...losses. But thankfully, following immediately after the fifth loss in the string comes five straight off days. Houston outlasted the Sixers in an ugly game tonight, a game the Sixers desperately needed but predictably coughed up. (game capsule).
Here's your rotation. Note the big run that got them the lead in the third, and the bad run in the fourth that ultimately cost them the game:
Let's not spend time dissecting the fourth-quarter woes tonight, whether they be personnel or execution related. Let's not spend time talking about what this team hasn't been able to do for the past nine games. Let's not spend time talking about busts, or regressions, or disappointments, or iso's. The Sixers lost. Again. In five straight games they've faced teams at or above .500. Five straight times they failed to score more points than they allowed. That's the long and short of it.
It was the offense, again, that let them down. The defense held up its end of the bargain, and the exceptional defensive rebounding (it was late in the third before the Rockets grabbed their first O-board of the night) gave the Sixers every opportunity to win this game. For most of the night, they couldn't get a bucket unless Nikola Vucevic was the guy taking the shot. With the game on the line, they didn't give Vucevic a touch anywhere near the paint, the offense stalled, and they were toast. Violet Palmer was bad tonight, which shouldn't come as a shock, but her calls didn't decide the game. She was equally bad on both ends of the floor and the two charge/block calls she made late in the fourth (both of which favored Houston) were really tight calls. Both could've gone either way and those calls aren't the ones that kill you from bad refs. It's when they make vindictive and/or just blatantly bad calls.
Jrue was needed tonight, and he was MIA, literally. He picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, then a quick third foul in the second and a quick fourth in the third. He managed to stay on the floor for the entire fourth, but that mostly in a "stand in the corner and hope someone passes you the ball" role. He had very little impact on this game, either way. Lou Williams had an uncharacteristic three turnovers, including a big one when he slipped out of bounds in the biggest possession of the game. His shot still wasn't falling, but he got to the line. Lou and Meeks both had to play heavier minutes than usual due to Jrue's foul problems and Turner's continued malaise. Both were exposed at times on the defensive end, but they held their own overall. Meeks found ways to contribute despite his three-point shot not falling, which obviously isn't ideal for Meeks, but it was important tonight.
So five straight losses, under-manned and out-gunned, 4 of the 5 on the road. It was a terrible run, to be sure, but a run that doesn't sink the Sixers thanks to their hot start. Six games over .500 with 32 left to play and a 3-game lead over the Knicks. Coming into the season, most of us would've taken this result at the All-Star break without blinking, and if they can get a little bit healthy (in literal terms, as well as offensively speaking) when they come back from the break, they're still in fine position to secure home-court in the first round of the playoffs and a favorable matchup. There's a ton of work to do, at least they'll have some time to get it done in the next five days, a luxury they haven't enjoyed since Christmas.
Player of The Game: Voose. Hands-down.
Team Record: 20-14
Up Next: Rest, practice and plenty of them.
Jrue's Goal: only 1 turnover, but 0 free throws, again. (2/6 since inception)