The Sixers were presented with another test last night and failed again, dropping to 0-3 against the best of the Eastern Conference to finish out a mediocre October.

Much like the Boston and Milwaukee road games, this was supposed to be a measuring stick for the 2018-2019 squad, and much like the prior losses, Brett Brown’s team just didn’t appear to be in the same league as Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors.

That one felt like last October’s loss in Ontario, a game in which the Sixers turned it over 20 times en route to a 34-point defeat. This time they turned it over 23 times in a 17 point loss, so it was an improvement? Maybe not.

The good news is that we’re just eight games into an 82 game season, but the flaws on this team are apparent.

Among them:

Ben Simmons

11 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, and a career high 11 turnovers. He was 4-9 from the field and 3-6 from the foul line. Ben’s season high for turnovers was four in the Charlotte game, and going over his log from last year it looks like he had two seven-turnover playoff games and three in the regular season. So not only was last night bad, it was four turnovers worse than his previous career high.

I watched all 11 of those turnovers again and wrote down what happened:

  • Kawhi steal
  • caught in the paint, kick out pass stolen by Kawhi
  • cross-court pass stolen by Pascal Siakam
  • bad pass to Amir Johnson stolen by Serge Ibaka
  • bounce pass lost by Johnson (honestly this should have been charged to Amir, just looked like a clumsy play on a routine pass)
  • offensive foul – elbow on Kyle Lowry
  • bad pass under the rim for Dario
  • offensive foul – charge
  • traveling in transition
  • lost ball driving to rim
  • loose dribble stolen by Kawhi

It was a variety of different things – some live ball turnovers, a couple of offensive fouls, forcing a few passes, and also being a little bit too aggressive.

You also have to give a ton of credit to the Raptors for their defensive effort, as they did a lot of things that Boston did to Simmons in the playoffs last year.

This was one of them:

That’s the sweet spot for defending Ben in transition. Teams will sit two defenders right on the top of the foul line and force him to kick it out to the wing a little earlier than he’d like. In this case, Simmons travels while dishing it out to Robert Covington.

This was another excellent play here, with Toronto sniffing out the scheme and defending appropriately:

This is the Sixers’ “horns flare” that I showed you yesterday.

They use JJ Redick to screen Kawhi Leonard, but he’s really just sort of brushing off of him to curl around Embiid and set himself up for a three pointer. Simmons has the option of driving off the first screen, but Leonard does a nice job to stay with him while Danny Green follows Redick through. Simmons gets caught at the foul line, goes behind the back, and loses the ball.

There certainly was no lack of aggression from Ben last night, and that’s usually when he plays his best, but a lot of what ails him could be solved if he had that elbow jumper in his arsenal. If teams are going to meet you at the foul line as their generic defensive pick-up point, then they’re going to give you this until you show you can knock it down:

That’s a good shot. He’s going to be able to rise over pretty much anybody at the elbow.

He took one of those last night. The second longest effort was a turnaround jump hook and everything else took place right around the rim. The lack of shooting is killing Ben, but it wouldn’t be half as big of a deal if the Sixers were getting more from this guy:

Markelle Fultz

Eight points on 3-10 shooting. He really was not effective out there.

The best part about Markelle’s game was that he came out and took two corner threes in the game’s first three minutes. No, they didn’t go in, but showing the initiative to take those felt like a big step forward in the assertiveness department.

It’s pretty clear that the last year’s starting unit is out-performing this year’s starting unit. All you have to do is watch the beginning of the third quarter to see that, but here’s how the per 36 numbers look when Redick is out there vs. Fultz:

Pretty rough.


Another bad game.

His slow start is just killing the team right now.

This time last season, he was snapping out of the funk with consecutive double-digit scoring games in the Houston and Dallas road swing. This year he’s going to finish October shooting just 34.9% and 23.4% from three. Dario is 11 for 47 from behind the arc this year, which is the worst three-point number on the team.

Other notes:

  • Joel Embiid had another excellent night – 31 points and 11 rebounds, 11-21 shooting and 6-7 from the foul line. He turned the ball over only twice and contributed 4 assists. He was 3-4 from deep, which was easily his best three-point shooting night of the season. He’s been monstrous this year and he needs help.
  • Robert Covington quietly had a 50% three-point shooting night (4-8)
  • It was kind of funky seeing that NBC Sports Philadelphia promo about how fun the Sixers are, right in the middle of an ass kicking.
  • There was another lane violation on a jerky Ben Simmons free throw. I think that’s four so far this season.
  • 12 and 5 for Mike Muscala last night, who is starting to come along after the ankle injury. His per-36 numbers are outpacing Ersan Ilyasova right now, but not Nemanja Bjelica, and that’s going to be the benchmark this year, whether it’s fair or not, since Muscala really was a second option after Bjelica reneged on his verbal agreement with the Sixers.

Here’s how all three are doing so far: