three-pointers while scoring 19 of his 34 points.
“We need to come down more and don’t be nervous, especially on defense,” Saric said. “We need to be in the paint and don’t let a guy like Holiday shoot the threes. … That situation to me was like we are playing like a high school team. That cannot happen.”
While they’re frustrated, the Sixers are confident they will eventually get over their funk.
“We have a great group of guys that can win,” Simmons said. “I believe we can do it even if we have some guys who are not in the game, who are injured. So I think it comes down to us.”