Sixers continue epic stumble to finish line

By now, you have probably heard all theories.

The Sixers have tuned out the coach. The players don’t get along. They merely beat up on depleted opponents early in the season. They are now worn down physically and mentally. The pieces don’t fit. Yada, yada, yada.

After last night’s 102-97 loss to the Pacers — the Sixers’ seventh in their last nine games — it’s time to broach a more simple theory: Perhaps there’s just not enough talent in the Sixers’ locker room.

They have now lost three straight games in which Vegas had pegged them as favorites. Even the oddsmakers appear to be overrating the quality of this Sixers team right now.

The lack of urgency surrounding the skid is especially concerning. After last night’s loss, the Sixers found themselves just 1.5 games clear of the Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Despite clinging to fading playoff hopes, the team appeared to sleepwalk through the fourth quarter. Andre Iguodala (23 points) missed two big free throws with less than six minutes to go. They gave up multiple offensive rebounds on two crucial possessions. And when it came time to get a key bucket … well, you know how that one ends.

“I was reckless. That’s why I’m crippled,” coach Doug Collins said. “But when I played I was going to put my head down and go. I was going to drive it in there and someone was going to foul me.”

The Sixers are now 3-18 in games decided by seven points or less.

After the game, Sixers legend Julius Erving talked to the team. His message? Don’t let opportunities slip through your fingers.

“He follows the team and loves the organization, and loves our team,” Elton Brand said. “Basically, we can step it up and do what we need to do to finish this off and get into the playoffs.”

The Sixers face the Bucks in Milwaukee one week from today. At this point, a first-round loss to the Bulls or Heat appears inevitable. But if they don’t watch out, this epic collapse could result in missing the playoffs altogether. And that could lead to what this team might really need: A complete overhaul in talent.

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