After each tough loss — and there have been a lot of them over the past six weeks — Doug Collins steps to the podium in a sweat-drenched shirt and lauds his team's defense.
"Our defense was superb once again," was the exact quote following Wednesday's 82-79 loss to the New York Knicks.
Collins isn't wrong. The Sixers have the No. 1 defense in the league in terms of both points allowed and opponents' field-goal percentage. It's a dominating unit. But you can't win if you can't score, and Collins is grasping at straws with his offensively-challenged group.
On Wednesday, the Sixers went 0-for-14 from the field to start the game and failed to get points in crunch time yet again. They are now 2-14 in games decided by seven points or fewer and 0-8 in games decided by four points or less.
"We tried to run stuff, and hopefully it will present itself," Collins said when asked about scoring late in games. "I don't know what to tell you. Not to be an ass or anything, it is what it is."
If the Sixers don't discover a go-to play, or go-to guy soon, a season that began with such high hopes is in peril. With just 19 regular-season games to go, the usually tightly-contested playoffs are appearing on the horizon. Games are going to be close.
"It's imperative," Elton Brand said. "We gotta figure it out. If you execute well, you're going to get the ball to guys you want to get some shots and hopefully they can knock them down."
The Sixers are hoping more than expecting right now.
3 THINGS WE SAW
» 1. Linsanity? Jeremy Lin has come back to earth. He has excellent length and quickness, but has a below-average handle and jumper for an NBA point guard. Lin has the look of a serviceable, but not elite player.
» 2. Celeb central. Some of the loudest cheers of the night came when Sixers' part-owner Will Smith playfully got into it with Knicks' superfan Spike Lee. The second-loudest cheers were, of course, for Lin.
» 3. Turning Turner. After a remarkable, five-game binge during which Evan Turner looked like like a superstar, he's predictably come back to earth. His offensive game is way below par, which doesn't fit well on a team that struggles to score so badly. Turner had just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.