There’s blame to go around after blowing an 18-point road lead.
Blame Joel Embiid for losing focus and getting sloppy after taking a second-half technical.
Blame Brett Brown for not going after Jusuf Nurkic, who picked up his 5th foul with 11:34 remaining in the game.
Blame Ben Simmons for three fourth quarter turnovers.
Blame the entire team for shooting 1-11 inside the three-point arc in that same time period.
Blame bad luck for Robert Covington leaving the game injured.
Blame Bryan Colangelo for signing veteran non-contributors.
It’s not just the players or the coach or the general manager; it’s a little bit of everything right now. The Sixers have won two of 12 and are now four games below .500.
How does a team fly across the country, shoot 48% overall (and 50% from three-point range) and still blow a huge lead with Damian Lillard not even playing? That’s three times in nine days that the Sixers have wasted a double-digit second half lead, continually coming up small when it matters most. If we’re picking out one statistic that tells the story, it’s 9 turnovers in the game’s final 15 minutes, after the team committed just four in the first 33. They lost it mentally, bottled up, then went off the rails before clawing back into the game with some late three-point bombs.
This is the apex of growing pains. You’re watching a team that tanked for four seasons now trying to learn how to win with a rookie point guard who can’t shoot and a second-year center who hasn’t even played 65 career games. Brett Brown, who has been here the entire time, has rarely been in position to work with a lead or learn how to close out games himself. Markelle Fultz isn’t playing and the roster is still far from fluid and balanced.
They’ll get there, but the path looks a bit steeper than expected.
Wasting a good shooting night
Shoutout to Dario Saric, who continually works his butt off when things aren’t going well.
He finished 10-12 last night and went 5-6 from deep, adding 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Saric was 6-6 (4-4) in the second half, contributing a pair of fourth quarter three-balls to keep the floundering Sixers afloat.
Shame to burn this kind of shooting performance:
JJ Redick was 4-9 from beyond, hitting all four of those three-point shots in the second half. Covington was 1-1 before leaving the game. They shot 16-32 from beyond, which included contributions from…
He was shooting 28% from three coming into this game and had only made 19 on the year.
Last night he finished 6-12, for career highs in both makes and attempts. He only tried nine shots inside the arc and finished 9-21 overall.
I think it was 10:51 in the 2nd before he even attempted a two-point field goal. He started 3-3 from beyond, missed a few in the middle of the game, then knocked in three more late, including a ridiculous bank shot from 26 feet.
Does a shooting night like that change opinions about Joel’s three-point shooting? I don’t know. I don’t think it should.
First, these games are an aberration. Joel has only attempted five or more three-pointers twice this season, going 0-6 and 3-7 in those games. He had a 4-4 and 4-6 game last year.
But his career three-point average is 34.3% on 3.1 attempts per game. You wouldn’t want a guard with those numbers taking 12 threes in a game, let alone a center.
When Embiid is on the three-point arc he can’t rebound the ball. He can’t space the floor, open up the perimeter, and pass out of double teams. He can’t draw defenders or roll to the basket. It’s a great skill to have, the three-ball, but you don’t need Joel shooting 24-footers when you already have Redick, Saric, and Covington hitting above 35%. Embiid ranks 7th on the Sixers in 3P%. Do you want the 7th best three-point shooter on your team to keep chucking it up? It’s just redundant to what the Sixers are trying to do, even if Joel can knock down a few every so often or have a night like he did on Thursday.
Brush it off
There was a sequence in the 2nd quarter where Ben Simmons started driving to the rim like a madman. I don’t know what got into him. He went 4-5 in a two-minute span and just looked incredibly aggressive out there.
With Amir Johnson on the floor, Simmons found success doing what he did with Embiid in the first Portland game, driving to the rim off the “brush cut,” which isn’t really a pick or a roll, it’s a faux-moving screen that allows him to get a quick step into the lane:
Johnson just sort of cuts off the high defender and Simmons drives at Ed Davis, who can’t do anything even while sagging five feet deep.
Same thing here, where it’s half pick and half obstruction. In transition, Johnson just sort of clears out one guy while Davis sags and Simmons goes right by him again:
Look at where Davis is positioned when Simmons starts his movement to the basket. He’s at least eight or nine feet away:
When we talk about “getting to your spots,” this is what we mean.
If Simmons can’t or won’t shoot mid-range shots off the pick and roll, then this sort of transitional brush cut is a good first step in that direction. He hit a floater on a later possession and then had a sweet little turnaround from about 8-feet away. They’ve had some success with this look in 2017, so it’s something to build on as Ben hopefully starts to feel more comfortable increasing his mid-range toolbox.
Reggie Miller and company
The national broadcasts are always an eye-roller, not because I dislike any of the people involved, but just because they don’t do any prep or homework. I don’t expect Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal to be diving into film ala Mike Mayock, but they said a bunch of things that weren’t even true last night. Embiid is no longer on a minutes restriction. He played 49 controversial minutes against Oklahoma City. If anything, the argument is now whether he’s playing TOO MANY minutes.
And to say he doesn’t practice or participate in shoot-around is also wrong. Yes, he receives treatment, and he was limited when he started having back issues, but he’s not sitting on the sidelines entirely. He shoots the ball, works in the post, and goes through his own walk-through just like anybody else.
And to say this season is a “failure” if the Sixers don’t make the playoffs is a stretch. Nobody who paid a modicum of attention during the process era feels like the postseason need to happen right now, that’s an opinion shared mostly by people just coming back around to the team. I think 40-42 and 9th place is still a big step forward for a young team that won 28 games last year. Is a double-digit improvement in the win column good enough? I had them at 41-41 with the 8th seed, which looks tougher and tougher at this point.
As far as Reggie Miller, his commentary has always sort of been blah. I think he just parrots viewpoints that other people come up with. He has a long and storied career to lean back on but rarely references his playing days and just sort of seems to be going through the motions.