Shame on the 76ers.
Shame on them for turning a season with NBA championship expectations into a series of dramatic events.
Shame on the Sixers for making us think they are on their way to continuing to play at an elite level and allowing themselves to fall back into the same mess under pressure.
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James Harden on-dribbling in important situations. Tobias Harris will go MIA in the second half. Joel Embiid commits inappropriate transitions. And there are very few modifications on the side.
Remember that this was a problem last season and at the beginning of this one, especially in losing to big teams? The Sixers were mocked for their lack of coordination and lack of ball movement in those losses. It happened again.
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After a 110-107 loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers have proven their identity as a team that is anxious to execute the script in a pressure situation.
Embiid had 41 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and three turnovers in 39 minutes and 49 seconds. But the Sixers (39-20) struggled when he wasn’t on the floor.
“I didn’t think we moved the ball,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think we played any extra in that stretch. And that’s something we haven’t done, but we did it tonight.
“Boston is good when you try to play them that way. They are very good when you try to play them inside [isolation].”
The Celtics (44-17) are long and athletic, versatile on defense, and can contest almost anything at the rim.
“And I think they did,” Rivers said.
The loss dropped the Sixers, who are in third place in the Eastern Conference, four games behind first-place Boston with 23 games remaining. They had a five-game winning streak and lost for the fourth time in 18 games. the previous ones.
The Sixers will look to bounce back in Monday’s home game against the Miami Heat. The contest will be the first of two games, a home-and-home against the Heat (32-29), who have lost four straight and seven of their last 11.
So, at least on paper, this matchup with PJ Tucker and former teammate Dewayne Dedmon should get the Sixers on the right track.
They still have a few things to clean up. The Sixers cannot allow Harris to be vulnerable when the ball stops like it did on Saturday night and in many other losses.
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The Sixers forward played a great role in his team’s victory in the first quarter. With the ball in his hands, Harris is in attack mode. Harris led all scorers in the quarter with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting – including 2-of-3 three-pointers – while playing all 12 minutes.
“I got the ball twice, and I had a good chance,” he said. “I will be aggressive when I get tobacco and in the works. And I was introduced to the beginning of the game.”
In the second quarter, Harris scored on his first one-on-one shot attempt — a dribbling dunk — to give the Sixers a 56-49 lead with 1:29 to go before intermission. He then scored the first two baskets of the third quarter on a 19-foot, 26-foot three-pointer to put the Sixers up 11 points.
Harris missed a layup at the 8:55 mark of the quarter and missed a three-pointer 2:18 later. This was his last shot attempt of the game.
The Sixers are at their best when Harden, who leads the league with 10.7 assists per game, plays the role of distributor. However, he led the Sixers in scoring in the fourth quarter. He had nine points on 2-for-7 shooting, with his saving grace being a 5-for-5 mark from the foul line.
Harden finished with 21 points on 5-for-16 shooting with eight assists, six rebounds, three steals, and four turnovers.
Embiid was a hero in a loss. For the most part, the All-Star Center did a great job of making quick decisions instead of waiting for two Celtics teams. However, he had a difficult time with 7:15 left. After stealing the ball, Jaylen Brown scored on a transition basket where the Celtics went up 10 points.
And, once again, the Sixers couldn’t match the Celtics’ three-point shooting. The Celtics made 16-of-37 three-pointers. They went 19-of-35 against the Sixers on February 8, and 12-of-35 on October 18. Boston won those games in large part to make clutch threes.
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They must know that Boston will stick with what has worked in previous meetings. However, they left Al Horford open on most of his three-pointers, repeating the mistake Blake Griffin made when Blake Griffin hit five three-pointers in their last meeting.
The Sixers are a team of professionals. Elite teams usually learn from their mistakes, and play better the next time they are in that situation.
To their credit, the Sixers battled back from a 10-point deficit after calling a timeout following Brown’s layup. They would have forced overtime if Embiid made a desperate three-pointer at the buzzer.
But even with the game on the line, the Sixers continued to play well while ignoring the game plan.
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“When we came out, we were able to cut the lead back,” Harris said. “That gave us life. But even in those moments, I think as a whole, we have to be mentally strong and know that we will fight and give everything to get back in this game.
“So maybe this is like a step forward for our whole team, understand because at this point, we don’t have the best body language as a team. And we’re going to play games like that. That’s the nature of basketball. and teams will run. But we have to keep running.”
Shame on the Sixers.
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