NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.
“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”
The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).
There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.
“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.”
Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.
“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”
The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.
It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.
“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.”
The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).