Sixers coming up short on defense during losing streak

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce and the Nets ran up 130 points on the Sixers.
Credit: Getty Images

Head coach Brett Brown didn’t exactly throw up his hands out of frustration, but his agitation was apparent after watching the 76ers allow 130 points for the second straight game Monday at Brooklyn.

“We can’t guard anybody,” Brown said. “We can’t guard our own man. It starts with individual breakdowns and we were just trying to put out fires all behind it.”

The game Monday was the latest loss during a seven-game losing streak, one that saw the 76ers reach new depths of defensive ineptitude for the second time in three days.

After allowing 139 points on 21 3-pointers against Portland, the 76ers again allowed 21 3-pointers and 130 points to the Nets. The manner in which they did that particularly peeved Brown, who had an up close seat to Joe Johnson’s 29-point display on eight 3-pointers in the third quarter alone.

Some of them were contested, but the 76ers were mostly helpless to get a hand in his face as Johnson caught and shot each of the 3-pointers.

Perhaps the most embarrassing defensive effort came when Johnson rebounded a missed shot, went coast-to-coast and easily knocked down a 3-pointer. Another low moment occurred when a defender tried to contest a corner 3-pointer but overran Johnson and wound up out of bounds.

That lack of defense marked the first time since April 1994 that the 76ers allowed 130 points in consecutive games. That was when Fred Carter was coaching and the starting lineup was populated by Tim Perry and Clarence Weatherspoon.

“Right now we’re just scrambling all over the place and guys are getting wide-open looks,” forward Thaddeus Young said.

Open looks are how a defense allows 42 3-pointers in two games, gives up at least 120 points in six games, at least 130 in three games and at least 15 3-pointers in an NBA-record six games. That’s all part of the defensive problem that has seen them allow a league-high 273 3-pointers.

Besides a talent gap, that lack of defense is the reason for the seven-game losing streak and a stretch of 19 losses in 23 games after the 76ers surprised the league with a 3-0 start.

After Monday’s loss, the 76ers have allowed over 100 points in 23 games and have the second-worst defensive rating at 109.2 points per 100 possessions. Through Monday, Philadelphia has allowed a league-worst 1,078 baskets and, not surprisingly, a league-high 712 of those have occurred with an assist.

“Everyone is just moving the ball against us good and we kind of get broken down into a scramble and when we scramble it’s not a good thing,” guard James Anderson said.

Anderson and the 76ers found themselves in scramble mode during a 42-point third quarter. That marked the fourth time an opponent dropped 40 in a quarter and third time it happened in the third quarter.

For Brown, the defensive collapse comes down to more than just not guarding.

“There is a category in transition defense that is poor,” he said. “I think we cry too much to the referees for fouls. We don’t get back. We whine a lot right now and we gave to get over that. The last two games confirm that we have some issues defensively that need to be fixed or it’s going to be beyond a long season.”

The last two games have come after the Sixers allowed 103.2 points in the first five games of this losing streak.

If there is any good news to emerge from Monday it is that rookie Michael Carter-Williams, both the team’s second-leading scorer (17.7 points per game) and steals leader (3.1 per game) may return Friday after missing seven games with a skin infection and right knee soreness. That will only happen if he can practice.

“I am hopeful,” Brown said. “I think indications say nothing is promised, but it seems like that’s the direction it’s heading. [We] look forward to bringing him back in the mix real soon, it seems.”


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