It's been an exhausting four games in five nights for the Philadelphia 76ers -- for us watching, and likely for those playing -- and last night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the team made it four losses out of four, stretching their losing streak to a season-high eight games. They held tight for almost all of this one, capturing a lead in the game's final minutes, but predictably ran out of gas at the end and bowed out to the tougher Grizzlies in Memphis. Final score: Grizz 96, Sixers 91.
Frankly, that they even got that close was a small miracle. Sure, Memphis was playing with only about 2/3 a team themselves, as Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Vince Carter all rode the pine, but that's nothing compared to the Sixers' short-handedness, who were missing not only their usual Bayless/Simmons/Noel trio, but also Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington. They needed 23 and 17 (!!) from Ersan Ilyasova and another 17 and 7 from Dario Saric off the bench just to have a shot in this one.
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But missed free throws sank Philly in this one -- they were just 13 of 26 from the line -- and the main culprit was a now officially frozen Sauce Castillo, who went just 5-10 at the stripe. Of course, he deserves credit for attacking enough to get there 10 times, but the way Nik's shot has deserted him over this four-game stretch (7-34 FG, 4-24 3PT) is truly disturbing — the streakiness of his productivity really is Turner-esque. Who knows if it's general exhaustion, or difficulty with filling in as a starter (as he's had to with Covington out) or just natural regression to the mean, but his PER is now dipping back below the Mendoza Line at 9.9. -- the same as Dario, actually, on his way up. Guess it's too much to ask for both guys to be good at the same time.
Anyway, no real shame in losing like this to the Grizzlies -- beating lousy teams by a couple points in the final seconds is what they do, regardless of who's on the floor -- but we're getting dangerously close to a double-digit losing streak now, which we'd be really well to avoid if possible. We'll have an OK chance on Thursday against New Orleans with JoJo -- and hopefully RoCo as well -- but at 4-18 on the season, we're back to being underdogs in every game until proven otherwise.