This search could take longer than we first thought.
Less than one month into a disappointing season, even the coach is still searching for answers.
After Tuesday night's 101-93 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers' coach Doug Collins offered the following quote after yet another frustrating effort:
"I look at my coaches all the time and I go, 'Any suggestions?'"
And therein lies the problem. All things considered, Collins does a pretty decent job of managing his team, given the talent that he's working with. The players who deserve to play get the minutes, and those who are inconsistent are relegated to the bench.
So the major issue with this team goes far beyond rotations or substitution patterns and the like; quite simply, the Sixers don't know how to win.
As children, we all fell down quite a few times before we were able to walk consistently. Once we got the whole balance and gravity thing down, we couldn't imagine not being able to do so.
Figuratively, the Sixers are going through a similar process this season.
With the exception of the Spurs debacle last Saturday, the Sixers have been competitive in every game this season. So far, they've won exactly two of them. However, it's the most recent loss that hurts more than the rest.
Wednesday night's game against the Toronto Raptors was as close to a must-win game as there is in November. When you're 2-9 and you're hosting another 2-9 team, there really isn't much excuse for not pulling out a victory on your home floor.
"When you’ve got winnable games, you’ve got to win them," said Collins after the Sixers' practice on Thursday. "Our margin for error is razor thin. We can’t make mistakes."
They made enough of those mistakes in the 4th quarter to wind up on the wrong side of a 94-86 score. While Elton Brand had an impressive effort (27 points, 8 rebounds), he and his teammates simply didn't make enough shots at the end, getting outscored 25-15 in the final 12 minutes.
One could offer up the usual alibis, of course. The Sixers were, in fact, on the second game of a back-to-back, less than 24 hours removed from the 8-point loss to Cleveland. And for the fourth time in six games, Andre Iguodala was nattily attired on the bench as he continues to deal with a nagging right Achilles' injury.
Excuses aside, last night's performance highlighted the fact that the Sixers lack a "closer" -- a player that they can give the ball to in the waning minutes of a game who will make the plays needed to secure a victory.
Although Brand has been the best player on the team this season, he's undersized at his position and often forced to pass out of double teams. Iguodala would seemingly be the perfect candidate to be the team's closer, but he's been bothered by injuries all season -- showing very little of the ability he displayed during this summer's FIBA World Championships.
Two years from now, the duo of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will be one of the more formidable backcourts in the NBA. But at this point in their careers, they are much more willing than able to carry the torch for the team in the 4th quarter.
"Back in college, I took 'em all, baby," Turner said, when asked about taking clutch shots at the end of games. Unfortunately for him, the Eastern Conference is a far cry from the Big Ten. The last time I checked, Northwestern isn't on the Sixers' schedule this year.
However, it's clear that with a little bit of time and effort, he'll grow. Turner will learn how to attack the rim as deftly as he did for the Buckeyes last year. Holiday's ability will catch up to his desire, and he'll hit more than his fair share of clutch shots.
But as the nurturing process continues for them, there doesn't appear to be anyone currently on the Sixers' roster who is ready to assume the much-needed role of a closer.