It was no secret that the point guard position would (and will) be an issue for the Philadelphia 76ers at the start of the season. But even with that caveat, a 99-71 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday rubbed quite a few fans - and one coach in particular - the wrong way.
"We need to play with speed," said Sixers' head coach Brett Brown after the game when asked about his playmakers. "We're going to have to find that balance."
Offensive balance was in short supply against the Jazz. The 76ers ended last season tied for 6th in the NBA in pace, yet somehow found a way to take just 63 shots (and make only 19) against Utah. Conversely, the Jazz attempted 88 shots and finished with 99 points despite shooting less than 41 percent from the field.
According to Brown, the 76ers' struggles on offense were largely due to his point guards trying too hard to run the offense through Jahlil Okafor (and, to a lesser extent, Nerlens Noel). And while that may have been the case, Isaiah Canaan and T.J. McConnell (a combined 2-for-13 from the field, with 7 turnovers and 6 assists) weren't especially good at it: the Sixers' big men were rarely given the opportunity to establish position in the post before being fed the ball.
Okafor and Noel weren't able to replicate the success they enjoyed two nights earlier against the Boston Celtics. The two cornerstones of the Sixers' rebuild combined for just 18 points and 16 rebounds against the Jazz while shooting 6-for-24 from the floor. The length of Derrick Favors (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Rudy Gobert (8 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks) was an issue all night, and the Sixers' offense as a unit never seemed to find any rhythm.
Early on, it was the Jazz who looked out of sorts. Utah went more than four minutes at the start of the game without a field goal, but would later rip off a 13-0 run to take a 24-12 lead late in the first quarter.
Another 13-0 Jazz run - which happened to be part of a larger 35-10 outburst that encompassed part of both the 2nd and 3rd quarters - ultimately gave the Jazz a commanding 63-33 lead.
"It was a long night," noted Brown after the game.
The start of the third quarter was exceptionally brutal for the Sixers. In their first 10 possessions of the second half, the 76ers shot 0-for-6 from floor and turned the ball over five times. The poor play overshadowed what actually turned out to be a solid debut for one Nik Stauskas (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists).
By the end of the Mischief Night festivities, Utah outrebounded the Sixers 51-39, and converted 23 second-chance points while the Sixers were only able to muster 9. And for the second game in a row, the Sixers finished with more turnovers (19) than assists (15).
Brett Brown and his group will have a couple of days to get this one out of their system before the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Wells Fargo Center on Monday. And fear not, true believers - reinforcements are on the way:
Per the @CSNPhilly broadcast, the Sixers may bring back Furkan Aldemir next week via a roster exemption.— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) October 31, 2015
That said, even with another big man at the Sixers disposal, the next few weeks figure to be a bit turbulent until Tony Wroten and/or Kendall Marshall are ready to put on a uniform.
"We're going to experience some heartache over the next month," said Brown in his postgame press conference. "Everybody bunker in."