Until Friday night, the last time the Sixers lost four games in a row was a stretch from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23 of 2017.
They’ll have another chance to win Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder back at Wells Fargo Center, where they hold a 16-2 record this season.
"We gotta win, pretty much,” Tobias Harris told reporters after the Sixers’ 118-108 loss to the Houston Rockets (see observations). “It’s an easy answer, but it’s the truth. We’ve just gotta figure out a way to come in and grind out a win, get our spirits up, get our vibe back and roll from there. I think winning solves everything, and we’ve gotta figure out a way to put a whole game together and be really sharp in our next game.”
A win would likely help to alleviate all the angst around the team. They’ve been straightforward in expressing their irritation recently, too.
“Losing four in a row sucks, and it doesn’t feel like we’re getting better,” Joel Embiid said. “It is frustrating.”
Josh Richardson, who’s called out problems with effort and “accountability” early in his first season as a Sixer, said, “I don’t think everything was all bad.”
He’s right, though it’s telling he felt compelled to make such a statement.
The Sixers played a poor second quarter for the second consecutive game and fell behind by as many as 18 points, but they didn’t slump to a dejected defeat the way they had Tuesday against the Pacers. An aggressive Simmons played an excellent all-around game, recording his third triple-double of the season (29 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists), as well as four blocks and three steals. Trey Burke was a bright spot with 11 points in 16 minutes.
Embiid did not seem overly encouraged by any of that.
“Well, if it’s not taking a toll on anybody … I care about winning,” he said. “It’s taking a toll on me. All I care about is winning. It sucks. Gotta find a way. We gotta keep fighting.”
Brett Brown said the losing streak isn’t on his mind.
I don’t think about it,” he said. “I think that you just go back and you keep moving. You’ve gotta identify obvious things that we need work on. We had a rough time shooting tonight — I think we were [6 for 27]. It’s a genuine comment that good days will add up. Keep the boys in the boat, keep moving forward and good days will add up. This group, we will figure it out.
Until his team actually does figure it out in the sense of winning their first game since Christmas, that confidence will likely be unconvincing. In that regard, winning would solve something.
However, the Sixers’ next win probably will not solve various other issues.
Al Horford has shot 14 of 46 (30.4 percent) and averaged 7.4 points over his past five games. He’s shooting the most threes of his career — four per game — and, according to NBA.com/Stats, he’s had at least six feet of space on 92 of his 133 long distance attempts. Horford has only made 34.8 percent of those shots.
Valid concerns about his fit next to Embiid would, in part, be lessened if he was hitting wide open jumpers at a higher rate. When he’s not — and when Richardson shoots 2 for 10, as he did in Houston — the vision of the Sixers’ offense having a plethora of capable options looks a long way off.
“We have a lot of talent,” Harris said, “but at the same time we’ve gotta figure out how to mesh our talents together and make it work for the [greater] good.”
That idea sounds nice, and the concept of just earning another win to serve as a reminder that this group of players can indeed gel together is appealing, too.
But until they pick up win No. 24, maintaining morale and spirit and “keeping the boys in the boat,” to use Brown’s words, are obvious challenges.
“Just trying different things,” Simmons said. “Just gotta stay locked in, though. We can’t be too distant from each other. We’ve just gotta be a team.”
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