The Philadelphia 76ers were rolling into Barclays Center on Thursday night riding high in the Eastern Conference. They entered the night with five consecutive wins, their 7-1 start had them at the top of the standings in the East, and they were facing a Brooklyn Nets team missing stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Everything seemed set up for them to win another game, but Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, and the Nets handed them a 122-109 loss to bring them back down to earth with a thud.
Shake Milton led Philadelphia with 24 points and seven assists, Tobias Harris added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Tyrese Maxey had 16 off the bench. Joel Embiid had 20 points and 12 rebounds, but he shot 7-for-14 from the floor and he did not look like his dominant-self and Ben Simmons added 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
Here are the three observations in this one:
Poor play from the stars
On a night where the Nets are missing their two superstars, this was a night where Simmons and Embiid needed to flex their muscles and go to work. Sure, Seth Curry was out with the ankle injury and he’s an important piece in terms of spacing the floor, but this was still a game where the two stars in Philadelphia should have dominated the game and put the team on their backs. Instead, the two of them combined for 4-for-15 from the floor in the first half and they found themselves down 65-51 at halftime. Their play in the third quarter wasn’t much better and the Sixers actually got themselves back into it with a lineup led by Milton, Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Dakota Mathias at the end of the quarter. Considering that they are the two leaders and they are the ones that are going to make or break the Sixers, this was a game the two of them had to take seriously and go to work and they came up small in this moment.
Lack of defensive aggression
This was an opportunity for the Sixers to bounce back on defense after allowing Bradley Beal to score a ridiculous 60 points on Wednesday and they were not much better on Thursday. The Nets were just walking into the paint for easy buckets which then set up a lot of easy looks from the perimeter as well. Philadelphia is lucky that Durant and Irving didn’t play on this night or else the Nets would have put up even more points on the board. Or, maybe they would have taken the Nets a little more seriously with those two on the floor. This could be the effect of being on the back end of a back-to-back and having to travel the night before, but that can’t be an excuse in this league. The Sixers entered the night with the best defensive rating in the league at 102.9 and Thursday’s effort was unacceptable on all fronts.
The high amount of turnovers
All of the good vibes around the Sixers and their offense was gone on Thursday. Embiid struggled with the double teams on this night after he had made so much progress in that area and there were a lot of lazy passes on the night. At one point, Brooklyn had 30 points off Sixers turnovers and that can be pointed to as the major difference in the game. https://twitter.com/PompeyOnSixers/status/1347367467123879937 On both ends, the Sixers really looked lethargic and there are a lot of factors that could be considered. It was the second game of a back-to-back, the Nets were missing Durant and Irving which could have had the Sixers mentally not ready to fight, and they had an emotional win over the Washington Wizards the night before. On the flip side, they cannot have nights like this one and expect to take steps forward towards their goal.