The Philadelphia 76ers had to be somewhat optimistic in facing the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 16. Even if the Sixers couldn't beat the struggling Nets, they had to do better than they did against the Portland Trail Blazers, who racked up 139 points and 21 three-pointers on Dec. 14. Technically, the Sixers did do better, as they only gave up 130 points and let Joe Johnson get 29 in the third quarter alone.
Two days after the Trail Blazers tied a franchise record for three-pointers in a game against the Sixers, Johnson tied an NBA record for threes in one quarter. The Nets' sharp shooter made eight three-pointers in the third, which helped him get 29 points in the quarter and 37 for the game. However, he didn't even have to play the fourth for the Nets to finish their 130-94 victory.
Beforehand, Brooklyn was already up by 58-48 at halftime, although it was an improvement from Portland's 71 first half points over Philadelphia. Yet the bottom fell out in the second half, as the Sixers' defense utterly collapsed for the second straight game.
The fact the Sixers gave up 130 points to the disappointing Nets, right after giving up 139 to the red hot Trail Blazers, makes it even worse. Brooklyn was supposed to run over the Atlantic Division, if only due to its star power and big names like Johnson. Instead, the Nets were 8-15 in a division where the sub .500, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett less Boston Celtics are still in first place.
But in this lowly Atlantic Division, the Sixers are officially in the basement, which says it all right now. After giving up 269 points in its last two games, Philadelphia can't say it doesn't deserve this. If it can go one game without letting another team set a three-point record, that would be a bigger win than an actual victory at this point.
For one night, the Nets looked every bit like the team that was supposed to rule the Atlantic -- and do it with a winning record. Yet facing the Sixers can make any team look better these days, especially from beyond the arc.