Another game, another blowout. The Phoenix Suns ran pick-and-roll all over the 76ers and destroyed them 122-96 in a game that was not competitive by halftime. No Sun played more than half the game, with Isaiah Thomas leading the team with 23 points on nine field goal attempts.
The story of the game, like many recently, has been the sheer lack of closeness. Despite this, a lot happened in and surrounding this single outing. Between Eric Bledsoe's public comments about the Sixers being worse than his college's team, the Sixers' reaction to it, and the blowout that eventually occurred, I realized that the most important thing to talk about afterward was constructive approaches to losing. You'll see what I mean later.
So to start, Eric Bledsoe went on a radio show co-hosted by Sixers broadcaster Malik Rose and discussed, among other popular NBA topics, the tired notion that the Kentucky basketball team could beat the Sixers in a seven-game series. 53% of the nation agrees with this, by the way, per SportsNation polling, which shows how misguided 53% of the nation is. Anyway, here's what he said, via Philly.com's Michael Kaskey-Blomain:
"I'm definitely taking Kentucky," Bledsoe told SiriusXM Radio when asked who would win in a seven-game series between the two teams. "I think Philly would get probably, maybe one game."
Bledsoe eventually backed off the comments, saying he was joking, but Tony Wroten and Jason Richardson did not agree with Bledsoe's assessment. I put that mildly. Once the game started, it became quite clear that the Sixers were angry with Bledsoe, since Nerlens Noel mauled him 30 seconds into the game.
I don't condone the action taken by Noel, but I understand why he did it. The Sixers are tired of being embarrassed. They are tired of people putting them down. They are tired of people calling them out for the actions of their general manager. It's why things like this happen, or why a player's mother releases her frustrations, not so much different from her sons, through social media at people who agree with the plan in place.
Between the Kentucky talk, the continued losing streak, and the built-up frustrations of the individual players, the job for Brett Brown is becoming more and more difficult. The players in general do look dispirited and frustrated. They want to win, but at this point they might just be tired of losing.
The individual reactions to this embarrassment are perhaps the most important part of watching the losses, for masochists like us.
Michael Carter-Williams tries to take it upon himself to do everything, and the results are semi-disastrous. Nerlens Noel stops running down the court and gets beat by an opponent, or commits flagrant fouls. K.J. McDaniels might not aggressively close out on three point shooters. Tony Wroten goes left, so nothing really changes there. Luc Mbah a Moute plays solely for his next contract, which is why I advocate not playing him.
Aside from Mbah a Moute, who probably needs to be in a suit next to Embiid, the rest of the roster responds in various constructive ways, at least from an evaluative standpoint. It's why sweeping characterizations of the so-called "effects of losing" are mostly pointless, because not everyone reacts the same when adversity hits.
MCW gets frustrated, and he might point to the scoreboard, but he cares about winning enough that he tries to do it all by himself. It doesn't work, because MCW is the type of player who should thrive with better teammates but isn't someone that should be carrying a huge load. He can't shoot and is a lousy finisher in traffic. But I'd much rather see his reaction than loafing or selfish gunning.
Noel and McDaniels didn't appear to be playing hard the whole time, which is a bit more problematic. That's something the coaching staff needs to encourage and work with. But there's enough talent between the two of them to invest that effort.
Sam Hinkie values hard work from his players, possibly more than any other personality trait. It probably explains why Brandon Davies is still here. It's why Sam brings in D-Leaguers instead of veterans looking for big contracts, even if bringing in veterans for them to earn bigger contracts is as noble as idiots at Deadspin might think that to be. At some point, eventually the team will combine talent and hard work, and when you combine those two things, that's where the fruits of the labor.
Sixers fans and players can only hope that the talent flows in sooner rather than later, because until then the frustrations will only boil over more.
Bright Side Of The Sun has a more recappy recap on their site, if you want to know more about what actually happened.