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Starters’ lethargic play leads to Sixers loss in Denver in final game out west, 104-95

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Philadelphia 76ers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Tonight, the Sixers lost in Denver to the Nuggets, 104-95.

I’ll keep this short.

The Sixers — mainly the starting unit — looked especially slow-footed tonight. This lack of zip was especially apparent in the first quarter, when the Sixers allowed 44 Denver points. To their credit, the Nuggets were hitting contested shots. But the Sixers turned the ball over too much and allowed too many second chances in the quarter.

In another poor offensive performance since the All-Star break, Ben Simmons scored 11 points, had three assists and coughed up three turnovers. His defense was uncharacteristically lazy. Simmons’ imperfect aesthetic fit with Joel Embiid has been bandied about a ton over the years, but I think playing for a long stretch without Embiid (and without a stretch 5 option to compliment his skill-set) has begun to catch up with Simmons. Embiid should be back soon — it’s sounding like Saturday — and when he returns, I’ll be looking for a rejuvenated Ben Simmons as order is restored to the team’s offense.

Tobias Harris looked like he was playing in quicksand, too, scoring 12 points on 13 shots and amassing a game-low -29.

Tyrese Maxey showed some juice off the bench and scored 13 points. The Maxey-led bench unit played so well to begin the fourth that Nuggets starters Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. needed to re-enter a game that was sure to be a laugher from opening tip.

On the bright side, no Sixers starter played more than 26 minutes.

It was an ugly loss, but I’m rather sanguine about it. Fifth consecutive game on the road, no Embiid, the altitude, etcetera. Schedule loss. Moving on.

Next up: the Sixers will try to end the 6-game road trip on a high note in Cleveland on Thursday night.