With Ben Simmons coming to town for the first time since the blockbuster trade on February 10th, the focus was anywhere but on the game itself. That was the case for everyone other than the Brooklyn Nets, who completely embarrassed the Sixers by a final score of 129-100. There wasn’t much to be positive about, to be frank, but there were some notable takeaways from the game.
The Lack of Focus
There was a clear lack of focus on the part of Philadelphia. This is hardly the first time we’ve seen this in recent years, but last night, it was more egregious than it had ever been. While Brooklyn wanted to prove themselves on the court, the Sixers were more interested in showing Ben Simmons up. While the louder noise came from the fans in attendance, it was clear that the organization and its players were interested in showing Simmons what he is missing, and that lack of focus allowed for the beating they received on the court.
This lack of focus, paired with the frustration the team — specifically James Harden — allowed themselves to feel, led to such an unfamiliar performance that cannot be allowed to continue. Harden’s frustrations were evident as he quit driving to the basket after not receiving a whistle early, and while he certainly had a case looking at the tape, you have to overcome that adversity and if you’re not getting the whistle, focus on getting to the bucket, not the line.
Tyrese Maxey also looked anything but himself, only putting up seven shots in the entire game. He will need to find his confidence and aggression going forward, not only for the team’s sake but for his own as well.
DeAndre Jordan Can Play
One of the very few bright spots in the game for the Sixers was DeAndre Jordan, who proved — despite what NBA Twitter had to say on the matter — that he can still be a contributor in the NBA. He wasn’t blowing the roof off during the game, but he quietly had himself a night with 10 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes of action.
The one concern from his performance last night is the number of turnovers, four in total. That’s not uncommon, though, in a new situation. It’ll likely always be a problem to a degree, but Jordan will settle in a be a more than serviceable backup to Embiid.
This Team Can Compete, but They’re Not Complete
The Philadelphia 76ers are ready to compete for contention — make no bones about it — but this team is certainly not complete. As incredible as the three-headed monster of Embiid, Harden, and Maxey is, the role-player depth for the Sixers continues to be a concern. The team lacks the type of role players seen on championship teams.
There’s no sizable defensive forward — as great as Thybulle is, pairing him with a larger defensive forward is even better — no backup scoring guard to alleviate the load for the aforementioned three-headed monster. This is not a problem that can be solved this season — unless you consider Quinn Cook or Justin Anderson a solution which some just might— but must be a focal point of the offseason.
This Too Shall Pass
As frustrating as this loss was for all parties in Philadelphia, it’s important to remember that this is a single regular-season game. While that does not excuse the production — or lack thereof — on the part of the Sixers, it should give hope for the future. The Sixers will not shoot 32% from the floor going forward, James Harden will not have 3/15 shooting nights, Maxey will be more aggressive, and — Joel Embiid aside — the whistle should be a bit more consistent in the future.
For Philadelphia, it’s time to learn your lessons, pick your head up, and move on to the next game. The NBA season will not stop to allow you to pout and grieve your performance, and the Sixers know that.
While the Orlando Magic aren’t counted amongst the fiercest of competition, this is very much a game the Sixers cannot take lightly as they run the risk of succumbing to another trap game. Joel Embiid and/or James Harden may not play in Sunday’s matchup, but even more so, that’s the time to learn about what this team can truly do.
The Philadelphia 76ers face off against the Orlando Magic on Sunday, March 13th at 6:00 PM EST.