PORTLAND, Ore. — The Sixers’ locker room was silent. Players sat at their stalls without saying a word.
They had lost 15 games before Thursday night, but this one was another blown lead — a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, at that — that left them quiet inside the Moda Center following a 114-110 defeat (see observations).
“We’re frustrated not just in losing, but how we’re losing,” JJ Redick said. “But we’ll turn it around. We’ll turn it around.”
It’s a familiar story for the Sixers this season. They were 11 minutes away from sweeping the season series against the Damian Lillard-less Trail Blazers as the two-time All-Star missed the game with a hamstring injury. The home team then went on a 19-0 run. It was a span that included five turnovers by the Sixers, who average the most in the league and committed a total of eight in the fourth quarter.
The Trail Blazers went up by as many as 10, scoring 42 (Shabazz Napier accounted for 15) in the deciding quarter. Instead of starting off the three-city road trip with a win, the Sixers are left searching for solutions for their next two games.
“Stop turning the ball over,” Joel Embiid said. “Play better defense without fouling. We fouled too much. And maybe get some calls going our way too, I guess.”
The free throw disparity made just as much of an impact as the 20 points allowed off 14 turnovers. The Trail Blazers attempted 47 free throws compared to 14 by the Sixers. Only Ben Simmons went to the line in the fourth (2 for 2) for the Sixers; the Trail Blazers shot 19 for 24 in the quarter.
“Basketball gods looking out for us,” said C.J. McCollum, who made all 14 attempts. “I think that was big. We got into the bonus early.”
Embiid thought fouls were big as well. He particularly was surprised center Jusuf Nurkic did not pick up his sixth in the fourth. Nurkic scored 10 of his 21 points in the final quarter, then took some shots at Embiid after the game (see story).
“We didn’t get any calls,” Embiid said, later adding, “Usually I don’t complain about anything, even if it doesn’t go my way. But everybody did a good job. The referees, they did a great job. They can’t see everything, so I understand everything, but we’ve just got to do a better job of holding a better lead and finishing the game.”
The Sixers’ next two games are on back to back nights in Denver and Phoenix, which means one will be without Embiid, who has yet to be cleared for consecutive games. Robert Covington’s status is to be determined after he left Thursday’s contest early with a finger injury.
The Sixers are regrouping Friday for practice in Portland before flying out for their next stop. The focus, as it has been, will be on bouncing back and correcting these costly errors that have plagued them all season.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position to win a lot of basketball games and we’ve had some games where we’ve held leads and we’ve had several games now where we’ve lost fourth-quarter leads,” Redick said. “And that’s frustrating.”