Well, that’s one way to never get yourself invited back.
There really isn’t much in the way of sugarcoating this — and please, I truly don’t mean to sound like your grandpa’s hoops takes here — Philadelphia collectively embarrassed itself in its first TNT appearance since the 2013 playoffs. And without a game left on the national docket for the remainder of the season, this was an atrocious lasting impression to leave on those who still questioning whether these last few years were all worth it.
Expected to be the first of hopefully many bouts between Joel Embiid and Karl Towns, the first quarter was unfortunately rather reminiscent of those dreadful Sixers of three years prior: the defensive rotations were a mess (if even existent), off-ball movement was flat, the offense ran actions rarely with a second plan in mind, and so on. Second night of a road back-to-back, sure, but not too many excuses can be made when just about every player logs as a net-negative:
Sergio Rodriguez, following a brief glimmer of hope early in the season that the Sixers finally had a competent point guard, got routinely roasted on defense and netted just two dimes; Ersan Illyasova, somehow starting ahead of Dario Saric and bogarting minutes that could be used by Richaun Holmes, looked as lost as his inexperienced peers; Robert Covington not only missed 11 of his 12 attempts, but for the second consecutive night looked completely uninterested in playing help defense; Nik Stauskas, easily the Sixers’ best player on the night, got trucked by Andrew Wiggins in the post early on as Minnesota ran away with its early momentum; Jahlil Okafor once again reminded us all that the Sixers were two 2014-15 victories against Minnesota away from perhaps drafting Karl Towns; and Joel Embiid likely played the worst game so far in his young career.
Philadelphia *pulls up trousers* finally pulled its act together following a 28-point halftime deficit, but the second half was more a formality than anything. And for those who came for the (perhaps overly) hyped Towns-Embiid matchup, it wasn’t until the game was all but over that the two finally went at each other: and falling in line with just about everything else tonight, Towns for the most part clowned The Process.
Some loose thoughts, because this game fried my brain to the point that I can barely string together full sentences:
- Nik Stauskas, for all the grief he (deservedly, to be honest) garnered during last year and this preseason, is slowly playing his way into a starting spot at some point this season. Not only has he finally found his shot — he’s nailed 62.5 percent of his field goals in the previous five games — but he’s unlocked the noticeably dormant aspects of his game such as playmaking and off-ball cutting. Sure, he’s still a mess on defense and maybe always will be, but let’s not pretend like Gerald Henderson is Tony Allen out here.
- Andrew Wiggins, who, make no mistake, will one day be a Philadelphia 76er, has looked terrific so far this year after an underwhelming sophomore season. His assist and rebounding percentages still leave a lot to be desired, but those worries are mostly muted by the presence of a clear-cut franchise star in Karl Towns. Long live #WigginsWatch.
- I don’t care what you say, Tom Thibodeau cannot be considered one of the league’s elite coaches as long as he keeps grinding his players into the ground. Even up by 20-plus in the fourth quarter, he waited until the 1:22 mark to pull Wiggins and Towns from the game. Can’t wait for them to both be forced into retirement by their early 30s.
- Reggie Miller, against all odds, somehow managed to perform worse than the Sixers tonight. Not only did he refuse to say Dario Saric’s name correctly despite knowing the correct pronunciation (his reasoning was something along the lines of “let’s wait to see him prove himself on the court” — gross), but he somehow managed to attribute Joel Embiid’s minutes restriction to analytics. Take a lap, my guy.
- It only took three seasons for him to add another skill, but Hollis Thompson — maker of 40 percent of all three-pointers — has seemingly learned to take fools off the dribble every now and then. Now only if his attention span on defense lasted longer than five seconds.
That’s all for tonight. The Sixers take on Phoenix back in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Let’s all forget that this game ever happened — because TNT surely won’t.