When the 76ers, youth and all, focus and play hard-nosed basketball they look like an NBA team.
They can be seen crashing the defensive glass, using their long wingspans to block shots and close passing lanes and making smart passes to fuel offensive production.
But they problem is, they don’t focus very much.
“We played with no spirit tonight we played with no fight,” head coach Brett Brown said. “They went on a 17-0 run at the end of the first and to start the scond and it think it just punched our spirit.”
After holding a 21-15 lead with just over a minute left in the first the 76ers failed to score a field goal for the next seven-plus minutes (a 21-1 Hawks run).
Throughout their 126-98 loss to Atlanta Thursday night, dropping them to 4-34 on the season there were short glimpses of a team that was on the road to learning how to compete in the NBA.
But then there were the 22 turnovers leading to 29 Hawks pointsand their 53 percent shooting from the field.
Still, Jahlil Okafor’s 21 points (his 14th 20-point outing of the season)helped him keep pace in his race to win Rookie of the Year, while Nerlens Noel, who repeatedly was on the receiving end of alley-oop attempts from Ish Smith (only about half of them worked) tallied 13rebounds after snagging five in the game’s first four minutes.
The 76ersare, fans need remember, mostly a group of would-be college sophomores and juniors. And as you’d expect from teenagers and 20-somethings (along with Carl Landry), they were demolished–again–by 28 points at home versus last year’s Eastern Conference runners up.
They did mount a formidable comeback effort, closing a 24-point gap to just 11 after a Jerami Grant layup towardthe end of the third quarter.
Philly reverts to its early season form, back then they threatened the longest losing streak in professional sports in 2015 after a solid 3-3 stretch after Smith’s arrival. Brown is certainly hopeful it’s a blip, not a regression.
“There were times tonight, when you were sitting on the bench wondering who the group is,” the coach said. “I think that irratic behavior can’t influcent anything else but us realizing we have to guard. You have to play defense. Nothing to me matters much unless we have that as our base, our mentality. Lots of times we do do that, tonight we didn’t.”