In a back-and-forth game against a woeful Orlando Magic opponent, the Sixers faltered down the stretch in dropping their 5th straight game and and 12th of their last 13, 99-91. Two guys with Philadelphia ties did in the Sixers on the evening. Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic recorded his 35th double-double of the season, 35 more than Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson combined, with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Vucevic has now averaged over 16 rebounds a game in the teams’ three meetings this season, likely a combination of extra motivation to show his former team what they missed out on and the soft Sixers frontcourt.
The Magic player who did the bulk of the damage was St. Joes alum Jameer Nelson. Nelson drained five threes on his way to 24 points, in addition to 5 rebounds and 10 assists. The ex-Hawk was huge in the fourth quarter, orchestrating the Magic offense and hitting two huge threes to stave off Philadelphia runs. Jrue Holiday had another disappointing showing in what has become a disturbing trend for the all-star guard. Not only was Holiday unable to shut down Nelson, a player with just the 35th-highest PER among point guards, his outside jumper was again consistently falling short, as he shot just 4-16 on the night for 8 points. The Sixers aren’t going to win many games with production like that from their on-court leader, even against a struggling Orlando squad.
On the bright side, Thad Young did everything in his power to guide the Sixers back into the win column. He recorded a game-high 26 points on exceptional 13-17 shooting, along with a team-high 12 rebounds and 5 steals. Young brought his usual brand of defensive hustle and finishing around the rim; it has to be frustrating for him to continually bring a high-level of effort in a losing cause when a number of his teammates aren’t showing the same level of desire on a nightly basis. Among Young’s teammates, Damien Wilkins earned his first start of the season and found the starting role to his liking. He finished with 16 points, 6 assists, and 3 blocks, although he did commit a team-high 4 turnovers, including a crucial mistake with just over a minute left that turned the deficit from 4 to 7. Spencer Hawes also contributed a solid performance with 15 points on 50% shooting and 7 rebounds.
With another loss in the books, the Sixers fly home to take on the Brooklyn Nets Monday night. It will remain to be seen whether Thaddeus Young can bring the same level of effort on the second night of a back-to-back. One thing is for sure though, if Jrue Holiday doesn’t get his act together, Brooklyn will likely make it 6 straight losses for Philadelphia.