Back in Familiar Territory

It was a sloppy affair in Washington Sunday night.

For any basketball purist, tonight’s game was not the ideal viewing experience; both the Sixers and Wizards turned this contest into a sloppy affair from the beginning.  Philadelphia shot 38.8% on the night, clearly having tired legs after their game Saturday and the subsequent late-night victory celebration.  Washington was not much better from the field and threw the ball away time and again committing 16 turnovers.

With both teams struggling, the game was close most of the way.  After a Washington spurt early in the fourth quarter, the Sixers went on an 11-0 run to earn a 3-point lead with just under three minutes left.  It looked like the Sixers had fought their way back for a victory two nights in a row.  Then, an old problem reared its ugly head.  Philadelphia has gone through a number of roster changes over the years but one troubling theme has remained constant: late-game execution.  With one more basket likely sealing a victory, the Sixers reverted back to isolation plays that have failed them more often than not in the past.  Holiday settled for and missed a jumper just inside the arc and then on the the following possession, Evan Turner barreled into traffic for a partially blocked runner.

With the Sixers needing a defensive stop and the ball, Nene, in his first game back following a shoulder injury, made his presence felt with a huge offensive rebound with 27 seconds left.  The Wizards ran the clock down to 4 seconds before John Wall defied the odds, nailing a contested long jumper over Dorell Wright’s outstretched arm.  Wright’s potential game-tying three-pointer found iron at the buzzer, sending the Sixers home with a familiar feeling of defeat in a 90-87 final.

Jrue Holiday had an especially poor outing, shooting 4-19 from the field and constantly settling for long jumpers.  Evan Turner was not much better, missing 9 of 13 shots on the evening as his jumper looked flatter than usual, perhaps due to fatigue.  On the other hand, Dorell Wright played well for the second consecutive game, scoring a team-high 15 points on 3-6 shooting from behind the arc.  Spencer Hawes also played one of his better games with 14 points and 11 rebounds, seeming to play more aggressively after his prolonged benching in the Golden State game.  Washington received extremely balanced scoring as all five of their starters scored between 12 and 16 points.

When it gets down to it, the Sixers aren’t going to win many games when their all-star point guard shoots 21%.  Holiday needs to do a better job of knowing when his shot isn’t falling and working to get into the lane more.  As a team, the fight wasn’t lacking tonight but the decision-making was at times.  Philadelphia will look to improve upon it at home Tuesday night against Boston.

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