They started strong before hitting a wall. Milwaukee used a 49-point second quarter to take the lead and never really looked back, did they? I didn’t think the Sixers were that close to pulling level as the Bucks kept them at arm’s length for much of the second half.

It was a second quarter in which the Bucks shot 9 for 14 from three. Almost everything was going down. Brook Lopez, a 34% career three-point shooter, went 4-4 from behind the arc in that period and looked like the second coming of Ray Allen.

You’d think Milwaukee shot the lights out all game long, but that really wasn’t the case. They were 13-43 from deep (30.2%) and only shot 41% on the night. But they went 28-30 from the foul line, turned the ball over four fewer times, blocked twice as many shots, and grabbed more offensive rebounds. When you do those things, you get more possessions and you wear out a team coming off a stressful overtime loss just 24 hours prior.

Ben Simmons

Nice to see another triple-double. I guess his lower back was fine last night.

Thing with Ben is that foul shooting is still killing him. He was 2-6 from the line last night and he only shot 6 for 15 overall, which is 40%, down 14.5% from last year’s season average.

Ben is still shooting the vast majority of his shots right at the rim. He took 14 of 15 inside the paint on Wednesday night and missed a shortie from the baseline. It’s fascinating to watch, because most of the time he’s able to drive right into two players and get the finish, but you’re still seeing a lot of plays like this from him:

Most guys are just pulling up from 10 feet or trying a runner there, maybe a one-handed floater. Ben is going to drive right into the pile.

The crazy thing is that he’s obviously skilled enough to pull that off, but the optics of going head first into Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez in a 1v2 are always going to be a little bit goofy.

His ability to drive is why he continues to draw a ton of attention in transition and also in the half court, when teams try to put a couple of bodies at the foul line and block him off.

On this play here, there are literally four Bucks standing in front of him to seal off the slot:

I mean, look at this.

I’ve never seen anything like this:

An interesting case study, Simmons is. He doesn’t necessarily have to improve his shooting right now, because there should be enough off-ball shooting from Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Markelle Fultz, but right now they aren’t getting that from the rest of the starting unit. It looks like a lot of the same from last season.

Markelle Fultz

Ho-hum, another sort of “whatever” game for him.

He scored five points on 2-6 shooting, the first a nice DHO into an elbow jumper and the second a good looking three-pointer in the second half.

Need more of that. Six shots isn’t enough. It was the fewest number of tries he’s had through five games:

And that’s in 27 minutes of play, so he put up one shot every 4.5 minutes last night, which isn’t gonna do it. Markelle took more shots against Boston and Detroit while playing fewer total minutes.

He also is not getting to the foul line. He hasn’t even taken a free throw since the Chicago game and he’s attempted only four FTs this entire season.

Markelle HAS to be more assertive. He has to get downhill, attack the basket, and show some urgency. He’s not finding the game when he’s playing off the ball as a shooting guard. If he can’t find the game playing alongside Simmons and Embiid, the only real option is to put JJ Redick back into the starting lineup and let Markelle run point for the second unit.

Dario Saric

Wrote about this Monday, but his slow starts are killing the team.

He actually scored a season-high 15 points last night and shot 54.5% from the floor, but he only hit two of six three pointers and that’s where they need his contributions more than anything, because they aren’t getting enough three-point shooting from Simmons and Fultz, while Covington is generally a streaky shooter (Cov was 1-5 from three last night).

Dario is shooting 26.5% from three through five games this season. It was similar last year, when he began the season on the bench before Markelle’s “injury” took him out of the lineup. Saric started to warm up about 6-7 games into the year, which resulted in him getting his averages up to 17 and 8 on 39% three point shooting by the time December rolled around.

Joel Embiid

Can you have a bad game and still put up 30 and 19 with only two turnovers?

He only shot 9 for 24 last night while hitting 10 of 13 at the foul line. Percentage-wise, it was his worst shooting night and second-worst free-throw shooting night of the season.

The good thing is that he played 39 minutes Tuesday and 36 minutes Wednesday, which was unheard of last year. This time last season, he was still on a minutes restriction and not even allowed to play back-to-backs, so I guess that’s the glass-half-full takeaway from an otherwise forgettable game.

The defense

110.2 is the Sixers’ defensive rating through five games. That’s good for 18th in the NBA, just behind stalwart defensive teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets.

They finished third last year with a 103.8 number and that was the biggest reason for their success. I know it’s still October and no one really gives a shit about defense, but they aren’t good enough to trade buckets with other teams and win a shootout. They aren’t built for that.

Brook Lopez

Other notes:

  • I was a big fan of Landry Shamet’s one-hand buzzer-beating three point heave. Unfortunately that was the only shot he made. He’s 29.2% from the floor this season.
  • I think I’ve only ever seen one person go for Embiid’s three-point line pump fake, and that was Zaza Pachulia on Tuesday night.
  • The turnover before halftime, where Embiid and Covington bumped into each other lost the ball out of bounds, was ridiculous and costly.
  • Defensively you had a couple of moments with Shamet and Furkan Korkmaz getting switched onto tough assignments. In one instance, Shamet was trying to deal with Giannis, which can’t happen. Wilson Chandler can really help with this when he’s healthy. Zhaire Smith, too.
  • Lopez got an assist off a jump ball when he tapped the ball to Giannis under the rim. Not sure I’ve ever seen that before.
  • I believe we had something like three lane violations last night, which was likely due to the hitch in Simmons’ motion:

Happy Thursday.