The Sixers didn’t do much defending last night, couldn’t hit a three pointer, and finished -14 in shot differential due to a combination of turnover and rebounding issues. They also gave a half-assed effort while playing without All-Star Ben Simmons, which resulted in T.J. McConnell logging 29 minutes. Then Brett Brown’s team compounded all of that by embarking on an 11-minute field goal drought that took them well into the fourth quarter.
So yeah, putrid performance last night, a second-straight loss after ripping off six-straight wins over the prior 11 days and building up so much goodwill in the process.
You expect these crap losses every so often, and Atlanta was a crap loss Saturday night, a buzzer-beater paired with some poor offensive possessions coming down the home stretch. I think you look at that one and can understand the motivational let down after a big win against Boston last week, but what’s the excuse for Monday night? The Sixers were on auto-pilot and got boat raced by a team fighting for their playoff lives. They looked uninterested, which is concerning when you consider that this squad still has to play five more road games this season against middling teams like the one they just played last night.
Whose job is it to motivate the players? Is it Brett Brown’s job? Is it the players’ job?
I think it’s 15% of the former and 85% of the latter. For players, you’re either a competitor or you aren’t. You either have that killer instinct in your DNA, or you don’t. Sure, the coaching staff has to do the motivational speaking and the psychotherapy and massage 15 different personalities while keeping the cogs greased and working properly, but at the end of the day it’s on Joel Embiid to stop dribbling behind his back at the three point line. It’s on Jimmy Butler to take open shots in quarters one through three. It’s on JJ Redick to figure out these ice cold shooting nights and it’s on the entire team to exert some kind of increased effort on the defensive end, because you need to go into the playoffs with momentum instead of sleepwalking into a first round matchup against the Nets or Pistons.
And yeah, I know this team is just looking ahead to the playoffs, and I don’t see them sliding out of the three seed at all. I see a zero percent chance of that happening. I see the Sixers two games up on Indy, a team that has lost four of five and still has to play Boston twice while going to OKC next. The Celtics are stumbling to the finish line as well, so they’re pretty much cooked. I wouldn’t be too concerned about seeding.
But the Sixers should wrap this up now and create some distance. Stop pissing around in Atlanta and Orlando, exert yourselves and stop playing down to your competition. You proved that you’re capable of beating Milwaukee, Golden State, and Boston, so now it’s time to go out and do what good teams do, which is beat lesser teams on nights when you’re buried on local television and not in the national spotlight. This team needs to learn how to take care of business and rack up “professional wins.”
Brooklyn is up next on Thursday. You want to avoid a first round playoff matchup against their good guards? Beat them now and boot them out of the 7th seed, create some distance and help solidify the Pistons, who are a better playoff matchup, as the 6th seed.
The Nets have a brutal schedule to finish it out:
It’s on the Sixers to go out and trash this team on Thursday, just go out there and layeth the smacketh down on these roody poo, candy asses. Then Brooklyn is feeling pretty nervy about their playoff hopes as they prepare for five straight games against top-five playoff squads.
So whatever, terrible loss last night, terrible loss Saturday night. The Sixers can rectify this by winning at home on Thursday, helping themselves avoid a difficult first-round playoff matchup, and putting further distance between themselves and Indiana. Then you go to Minnesota Saturday night, prove you can trounce an inferior opponent, and get yourself back on track to land Brett Brown’s playoff plane.
Observations from last night:
- T.J. McConnell just can’t be asked to play 29 NBA minutes. He’s fine in spurts, but he has games like this where his liabilities just seem to be amplified tenfold.
- 15 turnovers was bad, but it was actually below their season average. The problem was that the Sixers also couldn’t rebound, which is why Orlando wound up +14 on total shot attempts.
- The Sixers only scored 4 fast break points last night, which is double-digits worse than their season average. That’s the “we don’t have Ben Simmons” effect
- Orlando turned those 15 turnovers into 23 points. The Sixers typically only allow 17.4 points on 15.3 turnovers per game, so in addition to coughing the ball up, they failed to recover like they normally do.
- Embiid was 3-6 from the free throw line last night. He was 11-14 in Atlanta and 20-21 against Boston.
- Orlando shot 51.7% from the field, which was their 7th-best shooting performance of the season.
- The Magic turned the ball over a season-low seven times.
- You still see moments where Boban just gets stretched and abused defensively. It’s a shame, because he’s so fun to watch on the offensive end and I’m really intrigued by his passing and vision. He’s just too much of a liability for a deep playoff run. I think he can give you some good first round playoff minutes against a team like Detroit, but he’s not playable against Boston, Toronto, or Milwaukee. You’re gonna see Mike Scott small ball in the second round.
- The only silver lining last night was seeing Shake Milton and Zhaire Smith out there. Think about everything Zhaire has been through last year, then think about having these guys on the bench for a full season next year. Those two are going to be really helpful additions moving forward, and considering how slim the Sixers’ bench remains this season, I’m not totally convinced that they don’t have small roles to play in 2019.
All of that said, I’ll let Charles Barkley have the final say on the Sixers’ performance: