3 observations from the Sixers’ recent road trip

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) drives to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

The Sixers have just completed a four-game road trip without their perennial MVP candidate and it yielded mixed results. They went 2-2 on their trip starting with a Christmas Day loss in Miami, where Tyrese Maxey had his worst game as a pro. The next two games saw the team rally a pair of wins over Orlando and Houston.

The game in Houston saw Maxey dominate the first half driving to the basket with nifty layups, and ending the game with 42 points. His quickness and finishing were on display and finally got some calls in Texas totaling 15 free attempts.

Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, left, tries to get past Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The trip ended in Chicago where the 76ers lost to the Chicago Bulls in a game where the Sixers clearly had tired legs from a long trip. They lost by double digits due to their poor shooting, including 39 percent from the floor and 23 percent from long range. Some common things were on display while they were away from South Philadelphia. Take a look at three observations from their four-game trip:

Sixers benefitting from a veteran presence

During this trip, especially in the two wins, the veterans acquired in the James Harden trade have proved to be valuable. Their impact was truly felt in the fourth quarter of the comeback win against the Houston Rockets. Maxey was the star of the game but in the final frame, Robert Covington, Marcus Morris Sr, and Patrick Beverley all made winning plays. Beverley played really good defense on Fred VanVleet and had some clutch offensive plays to help out Maxey and Harris.

The key play of the night took place when Tyrese Maxey was blocked going to the rim and Patrick Beverley got the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Marcus Morris Sr, who drilled a three-point and-one to ice the game. Plays like that show how players like Beverley and Morris can help a contending team throughout the year. Morris may have been included in a trade package a few weeks ago but his recent play may make it hard for Daryl Morey to trade him in the future.

Missing the Big Fella

Joel Embiid not traveling with the team during this trip left a big hole in how this team operates and it was on display on the defensive end. This team lacked rim protection and rebounding and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Teams attacked the rim left and right with Paul Reed and Mo Bamba patrolling the paint. Reed just isn’t a shot blocker and Bamba was slow-footed guarding in space.

Opponents also took advantage of Embiid’s absence crashing the boards. Multiple times, teams got multiple offensive rebounds in one possession, hurting the Sixers in the glass. If Embiid’s two presence was ever in question, it shouldn’t be after this road trip. Philly needs better play from their backups when Embiid isn’t on the court.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Do the Sixers need another Star?

There has been a ton of conversation about what the Sixers should be doing with the assets they acquired from the Harden trade. Some say they should go after another star, others are in favor of marginal upgrades. During this trip, Tobias Harris returned to form but the offense stalled at times when Tyrese Maxey couldn’t get it going.

Should they target an offensive play like Zach Lavine or Pascal Siakam? It’s a big decision that Daryl Morey will have to make in the next few weeks and the Sixers’ performance in the playoffs likely hinges on it.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack