The Sixers getting trounced in one game by the Brooklyn Nets is certainly not worth freaking out about. Despite all of the Ben Simmons extra circulars that were surrounding the game, it was just another regular season game in March. It was just the first loss the Sixers have suffered when James Harden has taken the court.
The Nets had an unreal first quarter, shooting-wise on Thursday night. They put up 40 points on 65% shooting from the field. Tobias Harris who was tasked with guarding Kevin Durant, struggled to catch up with KD, allowing an 11 point quarter for the future Hall-of-Famer.
The Sixers (Joel Embiid) showed some fight at the end of the quarter, but a 7-0 Nets run in the last 57 seconds gave them a 17 point lead, a lead that would only get bigger. Thursday was not the first time the Sixers have found themselves playing from behind early since Harden has arrived, but this time their opponent was shooting the ball far too well for the Sixers to dig themselves out of that hole.
While seven games (six if you don’t include the loss to Miami in which Harden didn’t play) is a tiny, tiny sample size, the Sixers are starting to make a habit of falling behind early, a tendency that could come back to bite them come playoff time.
In the seven games since Harden first suited up, Philly is allowing 32.9 points in the first quarter. Teams are shooting 53.6% from the field in the opening frame as well, this includes Brooklyn’s 65% from Thursday, and a whopping 74% from the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.
Even Tyrese Maxey, who is averaging 20.7 points per game since Harden’s arrival, has struggled to start games as well. Three times in these seven games he has gone into halftime with four points or less, and is averaging just 7.9 points per game in first halves over that stretch.
Maxey especially struggled defensively against Brooklyn, where Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving took advantage of his over-aggression.
Harden attributed the team’s slow starts to the new dynamic of the team, and that he is still getting used to playing with his new teammates. “Maybe it’s me still trying to figure my teammates, what they like to do,” he said Thursday night, “that we definitely would like that to change.”
Doc Rivers echoed a similar sentiment, alluding to the fact that these struggles stem from playing a more individual style of basketball. “I didn’t think we played together, tonight was a great example of a team that hasn’t played together,” he said Thursday night.
Whether these slow starts are a result of a brand new team, or simply a team coasting through the rest of the regular season, this is a trend that the Sixers cannot afford to carry with them into the playoffs.