HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Philadelphia 76ers are a weird team.
Their leading scorer comes off the bench and they have seven players averaging at least nine points per game. They have the lowest turnover ratio in NBA history and the second-lowest free throw rate of the last 20 years.
What’s craziest is that the Sixers have the league’s fifth-best point differential and only the 15th-best record, thanks to a 24-9 record in games decided by double-digits and a 5-16 record in games decided by single-digits. They win the blowouts and they lose the close games. So either their record is worse than it should be or their point differential is better than it should be.
The Sixers, of course, got off to a terrific start this season, winning 20 of their 29 games before Valentine’s Day. But since then, they’ve gone 9-16, struggling at first to hold onto the Atlantic Division lead and now, maybe to hold onto a playoff spot.
Former Sixers beat writer Kate Fagan writes that players are, at times, tuning out Doug Collins, who appeared to be the No. 1 candidate for the Coach of the Year award less than two months ago..
Since around early March, guys on the team have struggled with Doug Collins’ coaching style. Look, we all knew at the beginning of last year, when Collins took over this young team, that he had a history of turning around young squads. And we also knew that he had (sometimes as early as the second season) a history of over-coaching, at which point his players tend to become frustrated and tune him out. The Sixers have been struggling with this for at least a month, if not longer. This has led to heated interactions, sometimes even in the middle of games. On more than one occasion, players have let Collins know — during a game — that they’re sick of the relentless nitpicking. This incessant nagging (or even the perception of it) leads to fractured relationships. The Sixers have reached the point where, at least some of them, have addressed this issue with Collins. Has it reached the point of tuning him out? At times. Collins has made an effort to try to step back, but he’s only occasionally successful. It’s been day to day.
The numbers don’t point to effort being the problem. The Sixers still have the No. 1 defense in the league and the No. 2 defense since the All-Star break, though their D was pretty terrible in Wednesday’s inexplicable loss to the Raptors.
On the other end of the floor is where the Sixers’ issues really lie. They had the sixth-best offense in the league when they were 20-9 on Valentine’s day. Since then, only the Celtics and Bobcats have been worse offensively.
|Through Feb. 13||104.2||6||47.5%||16||38.7%||5||22.4%||30||11.3||1||.234||28|
|Since Feb. 14||98.2||28||45.5%||28||33.7%||20||26.0%||24||12.8||1||.180||30|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
The Sixers continue to take care of the ball. The lowest TO% since turnovers began being tracked in 1977 is 12.2 (2002-03 Mavs), and at 12.0, Philly is set to break that record. A free throw rate of 0.180 is pretty awful, but the Sixers weren’t getting to the line in the first place. And they’ve actually improved a little on the glass.
So basically, the Sixers are just shooting much worse.
Only the Bobcats and Celtics (sound familiar?) attempt a greater percentage of their shots from mid-range than the Sixers do. But Philly hasn’t really regressed much from mid-range since Valentine’s Day. They’ve gone from shooting 40.5 percent on mid-range shots to 39.4 percent.
They’ve regressed more from the paint (-3.6 percent) and especially on corner 3-pointers. They shot 39 percent on corner threes through Feb. 13 and are just 13-for-65 (20 percent) since.
Jrue Holiday is an atrocious 1-for-14 on corner 3s since Valentine’s Day, and Jodie Meeks (5-for-20), Andre Iguodala (3-for-11) and Lou Williams (2-for-10) haven’t been much better.
With 12 games left to play, the Sixers are still just a game behind the Celtics for first place in the Atlantic Division, a game which they can make up when the two teams meet in Boston on Sunday.
But they’re also just two games in the loss column ahead of the eighth-place Knicks and three games in the loss column ahead of the ninth-place Bucks. Both of those teams have more momentum than the Sixers, as well as more home games remaining on their schedule.
Philly has just three home games remaining, beginning with Saturday’s matchup with the reeling Magic (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). After Saturday, they play just four more games against teams with winning records, but they also have three more against the Nets, who beat Philly in January and are playing better since the acquisition of Gerald Wallace, winning five of their last eight.
It’s hard to imagine the Sixers falling out of a playoff spot, but if they continue to struggle offensively, they’re heading toward an early playoff exit at best. That’s quite a fall from where they stood less than two months ago.