0-11 FG (per NBA.com)
Joel Embiid might have had the worst game of his career against the Toronto Raptors Monday evening. He went 0-11 from the field, missed his 3 free throws, turned the ball over 4 times, and picked up 5 personal fouls. It was the only game of Joel’s career in which he did not score a single point. Even when Embiid is struggling offensively, he can often have a positive impact on the game thanks to his defensive ability. That just wasn’t the case against the Raptors — he looked sluggish and out of place on both ends. Given that the Raptors margin of victory could have been erased with just two possessions, Embiid’s futile performance feels especially heavy.
40.3% from the floor (and 27.8% from three) (per Basketball Reference)
Following the Sixers’ season opener against the Boston Celtics, Brett Brown had told the media that he needs to “grow a bomber” and suggested that bomber could be Furkan Korkmaz. A week later, Korkmaz hung 17 points on the Minnesota Timberwolves to kickoff a 6-game stretch over which he averaged 13.8 points a game while shooting over 50.0% from the floor and from behind the arc. In the 7 games since the end of that streak (vs. Charlotte Hornets), including last night’s 4-10 FG performance, Korkmaz is averaging just 9.0 points a game on 40.3% from the floor and 27.8% from three. The real problem for the Sixers is less that Korkmaz is in a shooting slump and more that they even need to consistently rely on Korkmaz. He’s 6th on the team in minutes per game simply because he physically appears to be the most reasonable facsimile to what the Sixers actually need. I can’t say the Sixers lost to the Raptors because of Korkmaz — Joel Embiid has already consumed that cake. But it gets painful watching the team’s starting lineup struggle to score while getting next to no relief from the bench. Korkmaz can catch fire here and there, but he’s getting too much responsibility. Maybe Brett Brown has no other choice, but that makes it even more important that Korkmaz gets out of this slump.
25.0% of shots taken at the rim (per Cleaning The Glass)
In a game in which Joel Embiid was atrocious offensively, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Philly wasn’t great scoring around the rim. But if they were just a bit more aggressive getting to the hoop as a team, we might be talking about how they survived Embiid’s absolute worst to steal a road win. Not only were the Sixers lousy converting at the rim shooting just 55.0%, they were not nearly aggressive or creative enough getting there with just 25.0% of their total attempts coming within 4 feet of the basket. To make matters worse, the Sixers were fouled on just 3 of their attempts at the rim. If size is your calling card, 16 FTA and 20 shots at the rim is not going to cut it.
-6 turnover differential (per NBA.com)
The Raptors weren’t much stronger on offense than the Sixers, but one area in which they were better was taking care of the ball. Toronto turned the ball over just 10 times to Philly’s 16, putting the Sixers’ turnover deficit at 6. At this point, getting angry about Sixers turnovers is like getting angry that there’s traffic on your commute to the office: don’t waste your energy, it’s just part of the trip. But the Raptors only registered 5 steals as a team (and some of those were on passes when a Raptors player didn’t make a great read so much as have the ball passed directly to them) which suggests that the Sixers made quite a few unforced errors with the ball. Ben Simmons was particularly frustrating at times, driving the lane while fully expecting to kick out the entire time whether a teammate was open or not.
25 points (per NBA.com)
At the end of the day, the Sixers lost a close game to a conference contender while getting nothing out of Embiid. I understand that folks are tired of hearing excuses for this very hyped-up squad. But I think this team is capable of more and will execute better over time. With that said, let’s highlight a positive from last night’s game: Josh Richardson.
Josh Richardson has easily been my favorite Sixer to watch this season. He’s given the Sixers strong play since day one. Per Cleaning The Glass, he leads the team in efficiency differential (team points scored per 100 possessions minus team points allowed per 100 possessions) at +15.7 over 492 minutes. What’s especially interesting about that statistic is that Richardson has been coming around offensively only very recently, which I think a lot of Sixers fans expected after a slow start but is reassuring nonetheless. Over his last 5 games, J-Rich is averaging 22.4 points on 52.0% from the floor and 58.1% from deep. Against the Raptors, the production continued as Richardson scored 25 points on 19 shots thanks to his 5-9 from 3PT. Not the most efficient performance when you consider his 2-5 FT, but still pretty effective.