A Truly Pitiful Performance – Observations from Raptors 125, Sixers 89

Joel Embiid in game 5
Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

You knew it was bad when Shaquille O’Neal told Joel Embiid to “man up” at halftime, when the Sixers were down by 21 points and struggling to do anything remotely positive. After a promising 10-2 run cut the lead to 13, Brett Brown’s team fell apart entirely en route to a 36-point loss, which is the second-worst playoff defeat in franchise history, if we’re going by point totals. You’d have to time travel way back to 1982 to find a 40-point loss to the Celtics in a series that the Sixers ultimately won in seven games.

Does this team have the same guts, the same heart as that squad? I don’t know. A sick Joel Embiid turned the ball over eight times. Ben Simmons had as many turnovers (5) as field goal attempts. JJ Redick went 1-6 from the floor. Tobias Harris had a better shooting night but found himself in early foul trouble. Jimmy Butler got to the foul line but only shot 37.5% from the floor and started playing isolation and pick and roll ball in the second quarter, which results in 3 to 4 out of rhythm teammates just standing around and watching. James Ennis and Greg Monroe had bad games. Mike Scott shot the ball well.

That’s pretty much the summary right there, just a wretched all-around performance. Take your pick of synonyms from the Thesaurus. Miserable is a good word. Lamentable. Woeful. Pathetic. Feeble. They all fit the bill.

And this took place just 48 hours after a game four in which the Sixers were a few good offensive possessions from going up 3-1 in this series. Now we’re right back to square one, with the same Twitter arguments about Embiid’s playoff disappearing act, Simmons’ lack of a jump shot, and Brett Brown’s future.

Said the head coach after the game:

I think the start of the game I was surprised that it was only a one-point game given the turnovers and some foul trouble that we were in. The second period is where it got away from us. I give Toronto credit, we didn’t have the answers for a few of their players and it snowballed. We came out at the start of the third period, we cut it to 13, and sort of a rogue turnover, a phantom swipe in transition, and it’s punishing. When you go back and look at the game, if you just go straight to transition defense and turnovers, which we’ve spoken about quite a bit, it was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. we look forward to going back to Philadelphia. We give Toronto credit tonight.

I guess that’s all you really can say.

I saw a statistic on ESPN this morning, that 19 teams have lost game five in a 2-2 series by more than 25 points. All 19 of those teams went on to lose the series.

Can the Sixers be the first team to buck that trend? We’re gonna see what this team is made of on Thursday night. There’s a lot on the line.

Ghastly numbers

Take a look at these butt-ugly stats:

  • 19 turnovers leading to 31 Toronto points
  • Philly 8 second chance points, Toronto 18
  • Philly 8 fast break points, Toronto 33
  • Philly 32 points in the paint, Toronto 38
  • -4 rebounding margin
  • 25% from three (6-24)
  • only 79 total field goal attempts
  • 17-20 from the foul line (85%, one of the only good things they did last night)
  • 26 personal fouls
  • Joel Embiid with a 40% turnover ratio
  • 19 assists on 33 made shots
  • 17-49 shooting on uncontested field goals (34.7%)
  • they only contested 18 Toronto shots
  • Toronto took 64 uncontested shots (ridiculous number)
  • Marc Gasol had a 4-5 shooting night against Embiid, including 3-4 from downtown

So on, and so forth.

Brett Brown said postgame that the Sixers’ spirit “went away a little bit quicker” than he’d wished.

He also defended Embiid, who was ripped to shreds by national media, local media, and a large portion of the Philly fan base:

You know, he was trying to do whatever he could to represent his organization and play basketball for the Philadelphia 76ers. I’m kind of disappointed, like he gets shipped around, to me, too much. He’s trying to play for us. He’s trying to get out of bed with a significant temperature and come represent the organization. I think it’s grossly unfair, some of the criticism that he gets, I don’t understand that. And so it’s not ideal, you wished he were at shootaround, you wished he were in film sessions but he had a temperature for the last few days that’s kept him in bed. So take whatever you want out of that answer and end it with: it’s not ideal. I wished he was at practice and wished he was in film sessions but he’s sick.

Unfortunately there’s a fine line when it comes to playing through illness. One half of the fan base says “yeah! man up! show us some guts!” And then the other half will say, “well, if he’s not healthy, sit him, he’s a detriment.” Whatever decision the Sixers decide to make, they’re gonna piss off somebody. It’s tough. It’s a lose/lose situation for Embiid, Brown, and the entire franchise, but the bottom line is that Embiid continually suffers from health issues at inopportune times. It has defined his entire tenure in this city.

With a healthy Joel Embiid, the Sixers are up 3-2 at this point or may have already closed out the series at 4-1. I really do believe that. You watched the same game three that I did.

The bad

Take your pick of ridiculous game five sequences, but this one resulted in a Brett timeout and made me put my hands over my face:

Hmm.. so it’s a Danny Green three. Big deal?

Well this was after a MADE Sixers basket and they just failed to get back. They failed to get back. Toronto simply just threw the ball in and pushed up the court and they got JJ Redick cross-matched onto Pascal Siakam.

It’s just ridiculous basketball. I wish I had the full clip, but I can give you the bucket the Sixers hit leading into this sequence:

That’s an illegal inbound by Gasol. Of course the refs were snoozing last night and didn’t see it.

But look at how Toronto is pushing four guys up the floor immediately after the make. The Sixers couldn’t even get back and get their defense set on that play, and after cutting the lead to 13, it went right back up to 16.

Nick Nurse on transition:

It’s like our number one priority on offense. We talk about we need to play with pace. You guys are there watching, it’s not only in the full court, when we’re coming off rebounds and makes and we’re transitioning from defense to offense, it’s pace in the halfcourt, right? Our possessions are good when we’re cutting fast and moving and making a quick decision and getting to the next play instead of, you know when it looks bad, the ball stops, the same guy’s dribbling it in the same spot, the four guys are in the same spot. We try to eliminate some of those possessions or do them as little as possible.

Yep. Toronto got downhill while the Sixers looked like the guy from Greek mythology who keeps pushing the boulder up the hill and then it rolls back to the bottom. Sisyphus his name is. I had to Google it.

Philly has been really disappointing both attacking in transition and defending in transition. The former you can’t do much about if Toronto is getting guys back, but the latter is indefensible if you’re getting shredded off of made field goals.

The ugly

Here’s Joel Embiid getting double teamed and deciding to drive right into it:


Two possessions later, he was again doubled and threw the ball into the 5th row.

The good?

One problem with Ben Simmons, among other problems, is that he needs to help floor general and direct the offense to pull his team out of prolonged slumps. And that extends to Brett Brown as well, who needs to help his 22-year-old point guard from the bench.

Last night you saw Jimmy Butler recognize the offensive struggles early on, and that resulted in some 1v1 isolation and some pick and roll, stuff that is certainly effective for him and the Sixers, but stuff that doesn’t necessarily help you erase a 20-point deficit and bring struggling players back into an offensive rhythm.

I think Brett just has to reel this team in, call some very basic bullshit, and/or just run the base motion offense and try to get the passing and movement game going. That’s when the Sixers are at their best, when they’re sharing the ball and moving without it.

Case in point, simple stuff like this makes sense:

Trailing big man, staggered DHO, play the second side when the defender collapses on Redick.

That’s the Sixers base offense right there. That’s A to B offense at its core. This same exact thing got Mike Scott a wide open three last night and it’s a very simple look they’ve been able to get 1,000 times before. Literally four of your five players are involved in a sequence that takes four seconds to execute.

That is Philadelphia 76er basketball.

This is also Sixer basketball:

Redick DHO, Embiid two-man game gets him a roll against the smaller Kawhi Leonard.

Joel has looked so much better when he’s rolling and moving in this series. It’s the static post ups and digs and doubles that are killing him, because he’s overthinking possessions instead of just feeling his way through the game.

Other notes:

  • Too much ticky-tack bullshit in the first quarter. The Harris “foul” on Lowry was not even close to being a foul, since Lowry just threw his body into Harris and forced the contact. And the first foul on Tobias was a clean strip on Kawhi. 
  • Lowry’s shit is annoying, but he is a crafty and savvy veteran and he knows what he’s doing. He had 14 points in game four and 19 last night. The rest of the Toronto starters are beginning to contribute. It’s not just Kawhi iso and pick and roll ball anymore.
  • There wasn’t much to write about from a rotational sense, since Ibaka was in and out of the game with stitches, then it became a blowout. But Nick Nurse did again go big with Ibaka and Gasol, and his rotation was once again that glorified six-man routine. Philly brought Mike Scott in earlier than imagined, probably due to Harris picking up those early fouls. Brett has been leaving three starters in around the midway point of the first quarter, but last night be brought Tobias out as well.
  • Siakam shot 7-19 and played 34 minutes. The calf looked fine to me.
  • I didn’t really write down any other notes. I was arguing with Phil and Kyle in Slack while bottle feeding the baby.
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28 Responses

  1. Another school shooting in CO. When can the republicans realize that there is no way a 17 year old boy should be able to buy a gun?

    1. its much better to let the snowflakes obtain guns, storm a baseball field in D.C.
      and gun down congressman.
      You’re argument is weak.

      1. We need gun safety laws. Period. There is no animal that you need to hunt with and AR15. There will be nothing left to eat. You would destroy all the meat with those huge bullets. We need background checks, we need to ban automatic weapons, and we need to ban AR15s.

        1. I don’t like guns. but, this shooting yesterday was with a handgun, not an automatic weapon or AR-15. So, I don’t see how banning those would have helped.

          The toothpaste is out of the tube.

          1. Simmons wants it. He is 22, and someday he probably will be 23. 2 missed layups and 2 questionable fouls early on, and he was on fire, never moving slower than a fast jog the rest of the night. He was fleet-footed on every loose ball, and still always boxes out. Long rebounds should are his, and he never just stands and stares. Nobody old ever wins in the NBA, because they are old.
            No matter what they say or how talented they are, the experience is there. Look at that tall glass of water Lowry…does he ever jog, or walk, or get caught flat footed, you bet. Because he is 32 and wants breakfast. He needs it. He also has barely worked to get here. So did Leonard, and Butler, and KD, and Duncan, and Kobe, and Lebron, and MJ, and so on. Joel and Ben will be better than them all.

            This is why the sixers are fine. Brand went all in because he’s a genius.

        2. AR-15’s use a .223 caliber bullet… the hole they make is tiny. Shotgun with slugs is far more devastating. I don’t even know why I’m responding to you Gene because I know you’re trolling the liberal left.

        3. we do have gun laws. Here is what we know about the Denver metro shooting so far:

          2 handguns not rifles were used in the event.

          One of the shooters is a young female.

          Both shooters are underage and were not legally able to purchase a firearm.

          Red flag laws would NOT have prevented this.

        4. We have background checks fool. Have you ever tried purchasing a gun at a dealer or a gun show, you always go through a background check. Also, do you know how hard it is to buy an automatic weapon? Do you even know what an automatic weapon is? AR15’s and all of those other guns that you are scared of are semi-automatic weapons. You pull the trigger once, and one bullet comes out. You hold down the trigger for 5 minutes, and one bullet comes out. Please attempt to educate yourself before spitting out talking point lies. Also, Hussein had a democrat super majority in congress from ’09-’11–How many gun control laws did they pass?

    2. 17 year old kids cant carry handguns in CO. You have to be 21 years or older to carry on a recognized permit or license in the state. The left proves time and time again to not know anything about anything.

    3. Gun Nut–you know you can buy hand guns now that have extended magazines that hold 30-40 rounds? You know that there are shotguns that hold 25 rounds? Of course you don’t. So I guess we should ban handguns and shotguns too?

  2. I was pretty close. 122-98 raptors
    This series is done.
    Then you can start the blame game and fire the coach and usual bullsh*t critique.

    Anyone who couldn’t tell that the sixers have given up needs help.
    Soft coaches, prima donna coddled lackadaisical players with a sh*tty attitude.
    Who couldn’t see that?

  3. for a team NOT talented enough , NOT willing to make the sacrifices necessary, NOT fully committed, therefore NOT ready to win.

  4. Simmons doesn’t want it. He is 22, and someday he probably will. 2 missed layups and 2 questionable fouls early on, and he checked out, never moving faster than a slow jog the rest of the night. He was flat-footed on every loose ball, and still doesn’t box out. Long rebounds should be his, but he just stands and stares. Nobody young ever wins in the NBA, because they don’t learn what it takes.
    No matter what they say or how talented they are, the experience isn’t there. Look at that asshole Lowry…does he ever jog, or walk, or get caught flat footed? No, because he is 32 and wants it. He needs it. He also has worked his ass off to get here. So did Leonard, and Butler, and KD, and Duncan, and Kobe, and Lebron, and MJ, and so on. Joel and Ben won’t realize that until it’s too late.

    This is why the sixers are screwed. Brand went all in because Joel only has a few years before he can’t stand upright. But he and Simmons won’t understand how to win until that point. What do you do?

  5. CB comments mirroring dumbass Philly sports radio. Embiid is sick as a dog and that’s why we’re losing. It has nothing to do with “not having heart” or “being soft” you neanderthals.

  6. Whats with the gun threads? Isn’t this a comment thread for sports(especially this article)?
    Anyways, I think the odds are definitely not good but i certainly hope they show-up Thursday and put up a good fight one way or another.

  7. yeah that’s right, I’m sick as dog…& when I’m not sick its my knee that is bothering me & when I’m not sick & my knee feels ok, it’s my conditioning that prevents me from playing to my full potential because my hurt knee prevented me from working out. So thanks Hexy for making excuses, I mean, having my back.

  8. Kev, how is it going through customs so many times in this series? You travel with the team since you are a credentialed reporter right?

  9. I wonder if the Sixers will actually force Ben Simmons to practice his jump shot over the summer. He’s going to be awful against any defensively sound team until he’s at least a threat to pull up from 15+ feet. There has been no development from last year. Jared Dudley’s comment about him being average in the half court is looking like a compliment now. Maybe we’ll get aggressive Ben Simmons again in Game 6? Kevin, another sidebar about that perhaps? Idk if Ben is listening to you brah.

  10. so disappointing…it looked like 5 different guys doing 5 different things….I’ve backed them before, but this really makes it difficult…I do think that they will pull it together and win tomorrow night…if so, not sure how they will be able to win a game 7, but I’m still hoping it happens!

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