Game Recap: Grizzlies 92, 76ers 84
It happened again. For a fifth straight contest, the 76ers (0-18) competed with enough spirit and effort to earn a fourth-quarter lead against a seasoned opponent. Running into a ramped up Memphis Grizzlies (10-8) defense down the stretch, the Sixers still were unable to deliver what has become an elusive first victory. Instead, it was Memphis that prevailed, 92-84. By going winless through their first 18 games, the Sixers tied the 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets for the longest season-opening losing streak in NBA history.
Following an explosive and opportunistic third quarter in which they scored 36 points and forced seven turnovers, the Sixers found themselves in control heading into the final stages of the contest, twice holding five-point advantages. The Grizzlies, however, turned to their veteran core with just under six and a half minutes to play, and pieced together a decisive 13-0 run fueled by Zach Randolph, who had missed Memphis’ previous five outings due to a right knee injury. He generated eight of his 17 points in the fourth, and, with 11 rebounds on the night, posted his fifth double-double of the year.
In the defensive scrap, the Sixers placed four players in double digits. Isaiah Canaan notched a team-best 16 points (4-12 3fg), while Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson each finished with 12 points. Jerami Grant, in a versatile performance, had 11 points, seven boards, two steals, and three blocks. He also took two charges.
Nerlens Noel was held out for a second game in a row. He continues to experience soreness in his right knee, and also wasn’t feeling well.
In a sequence representative of the hustle and energy that helped the Sixers push in front amidst a 20-7 third quarter surge, JaKarr Sampson, with under six minutes to go in the period, emerged as the beneficiary of a loose ball scrap at center court. The result was one of the Sixers’ most emphatic plays of the season, and of Sampson’s two-year career.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers taking control in the third quarter, and the impact of turnovers against Memphis:
“Just pace and space. If you play with pace and you can play with space and avoid the fistfight, you knew you had the best chance of being in the game, and maybe stealing a win. We played with speed, and spread them out. We had 18 steals. We turned them over 26 times. The problem was that we turned it over a lot. That frantic pace and the deflections of the hands on balls allowed us to have that volume of points in the third period."
The Sixers dramatically turned the tide of Sunday’s contest in the third quarter. Here’s a recap of a few numbers and developments that allowed them to do so.
The Sixers, after managing just 31 points in the first half, erupted for 36 points in the third, marking the team’s highest output of any quarter this season. Not only did the Sixers convert 14 of their 22 field goal attempts in the period, they buried seven of 11 tries from beyond the arc. By contrast, the Sixers were three of 16 from the perimeter between the first and second quarters. In particular, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson, and JaKarr Sampson all elevated their level of play in the third, as the trio combined to score 23 points (Grant and Thompson each deposited eight points in the quarter, while Sampson had seven).
Defensively, the Sixers were scrappy, forcing Memphis into seven turnovers. Although the Sixers committed six cough-ups themselves during the third, they were far more opportunistic than their hosts, outscoring the Grizzlies 14-2 in points off turnovers. Also in the quarter, the Sixers snagged five of their season-high tying 18 steals. The Sixers became just the 10th team in NBA history to register a minimum of 18 steals in back-to-back games.
The Sixers’ now-completed road trip followed anything but a direct path. Over the course of 10 days, the team ventured to six different cities, travelling through the south east, north central, north east, and south central corridors of the country. By the time the trek had come to a close, the club’s plane had racked up an extra 8,000 miles.
In addition to dealing with the grind of extensive travel, the Sixers also had to persevere past a string of close setbacks. The last five outings of the trip were determined by a combined margin of 24 points. Brett Brown felt his group handled the challenging circumstances well.
“I think they’ve continued to get tighter,” Brown said of the growth the Sixers have shown over the past week and a half. “I think they’ve continued to believe. I think they’ve continued to believe. I think they’ve continued to bang out incredibly professional days, highlighted by a shoot-around at 8:30 on a Sunday morning for a 5:00 [Central time zone] game, and they brought it. And you hear them in a lockerroom talk after a game. And I’m stepping back watching the team, you know bringing it in at the end, and talk about we ain’t going away. Nobody’s rolling over. And so, I just feel at the end of this long road trip, it’s amazing to me when we are still winless, this group just kept getting better and better and better, and angrier, and angrier, and angrier, and even more committed to finding our first win.”
The Sixers will head out on a second and final six-game road trip later this season, from December 23rd through January 2nd.
Nik Stauskas appeared in his second straight game since returning from a one-game absence caused by the left knee sprain he suffered in Monday’s first half in Minnesota. After logging 15 minutes of action versus the Houston Rockets on Friday, the second-year Michigan product was on the floor for 13 minutes Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies
“Everything felt fine,” Stauskas said prior to the Memphis game, discussing how his left knee had responded the past two days. He added that he was relieved to learn his MRI results showed no additional damage beyond the sprain itself.
Stauskas scored five points at FedEx Forum, converting two of his six field goals tries. He was 1-3 from the perimeter, As Stauskas continues to search for consistency from behind the arc, Brett Brown and the coaching staff have encouraged him to keep shooting.
“They’re always preaching being engaged on both ends,” said Stauskas. “More than anything, for me, they’ve been telling me just to focus on the little things. Focus on rebounding the ball, getting guys involved. Focus on getting a steal, focus on getting a deflection. If you do those things, the other parts of your game just kind of come along.”
The Sixers return to The Center on Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST after a hiatus of nearly two weeks. The evening will also mark the final game that five-time champion Kobe Bryant ever plays in his hometown. On Sunday, Bryant, in an article published on theplayerstribune.com, announced he will retire at the end of this season, his 20th in the league. Much of the focus surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers (2-14) this fall has, not surprisingly, centered on Bryant’s future. The 37 year-old Lower Merion product was averaging 15.5 points through his first 13 games. Perhaps one of the most telling signs of his struggles is that he’s shooting a mere 30.5 percent from the field, and 20.2 percent from three-point territory. Those inefficient figures, however, have not stopped the third-leading scorer in NBA history from taking what was, as of Sunday morning, a team-high 200 field goal attempts. As for the Lakers’ new blood, rookie guard D’Angelo Russell put together a solid two-week stretch, averaging 13.4 points (44.1% fg) in five games prior to an eight-point effort on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers. The second overall selection in this past June’s NBA Draft, Russell ranks fifth among rookies in scoring, and third in assists. The Lakers fell to the Pacers at Staples Center, 107-103.