The Philadelphia 76ers fell short of the mark against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday evening. Here are a few things we learned about the Sixers in a game that could’ve easily swung the other way.
2 stars cooling off
Turnovers are part of basketball. They are expected, but in the most crucial moments of the game, when protecting each possession is paramount, the star player can’t turn the ball over, especially in consecutive games. Joel Embiid coughed the ball up with the game on the line angainst Indiana, and once more last night. This simply has to stop. Although his overall game has improved over the years, Joel Embiid is not a guard.
Against the Pacers, the Sixers were trying to retake the lead, but Embiid was careless with the ball and made a costly turnover. Versus the Celtics, the same thing happened while double teamed. A bad shot is preferred as opposed to just handing the ball to the other team. Even if he takes and misses a bad shot, at least it gives the Sixers a chance to get back on defense or secure an offensive rebound. Coughing up the ball last night, not only caused a loss of a possession, but gave Boston a fast break opportunity.
This is a glaring weakness, something that’s part of the Sixers clutch-time moments, since Embiid has become the team’s go-to player. In crucial moments, with the game on the line, Embiid should give the ball up to a guard to ensure a good possession. He’ll clearly get it back later in a better spot, or a more prudent setup will enable a teammate to attempt a better shot.
This pattern could demonstrate the reason why the Sixers need another player that can create his own shot with better ball handling capabilities. A player like Zach LaVine comes to mind, even though multiple reports indicate he might not be on the Sixers’ radar.
Tyrese Maxey has leveled out after a scorching hot start to the season. He’s had consecutive games of inefficient shooting. His play making ability has improved, and he’s still a spark plug within the offense. He does have limitations though.
Unfortunately, his size could not match the defensive prowess of Al Horford. When the Sixers were climbing back into the game in the fourth quarter, Maxey challenged Horford at the rim. It was a mistake. Even for an aging player, pushing 40, Horford is just too good to let the much smaller Maxey get a quality shot.
Again, the addition of a taller, stronger finisher and potent scorer like Lavine could help in that situation when the Sixers need a basket.
Jaden Springer flashes
Jaden Springer had himself quite a game last night on national television. He’s paid his dues in the G-League and is becoming a fan favorite.
If you’re counting on Jaden Springer to string together multiple games like he had last night though, don’t leave your water ice on the counter. Yes, he had a wonderful display of defensive stops versus Boston and has shown flashes of offensive ability. Yet, Springer is still very raw and not the playmaker the Sixers desperately need off the bench.
His steal against Jayson Tatum was as impressive as the reverse dunk that ended the play. His multiple blocks in several games this year also raised eyebrows, but a backup point guard with a consistent shot and solid NBA experience, like a Malcolm Brogdon, is what Nick Nurse needs in his offense.
Jaden Springer is good for what he is getting now, which is spot minutes. He is a defensive specialist and a spark off the bench. He is similar to what T.J McConnell was for the Sixers but with freakish athleticism.
Could he prove his doubters wrong and carve out minutes for the reserve unit? Sure. But, with Daryl Morey having assets and a penchant for making deals prior to the trade deadline, Springer could be paying more dues for another season on the bench.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum