The 76ers lost by a point to the lowly Bulls Wednesday night, 108–107, in Chicago. Whatever. The Sixers have performed admirably during this suddenly indefinite stretch of games without Joel Embiid, and the Bulls are much better now than they were before the trade deadline, and the Sixers were on the second leg of a back-to-back. Point is, it’s not a real bad loss. It’s really how they lost it that deserves a hearty Nelson Muntz laugh.
Philadelphia led by as many as 10 points down the stretch, but Zach LaVine got hot in the fourth quarter, and the Bulls drew even at 98 apiece with less than four minutes on the clock after a clutch 10–0 run. The Sixers clawed back ahead by four points with less than two minutes left after a Ben Simmons layup and a bunch of free throws, but LaVine dropped in a pair of tough jumpers to bring the teams back even. At this point LaVine was up to 37 points in the game and 11 points in the fourth quarter, with virtually all of his late buckets coming on heroic solo efforts. When the Sixers found themselves back up a point with just 4.8 seconds left on the clock, the job was pretty clear: do whatever you have to do to keep LaVine from getting a clean look at the bucket.
This is very much not that:
Apart from the puzzling choice to even have an all-offense forward like Mike Scott on the floor for a do-or-die defensive possession, you’ve really got to marvel at how both Scott and all-world defensive ace Jimmy Butler stayed glued to Robin Lopez, who is absolutely no threat whatsoever that far from the basket. LaVine got a clear run to the cup out of it, and Scott’s flailing recovery turned the go-ahead bucket into an and-one. As LaVine explained later, the play had him looking for a pass from the elbow, but when both 76ers defenders made a higher priority out of his non-shooting, non-handling, utterly earthbound teammate, he made the aggressive play.
LaVine missed the ensuing free throw, which wound up screwing the Sixers out of a second of game clock they could’ve used to get a potential game-winner up at the other end. But Chicago’s lead was just one point, and the Sixers had 0.5 on the clock, which technically is enough for a quick catch-and-shoot. Hope was not yet dashed! Here’s how it went down:
You will notice there are two final possessions in that video. The first one ended with a downer of a turnover under the basket, when Simmons’s lob came up short and was intercepted by LaVine, who easily out-leaped Butler. But that first play also included a noticeably early buzzer, which sounded before anyone appeared to have touched the ball. Before we get to the second one, and how it came about, let’s take a moment to observe that Jim Butts was fuming about execution even before Philadelphia’s final play failed to produce even a shot attempt:
After the first final play, Butler stalked off the court shaking his head and looking extremely pissed. Most of the 76ers made it all the way back to the visitors’ locker room, believing the game to be over, early buzzer be damned. The referees, seeking to understand how the clock could’ve started so early, reviewed the play and determined that no one touched the ball prior to LaVine intercepting the lob. Though the early buzzer can’t possibly have influenced the play in any way, the decision was made to replay the final 0.5 of game time and give the 76ers a second try.
Players were summoned from the locker room for the replay. Roughly 80 fans remained in the stands. Head coach Brett Brown scrapped the lob from the first try and took the available time to draw up a fresh play. It resulted in this humdinger:
Oof. Bad enough to lose a tough, one-point game to a lottery team on poor late-clock execution, without doing it twice in ten minutes.
UPDATE: Strange shit happens when a game has two endings: