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The Sixers scored 15 fourth quarter points last night.
Orlando scored 32, so Philly went -17 in the final period of a game in which they played okay otherwise, even leading by a couple of points at the end of the third quarter. The defense and the effort were certainly good enough through the first three-fourths of the game, then they started laying bricks and watched the Magic go on a big run and leave them in the dust.
If you go back four games now, the Sixers have been outscored 111 to 70 in the fourth quarter, which is abysmal. That -41 differential is deeper and darker than the Mariana Trench. Only in the Charlotte game did they actually win the fourth, losing the other periods to the Cavaliers and Nuggets by margins of 19 to 16 and 35 to 13.
Maybe you put an asterisk on that statistic and point out that the Denver game was played at altitude at the end of a long road trip. You could note that the Sixers emptied their bench against Charlotte. They didn’t have Joel Embiid last night and blah blah, but this roster should be strong enough to beat Orlando on the road with a rested Al Horford, plus Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and a decent bench.
What’s particularly concerning is that this an area where Brett Brown’s squad was actually very good to begin the year. They were wearing teams down, winning the third and fourth quarters, and emerging victorious in these wars of attrition through the 5-0 start. Now they can’t throw the ball in the ocean from the Carousel Beach Bar in Sea Isle City.
Sixer starters combined to shoot 29 for 68 from the field and 5 for 21 from three in this loss. That equates to 42.6% and 23.8%, respectively, which ain’t gonna get the job done. They also shot a measly 13 free throws, which is unfathomable for a team with this much size and ability inside the paint.
As of Thursday morning, your town, your team, your 76ers are 9th in the NBA in field goal percentage, 22nd in three-point shooting, and 22nd in free throw shooting.
Why the offensive struggles?
So what’s the deal? Why can’t the Sixers do diddly poo in these fourth quarters? Are they taking bad shots? Are they out of sync?
Here’s a Youtube clip showing every single shot they took in Wednesday night’s final period. Let’s a take a look and see what we can find out:
They went 1-7 from three in that period, and every shot except for one looked to be relatively clean to me. Two bad misses from Tobias Harris and Al Horford added a clank of his own. Josh Richardson again tried that tough, turnaround 12-foot jumper and James Ennis airballed a layup after a good offensive rebound.
So I don’t think they were getting bad looks last night, they were just missing their shots. According to NBA Stats, the Sixers took 88 total shots and 50 were considered uncontested. On those uncontested field goals, they went just 22-50, which is 44%. They actually shot better, 44.7%, on the 38 contested shots they attempted (most of which come around the rim, for context).
On uncontested field goals, Sixers starters went:
- Furkan Korkmaz: 3-7
- Tobias Harris: 1-5
- Al Horford: 2-12
- Josh Richardson: 5-7
- Ben Simmons: 5-6
Those are brutal lines from Harris and Horford.
Harris is actually 0-18 from three over his last five games, last hitting 10 days ago in Phoenix. Here, see for yourself:
On the season Tobias is now 20.4% from three point range while shooting 4.5 threes per game. Brett Brown told us Tuesday night that Harris was sick, and if so, let’s hope he starts feeling better and starts justifying his max contract.
As for Horford, a 5-18 night is disappointing considering that he rested on Tuesday. He had a difficult task against a fairly large Magic team, a club with good bigs, but even when Horford came outside of the paint he wasn’t hitting, putting up a shot chart that looked like this:
0-5 from mid range, 2-8 from three. The Sixers don’t have enough firepower elsewhere to overcome bad shooting nights from Harris and Horford while Embiid is out of the lineup.
December promise you gave unto me
Brett Brown has drawn up some nice late game plays this season. You have the high-low look for Embiid in Atlanta. There was the Korkmaz game-winner in Portland. Cleveland on Tuesday night featured a beautiful seal and slip for a dunk. The Denver game you could also point out that the Sixers got hosed on the Jokic lob, when Joel was whistled for the foul.
There’s proof out there that Brett can impact a game from the bench, but I just wish he’d do more of it. He prefers to be hands off and let “organic basketball” develop on the floor, but this is an offensively challenged team that needs a lot of work on that end of the floor and requires him to get in there and be more involved instead of watching big runs take place from the bench.
Brett dropped this quote post game, which was shared by Rich Hofmann over at The Athletic:
“In my head and in my heart, I think it’s going to take until past Christmas to find a rhythm beat to what we’re doing,” Brown said. “I look forward to having a consistent rotation with Joel in the mix. … In the meantime, I give Orlando credit. I thought they did a great job defensively and we did not respond on a back-to-back.”
Christmas?! That is a long way away. They will play 22 games before Christmas, and if you add up the 11 games they’ve already played, then 33 games comprises 40% of the season. Brown is telling us that it will take 40% of the season for this team to find an offensive rhythm.
And look, it’s always a work in progress. We knew this coming into the season. Training camp is a joke (not even two weeks long), you’ve got only a handful of preseason games, and the lineup is staggered due to load management, injuries, and other issues. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that quote from Brett, but identifying Christmas as a time for when something might improve should feel rather deflating for Sixers fans, who expected this team to win now (and justifiably so).
- Markelle Fultz still can’t shoot. He was 2-6 from the floor and the jump shot does not look right.
- Ennis had a nice game off the bench with 10 points on 4-6 shooting. And he always gets that one offensive rebound he has no business getting.
- Orlando came into last night’s game as the second worst shooting team in the NBA (41.9%). They didn’t light the world on fire, but were getting some junk to fall en route to a 44.2% night from the field.
- Matisse Thybulle again had a brief role off the bench, just ten minutes for him.
- Taking the over on 10.5 Nik Vucevic rebounds was the easiest money I’ve ever made.
- Play had to be stopped last night because the basketball was covered with red wine. We’ve all been there before.
- Orlando won in transition points last night, 20-14. With Ben Simmons on the floor, and the way this team is built, Philly should never lose that category.
- Simmons and Harris combined to shoot 0-0 from the foul line.
- 19 Magic points off 15 Sixer turnovers.
- Korkmaz had a bad shooting night, but he was problem #6 or #7 last night.
- I hope you have a fantastic day.