The thing about the NBA season is that it’s a long one. It’s incredibly rare for teams to stay dominant all year round and the Sixers are no exception. Tied with the Nets at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Sixers played host to the Memphis Grizzlies. Fresh off of a fun-filled win over the Timberwolves, this was a prime letdown spot. It’s Easter, the players are on an emotional high, and Joel Embiid was set to rest following an explosive return. That’s exactly what we saw on Sunday evening.
The Grizzlies may be 24-23, but they’re the youngest team in the league and shades of what the Sixers used to be are visible. They play with a lot of the same hunger and scrappiness that embedded the latter stages of the process era and this meeting showed that when the bigger teams slump, sometimes that underdog energy takes over. A 116-100 loss sums up what turned out to be a frustrating night at the office for Philadelphia and the fans in attendance.
A 21 point outing from Tobias Harris wasn’t enough to keep the Sixers in contention. He very much had to carry the offense while Ben Simmons did little to contribute, although this shouldn’t be a revaluation nor a grave concern. We’ve seen this before. The lack of Embiid really hurt a team who was struggling in just about every area. Turnovers and sloppy possessions were one thing, but without a lack of real consistency from beyond the arc or anyone in the post to wreak havoc, the Sixers reverted to how they looked during their first stint without Joel Embiid this season – lethargic. It’s also something Memphis have jumped on before, having beaten an Embiid-less Sixers back in January.
They converted on just 5 of 18 three-point attempts in the first half and ended the day shooting just 23.5% from range. A 64.3% FT percentage only added to the woes of a team who became their own worst enemy.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t positives to take. B-ball Paul was beyond efficient, scoring 10 points in 13 minutes of action, grabbing 6 rebounds in the process. Shake Milton was another young G-league graduate who continued to shine, putting up the second-most amount of points on the team.
The most puzzling aspect of the game was probably why Doc Rivers insisted on keeping Mike Scott on the court. The vet simply hasn’t looked the same this season and an opportunity to start resulted in poor shot selection, and a total mismatch against European star, Jonas Valanciunas, who toyed with him all night. Was there an argument to be made for someone like Paul Reed making a step up? Maybe, but Reed’s growth should come at a gradual rate as opposed to being thrown into a starting role to cover for a regressing Mike Scott against players like Dillon Brooks and Valanciunas, who are capable of schooling anyone on the interior.
Tonight was just a no-show for the Sixers. On their third game in four nights, the team just looked tired and unfocused. It’s expected, especially after such an intense second half against the T-Wolves. This was a disappointing loss to take but absolutely should not be blown out of proportion. The team was sloppy, the Grizzles took advantage, and Doc Rivers will look to rally his men for a big game against the Celtics on April 6th.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire