Sixers cannot get out of their own way against Pelicans

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New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) drives to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle (22) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

After having their winning streak snapped against the Washington Wizards, the Philadelphia 76ers were southbound for NOLA as they looked to get back in the win column. Despite starting off the game the right way and securing a lead early on, the Sixers would get in their own way time and time again, as that quickly became the theme of the night.

Nineteen total turnovers — including some of the worst we’ve seen this season — poor rebounding (again), and multiple inexcusable fouls helped fuel the Pelicans’ offensive effort. This isn’t to discredit New Orleans, of course, as they shot 53.8% from the field and 48.4% from three, but the Sixers’ did themselves no favors in preventing this.

It was truly one of the most frustrating losses of the season for the Sixers; there are no two ways about it.
Along with suffering from their own malpractice, the Sixers quickly became victims of an electric night by former Lehigh Mountain Hawk C.J. McCollum. Forty-two points on 13/20 shooting, including a career-best 11/16 night from deep, McCollum had his way against the Sixers. Likely, McCollum was just focused on the game in front of him, but there were undoubtedly some who couldn’t help but recall the rumors of sharpshooter coming to Philly in the Ben Simmons trade talks from last season.

It wasn’t just McCollum the Sixers couldn’t solve, however, as Zion Williamson befuddled the team at every turn. There are few players who can physically match up with Williamson, and outside of Joel Embiid — whose attention was turned towards Jonas Valanciunas — the Sixers have exactly zero of them. Paul Reed would, of course, be the closest to this, but he registered just one minute of action last night.

Reed’s minutes — like many Sixers’ — have been inconsistent at best as coach Doc Rivers often prefers to insert veteran Montrezl Harrell into non-Embiid lineups. Part of the reason is Harrell’s aforementioned veteran status; another is Reed’s occasional foul issues. Even without Reed, though, Zion attempted 16 free throws, so it’s fair to say that decision by Rivers is questionable at best.

For Philadelphia, Joel Embiid led the way with 37 points, while James Harden followed with 20 of his own in one of his most confounding games for sure. Despite the efficiency the pair saw scoring, they were far from it when it came to taking care of the ball. Twelve turnovers in total between the superstar pair, which will make any game nigh impossible to win, especially against a team as talented as the Pelicans.

There’s just been a lack of focus surrounding the Sixers over their past few games now. After finding themselves down to the Clippers last week, the team surged back to secure what was perhaps their most successive win of the season. The fallout from this, though, appears to be that the team has been feeling themselves a bit which was only compounded by a second come-from-behind win against the Knicks on Christmas day.

With their winning streak at eight and an apparent belief that they could simply “turn it on” when they had to, the Sixers have fallen into bad habits which have created holes they could not dig themselves out of against both the Wizards and now the Pelicans.

Up next for the Sixers

The Sixers will next face the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight with an opportunity to right the ship, an opportunity they must take full advantage of if they wish to hold to the idea that they are a contender as presently constructed.