That was hard to watch. An excruciating viewing experience.

The Sixers looked atrocious for 2.5 quarters on Wednesday night, then clawed all the way back to tie the game late in the fourth, only to lose anyway. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

It was a game they should have won. Miami came to town minus Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, who just so happen to be their top three scorers. Seriously. Between the three of them, it’s more than 61 PPG absent from the lineup. Philly ran out a starting five of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Seth Curry, and Tyrese Maxey and still couldn’t get the job done, while Gabe Vincent transformed into Ray Allen in a 26-point effort. Duncan Robinson looked like prime Detlef Schrempf at times and Miami even got contributions off the bench from Max Strus and some guy named Omer Yurtseven.

Here’s the final shot:

Blah. You go quick there if you think Miami is gonna foul, but regardless, Doc seems to want to close through Embiid and it’s rough to see Curry standing there in the corner as a bystander. Same with Harris, who hit a big three in the fourth quarter. Sometimes you gotta find the hot hand and scheme to that guy.

Some thoughts, in no real order:

  1. Miami sat in zone for a large portion of this game. The Sixers did jack shit against the zone until Maxey started getting downhill and attacking. Too often, they were content to swing the ball around the perimeter and jack up shots…
  2. …and even then, Seth Curry wasn’t involved. There was a point in the third quarter when he had mustered a grand total of three shots, and only finished with seven. He should be getting up 10 shots per game, regardless of whether the opponent is sitting back in zone.
  3. Joel Embiid wasn’t good enough. Just 5-13 on the evening and he shot 20% on five three point attempts. Maybe the ribs were bothering him, and that kept him from going inside, which they really could have used to establish a pivot against the zone and play inside/out.
  4. The shots Embiid took at the end of the game were no bueno. A step back three? A tough turnaround in the paint? That late heave, down three, coming off the SLOB? They want to close through a center and that’s tough sledding in the modern day NBA.
  5. Doc Rivers didn’t want to challenge the Harris offensive foul at the end. No surprise there. He values timeouts more than challenges.
  6. Harris was better in this game (9-18, 24 points), but still has some wonky moments at the rim and he settled for that wonky floater again. I’m not sure where that’s coming from.
  7. Tobias is blocked at the rim at least once per game. It is the same constant as Derek Barnett and his one dumbass penalty per Sunday.
  8. Downhill Maxey is fantastic. If they can blend that assertiveness with enough Embiid and Harris touches, then you can win plenty of games until this fucking Ben Simmons trade finally happens.
  9. Miami turned the ball over 16 times and went on a FG drought of close to five minutes in the fourth quarter. They still won.
  10. Erik Spoelstra is a phenomenal coach.
  11. Sixers rebounding is an adventure every night. They made Dewayne Dedmon look like a mix between Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman out there on more than one occasion.
  12. Tik Tok influencers rang the bell. Hopefully this never happens again. The Sixers need to refer to my list of 100 people that deserve to ring the bell. 
  13. No clue what Doc was talking about before the game RE: playing Embiid and Andre Drummond together. In no world would that ever make sense. I gotta go back and listen to it again to get the full context.
  14. What the hell was up with that play where Yurtseven bullied Drummond? What in the world.

Some quotes for your reading displeasure, first Doc Rivers on how to play against the zone:

“Ball movement and attacks. Like we’ve been very good against zone, and we prepared for it and then tonight like the ball just stayed on the outside. You got to get into the paint, it is no different in the second half when they ran zone and all of a sudden we got everything we wanted, you know. It was just disappointing so that was it. We got every shot we wanted in the second half running the same stuff. We didn’t change the offense, we ran the same stuff. The difference was we didn’t settle, we didn’t hold the ball and we went downhill, and in the first half, I didn’t know what that was, we didn’t do it. And then you also have to post Joel Embiid more and I thought early on we were doing that and then we got away from it.”

Tyrese Maxey on attacking the zone:

“We just had to figure it out and they have a tricky zone, it’s not a traditional two-three it’s a little match-up and they’re just flying around so we’re trying to post the ball a little bit and Coach Doc came in at halftime and kinda in the second quarter and was just saying just drop the zone if you can get into the gap, get into the gap but then spread out for threes and then we can kick out one more from there.”

And Erik Spoelstra, also on playing zone:

“It just depends on what’s needed at the time. You know, we do play a zone, we don’t play it every game, we don’t play it every situation. If it lifts up in the first half we probably wouldn’t have played it as much, but we knew coming into this to not necessarily foul and get put in the bonus and play in retreat mode. But that may be something we have to go through a little bit tactically; we ended up having some success. We wanted to do it a little bit more. Fortunately, we were able to get some stops.”

This isn’t difficult stuff to figure out. You attack the gaps in the zone, try to collapse while playing inside/out. Set some angled ball screens for Tyrese Maxey, and swing the ball faster than they swung it last night. To their credit, they figured it out, but it took too long to get there and so you end up with a bad loss after playing just 1.5 quarters of decent basketball.