By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)Brooklyn 99, Philadelphia 91 – Box Score
The Sixers have now tied the 1972-73 team for the most losses to begin a season in franchise history. There have been three types of losses fans have been subjected to en route to 0-15:
1) The team gets completely annihilated, bringing down the ire of the general media, and causing even fans who know the rebuild is a long-term deal to question the process.
2) The Sixers are generally competitive, with the exception of one quarter where the wheels fall off and the final score doesn’t reflect the fact that they played even with the opposition for most of the night.
3) It looks like they might just be able to grab a win until the final minutes where a combination of inexperience, lack of shooting, ball-kicking, or questionable officiating conspire to stomp out the last shreds of hope.
Wednesday night was the latter, as the Sixers gamely fought back from deficits as large as 20 points in the second quarter and 15 points in the third to actually take the lead at 74-72 on a Michael Carter-Williams-Nerlens Noel alley-oop. The play could have served as the metaphorical tipping point, not only helping the Sixers finally get into the win column, but also ushering in the new era with these young franchise building blocks. Instead, the Nets quickly regained the lead and the Sixers would not hold the advantage the rest of the evening.
That’s not to say they didn’t have a chance to win, because they very much did, and it was an old nemesis that did the Sixers in. A barrage of Joe Johnson jumpers and Brook Lopez post moves had carried Brooklyn throughout the evening. However, in the closing minutes, it was Kevin Garnett, a man Sixers fans had grown to hate during his years in Boston, that drove the nail in the coffin. With a little over a minute left, the Sixers were down just one and Joe Johnson missed a three. It looked like Michael Carter-Williams had a solid box-out on Garnett, but the veteran pulled one of his crafty ‘pulling on you to make it look like you’re pulling him’ moves down low, and the referees whistled MCW with a questionable loose ball foul.
Making matters worse, Tony Wroten appeared to get injured on the play, and after Garnett hit one of two free throws, a visibly limping Wroten threw the ball away on the ensuing possession. Garnett wasn’t done though, because with the Sixers down two needing a stop, the big man calmly stepped out to the top of the key and sink a 20-footer (a shot he’s probably hit 1,000 times in his hall-of-fame career), ending the Sixers’ chances for a first victory.
Nevertheless, it’s Thanksgiving, and we should focus on things to be thankful for, even in the midst of the worst start in franchise history. I haven’t mentioned him yet, but the biggest reason for the Sixers comeback and the player I’m most thankful for is K.J. McDaniels. The rookie played a career-high 33 minutes last night because not even Brett Brown could deny the sheer force of nature that was McDaniels. He was one of two players for the Sixers with a positive +/- on the evening, recording career-highs in points (18), rebounds (6), and jaw-dropping moments (too many to count).
McDaniels also sank a pair of threes, played great defense, and had another tremendous block to prevent an easy lay-in, so it wasn’t all just relatively meaningless highlight plays. He was the best player on the court for the Sixers, in terms of both entertainment and basketball execution, and really, he’s the only young guy who can be said to have exceeded expectations so far this season. So thanks for that K.J., and let’s show some of his best plays from Wednesday night to kick off the holiday right.
I don’t know how to say ‘Excuse me, I’m going to dunk on your head now’ in Croatian, but K.J. might want to learn after this hellacious dunk on Bojan Bogdanovic.
The Sixers struggle to score points, but it becomes a lot easier when you have K.J. racing past his man in transition and rises above the crowd.
Sometimes pure hustle is all you need as he races downcourt to clean up a Tony Wroten miss and help prevent the deficit from getting out of hand before halftime.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!