The Philadelphia 76ers lost 104-95 Jan. 24 to the Toronto Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center. The game was tight until the very end, when the Raptors went on a 16-5 scoring run to begin the fourth quarter that essentially ended the game. The Sixers didn’t play very poorly by their standards, as they had five players score in double digits and also had only 10 turnovers to the Raptors’ 15. They did, however, end up with only 16 free-throw attempts, which bodes poorly for a team as dependent on inside play as the Sixers.
With that said, the team allowed DeMar DeRozan to completely go off. He scored 34 points on only 22 shots and also brought in nine rebounds with only three turnovers despite his heavy workload. Comparatively, DeRozan attempted 16 foul shots all by himself.
Also noteworthy for the Raptors was the point guard dominance displayed by Kyle Lowry. Not only did Lowry rake in 18 points on 11 shots, but he also tormented the Sixers on the boards, bringing in 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Let me repeat that Lowry plays point guard and theoretically should be leaving the rebounding responsibilities up to his forwards and centers. Of course, this is not surprising considering that the Sixers are 29th in the NBA in rebounds allowed per game.
There were some bright sides to the game, specifically Hollis Thompson. The forward is a mostly forgotten aspect of this team, but he shouldn’t be. His consistent performance coming off the bench has been huge all year. He went 6-7 from the field for 15 points in the game and was second on the team in rebounds with nine. Thompson is one of the players who should remain on the team next year and beyond because of his ability to score efficiently — 48 percent — off the bench, as well as his athleticism and hustle, which allow him to grab important rebounds on a team otherwise lacking a strong rebounding presence.
The ability to score efficiently coming off the bench is a coveted skill in the NBA because it is rare to have a player who can come in cold and make an impact offensively. For reference, O.J. Mayo, a widely renowned NBA bench player, shoots only 43 percent from the field, though he does score over 15 points per game to Thompson’s six. Mayo also makes $8 million per season compared to Thompson’s league minimum salary, so that’s nice value for the Sixers.
The following night, the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder — with the NBA’s hottest player in Kevin Durant — stopped by the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Sixers. The results were slightly surprising, if only for the fact that the Sixers only lost by 12, with a final score of 103-91.
Serge Ibaka was a menace on offense and defense, using his superior size to block five shots and gather 11 rebounds while scoring 25 points. Of course, Durant was impossible to defend, and even when the Sixers looked like they had him trapped, he easily found an open shooter, which more often than not was Ibaka. Durant recorded a triple-double with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. The Sixers defense has reached the point where playing against this Sixers defense should only count as half of their actual value to keep the statistics fair.
The Sixers played a terrible offensive game as well, shooting 37.8 percent as a team. This was highlighted by the terrible game by Michael Carter-Williams, who scored only eight points on 13 shots. The best performance of the night was from James Anderson, who scored 19 points on 16 shots; he has scored in double digits in seven of his last 11 games.
On Jan. 27, the Sixers lost to the Phoenix Suns in a game featuring virtually no defense on either end, with a final score of 124-113. The Suns, who were preseason favorites to have the worst record in the league, have actually put together a nice season. Despite the loss of starting point guard Eric Bledsoe to injury, they still have the eighth-best record in the NBA. On a side note, the Suns would be the perfect trade destination for Thaddeus Young: a team with ample draft picks to trade and a need for a young forward to help them compete in the playoffs.
The notables of this game were Young and Gerald Green of the Suns. Defending guards continues to plague the Sixers, who seem to allow more points to guards than any other position on the court. Green, following in the Sixers’ tradition of allowing an obscene number of points to virtually unknown players, dropped 30 on 10-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Young had 21 points on 9-15 shooting in what felt like a tryout for a possible future employer.
On Jan. 29, the Sixers defeated the Boston Celtics on a buzzer-beating two-pointer by Evan Turner. The game overall was poorly played on both sides by the two teams tied for the third-worst record in the league coming into the game. Actually, the ideal outcome for either team was a loss for their position in the draft next year. But Turner simply refused to lose, making a strongly contested jumper from about eight feet to advance the Sixers to fourth-worst record.
On this week’s prospect watch is Doug McDermott from Creighton University. McDermott is a 6-foot-8-inch forward who is basically an offensive force. He shoots almost 50 percent from the field,including 43 percent from three-point range. He also has a player efficiency rating of 31.0, which is close to LeBron James’ mark in the NBA. He’s also somewhat of a rebounding force, averaging 7.2 boards per game. Creighton also leads the Big East Conference (which admittedly has seen better days, but still it is an impressive feat). One problematic aspect of McDermott is his lack of athleticism and speed, which could potentially be an issue when he faces dynamic combination forwards in the NBA. Regardless of the doubts, McDermott could be worth the 15th pick in the draft if the New Orleans Pelicans’ pick that the Sixers own is in that area.