Well… That was one of the more frustrating losses of recent memory. In a 108-99 loss to the Miami Heat, The Sixers turnover problems were on full display, finishing the game with a -10 turnover differential. (Updated: The Heat had 14 turnovers. I read the box score wrong with 8. Make that a -4 turnover differential.) To say Robert Covington struggled offensively (shooting 0-10) is an understatement, and one his worst shooting nights since the first game against Cleveland this season was perfectly timed to occur just 2 days after I wrote a piece praising his play. Lovely.
Joel Embiid had himself a tough night as well while getting into foul trouble, and it was clear to everyone watching the game that fatigue was a factor. He scored 17, but on a lousy 5-18. Embiid settled for a lot of long 2PTs and many of them fell short, which is often how dead legs manifest themselves. I’m not panicking, but he desperately needs a few nights off down the stretch here. I think some people want Embiid to play through it, but that approach runs the risk of burning him out before the playoffs, when teams will shorten up their rotations and starters’ minutes go up into the high 30’s. The Sixers have a back-to-back coming up against the Knicks in New York and then the Brooklyn Nets at home. Embiid should stay home for the Knicks game, and maybe even take the night off against the woeful Nets. The Sixers place so much responsibility on Embiid both ways, it is crucial that he is at 100% come playoff time. Did I mention I’m not panicking?
Brett Brown needs to figure out a way to get Embiid easier buckets. Many times the offense stops when Embiid gets the ball and he has to work way too hard to get a shot. It’s a testament to how much the team trusts his abilities, but it is starting to weigh on him a bit. Markelle Fultz would help this team so much. They need a dynamic shooting threat out of the pick and roll.
Despite 2 members of the Sixers starting lineup struggling to get points, the turnovers killed this team more than anything else. You can’t win a game against a team of veterans like the Heat when you give them an opportunity at 8-12 extra points due to carelessness. If the Sixers don’t manage to take better care of the ball, they will struggle to get out of the first round of the playoffs. As I mentioned, when we get into late April basketball, teams won’t be going 10 deep and the Sixers won’t have an opportunity to make up for turnovers against lesser bench players.
Before I talk you to the edge, let me walk you back: there were a few bright spots from the game. Ben Simmons is taking things to another level. I find myself watching him and having to remind myself, “This guy is in his first year of NBA ball.” His passing maturity, the level he’s at is just incredible, but I’m almost becoming numb to it. He again flirted with a triple double last night, with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. What continues to shock me though, is the how disruptive and instinctual he is on the defensive end, adding 3 steals and 2 blocks. Simmons had 5 turnovers, which was discouraging, but he was asked to do a ton on the offensive end with Embiid and Covington struggling.
Dario Saric continued his hot shooting, going 5-10 from the floor and 4-7 from deep. The Homie finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Saric did struggle to take care of the ball though, and turned the rock over 6 times. JJ Redick rounded out the starters with 18 points on 6-11 shooting including 4-6 from 3PT. Coming off the bench, Marco Belinelli tallied 14 points and sank 3 3PTs on 7 attempts.
For the Heat, Hassan Whiteside had himself a night. The veteran big man had 26 points on a very efficient 9-12 from the floor to go along with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Dwayne Wade added 16 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists as he seems to turn back his internal clock a few years the last 2 times the Sixers have faced the Heat.
These nights are bound to happen given the youth on the team and lack of depth. But it’s really painful to watch at times. Nevertheless, losses happen and the Sixers as a whole are further along than many of us expected.
The Sixers are off until Sunday, when the head to Brooklyn to face the Nets. I mentioned earlier how the Sixers should consider resting Embiid for both games of their upcoming Knicks/Nets back-to-back. That probably won’t happen (resting BOTH games), but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Embiid sit this Sunday’s Nets game. In any case, it would be a real delight to see the Sixers keep the turnovers in single digits this Sunday. We’re not panicking!