The Philadelphia 76ers saw their six-game winning streak snapped on Monday night, dropping a very winnable game at home to the Chicago Bulls, 108-104. Despite entering the night as questionable with a sore hamstring, Joel Embiid was excellent, tallying 40 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. Tyrese Maxey was excellent in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points in the period, and finished with 29 points overall.
The finger-pointing for the defeat, then, has to begin with the supporting cast. Sixers aside from Embiid and Maxey combined for just 35 points on 14-of-37 shooting from the field. You’d expect the offense to be centralized around the team’s two stars, but Philadelphia certainly needs more from everyone else, particularly in terms of efficiency as Joel and Tyrese draw the bulk of the defense’s attention.
Following the loss, getting more production from the complementary players was a theme of the postgame conversation. Head coach Nick Nurse had this to say:
“It just didn’t seem like they were providing enough at the defensive end to start. And I thought we had a stretch there in the second where we didn’t run very good offense. We took some quick shots. You get a string of three, four (possessions) with no pass, no execution. None of those go in, and then we take a fifth one on top of it. Just too much lack of execution in those things. And I think that is taking out-of-rhythm shots, which is probably not going to produce a lot of great stuff. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it come to you. I think, even though those guys got not a great number of shots, I think a lot of those (shots) probably weren’t quite in the rhythm of the offense. There probably was another pass or another drive into the paint that needed to be made. I think you’ve got to let it come to you sometimes.”
Tyrese Maxey commented on the balance of the team’s shot distribution:
“Yeah, it does vary sometimes. It’s different some nights — different lineups, different situations, different schemes and coverages that they’re doing. But you’re right, we’ve got to try to get some other guys involved. Tobias, got to get him more involved; we’re going to need him down the stretch — him and Melt and everybody else as well.”
Joel Embiid was also asked went wrong for the team offensively:
“The spacing wasn’t right. I think we kind of forgot our fundamentals, but that happens. We’ve been on a roll, and I think tonight a lot of it really had to do with not making shots for the first three quarters.”
Now, I’m not going to overreact to one game. One of the themes of this season has been how much deeper the roster is and how well much of the supporting cast has played across the first few months. Kelly Oubre Jr. is shooting 48.4 percent on the season; he isn’t going to shoot 2-of-10 very often. The team entered a very easy seven-game stretch of the schedule and went 6-1. We don’t need to sound the alarms.
Still, Tobias Harris only scoring three points on 1-of-3 shooting? We’ve seen that movie before, even occasionally in the playoffs. Patrick Beverley has largely played well this season, but maybe the team does need to prioritize acquiring a playmaking guard off the bench to create easy offense for others. Should Daryl Morey be more aggressive as the deadline approaching in bringing in more offensive firepower? Bojan Bogdanovic is scoring over 21 points per game and shooting better than 40 percent from three for the second straight season on a dreadful Detroit team reportedly looking to sell.
Again, there will be much better nights for the supporting cast than we saw against the Bulls, and things will continue to sort themselves out as the trade deadline gets closer. But it’s something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. Unless...there was one illness absence that would have solved everything (the Sixers are 12-6 when Morris plays, by the way, but it’s still funny).