You could see this one coming a mile away. As a fan, you always hope that your team is somehow immunized itself against the letdown loss, but even the Golden State Warriors get 'em a couple times a season, and these Philadelphia 76ers ain't the Warriors (yet). And so, after a 5-1 stretch against six teams all in the playoff hunt, the Sixers dropped a should've-been-easy one to the Memphis Grizzlies, thanks to sparkling performances from NBA luminaries Myke Henry, Andre Layton and Jerrell Martin.(And if you can't tell which of those three names I just made up, well, that's sort of the point.)
The culprits? Well, throw a blind one at your Sixers dartboard: Sloppy turnovers, streaky shooting, foul-prone defense, lack of playmaking down the stretch, and of course, a big fat blown lead. (Only 15 points this time -- this Sixers team rolls out of bed and blows a 15-point lead at this point.) Amazingly, the L came despite a career performance from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot -- 20 points on 6-8 shooting from deep -- and a combined seven triples from Robert Covington and Dario Saric, which would usually be a pretty solid recipe for Sixers success.
But Joel Embiid (15 on 5-13 shooting) and Ben Simmons (six on 3-8 FG) were both kept in check, and in the fourth quarter, nobody could either hit a shot or make a clean pass, with more wild crosscourt dishes over the heads of our wing shooters than I can ever remember in one game. Most disturbingly, Jo missed three clutch free throws late, after being practically automatic from the line in clutch situations all year. And yet, somehow, the Sixers could've still won it -- down two with about ten seconds to go, they got a steal under their own basket. But Covington badly misread the time and score -- or just picked a terrible time for one hell of a heat check -- and dribbled out for a sprawling three attempt that was beyond off. Final score: Grizzlies 105, Sixers 101.
Maybe it was an NFC Championship hangover. Maybe the Sixers wanted to drop one to a team battling with the Lakers in the tanking rankings. Or maybe the Sixers are a good NBA team that occasionally lays an egg against an undermanned, under-talented opponent, because that's a thing that happens in this league, and it hadn't happened yet to Philly in 2018. It sucks, and in this case it costs the Sixers two places in the East standings, but on the whole it's mostly unavoidable.
Oh well. Chance for redemption Wednesday against Chicago. Even last January, during the invention of #SixersJanuary, the team still lost five games against their ten wins. 5-2 is still about the inverse of where I thought we'd be at this point in the month. Wash this one out with a couple hundred viewings of the Robinson pick six and the ATV going up the Rocky steps and we should all be fine.