Perimeter defense has been an issue all season for the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s what happens when the team is only stocked with three true plus defenders: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler, one of whom is largely confined to the paint. In Friday’s 113-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers, though, it felt like every single rotation wing or guard beyond Simmons — JJ Redick, T.J. McConnell, Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet — struggled mightily. Heck, even Shake Milton had a couple breakdowns in his three minutes of action.
If or when the Sixers find reinforcements, either via trade or the buyout, these occurrences should/could be less frequent. And not every perimeter player will be worked to this degree each game. But it speaks to this team’s relative defensive floor, especially without Butler.
On the other side of the court, Embiid dominated the first half with 28 points and 14 rebounds. After intermission, it was clear his 52.4 percent usage rate during that initial 24 minutes was taxiing. He didn’t establish deep position inside as often and only attempted seven second-half shots (15 in the first half). But the Pacers also retooled their defensive coverage, sending double-teams or shading with help, generating four of his six turnovers in that time.
Those two developments — poor perimeter defense and a reduced impact from Embiid — seemed to be the primary culprits (along with 9-of-36 shooting from deep) in Philadelphia surrendering a 10-point lead at the break. For an in-depth look at what went wrong, check out my Twitter moment.