The Sixers gave up 133 at home to Oklahoma City on Thursday night, dropping a game they should have won before embarking on a five-game, west coast road swing.
“We were tied at the end of the first quarter,” said Doc Rivers after the game. “We were bad defensively. That had nothing to do with the five that started the game. That had to do with everybody on the floor. We got beat. Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) beat our best defenders tonight over and over again. Got rejected. We lost coverages. We told them. We tried to tell them: (OKC) plays hard and they move the ball. This is not the team you just play. This team has players. Not just Shai or (Josh) Giddey, but all of them. If you’re not prepared to play this team, you’ll lose to them. And I didn’t think we were ready tonight.”
That’s all true. SGA is a stud, a guy who could play for any team and score for any team. Josh Giddey is good. They’re a squad going through a Sixers-esque process but beginning to come out on the other end, already with 19 wins this season despite pulling just 24 last year and 22 the year prior.
The one thing about the Sixers during the surge that saw them push above .500 was that the team defense was phenomenal throughout. They’re still 3rd in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 108 points per 100 possessions on average, but they’ve allowed 120+ in their last three losses and looked especially underwhelming on the perimeter Thursday night.
“The foul trouble hurt us,” Rivers added. “But honestly, we got into foul trouble because we were not playing with the right presence. Foul trouble clearly hurt us. Joel (Embiid) had the early fouls, and he had the third so early in the second that it forced you to take him out. But honestly, I thought, give (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) a lot of credit, number one. Number two, I thought a lot of the fouls were because we were not down, we were not ready, we were not in help position. This was just a bad effort on our team. And we all, me, everybody, we have to take responsibility and be better next game.”
The Sixers begin the west coast swing on Saturday in Utah, facing the Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, Blazers, and Kings over the course of seven days. Only two of those teams have winning records, but the Sixers are 8-9 on the road with a point differential that drops by about five units away from Wells Fargo Center. The Kings and Jazz have top five offensive ratings and even though the Lakers largely stink, they’ll host the Sixers on the second night of a road back-to-back.
“These are huge,” Georges Niang said of the road trip. “You’re forced to be around each other. You wake up, you’re in the same hotels, you’re using the same facilities. There’s no breaking off and being home, and it will be good for us. I think this whole season has kind of been a journey for us, kind of just building blocks to where we want to be later in the year. Obviously, people may think success is one trajectory up but there are sometimes when you’re up for a little bit, you go down, and then you steady the ship to go straight again, and I think that’s kind of the moral of the story with our season. We get things clicking but then we kind of let things slide then we slowly learn how to fix those things and continue to grow, and I know tonight stings but we have a lot of guys in this room, or all of the guys in this room that are prepared to look themselves in the mirror and continue to grow and make the right adjustments and changes that we need to continue to win.”
Important stretch for the sixers, They get tough home matchups with Brooklyn and Denver coming off this road trip, then it’s two against Orlando before another three-game road trip that will carry them closer to the All Star break.
SGA’s game is so smooth. 🥶
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 13, 2023