Sixers Fail to Clinch No. 1 Seed in East: ‘We Lost Our Focus’

Ben Simmons

Getty Caris LeVert and the Pacers stopped Ben Simmons and the Sixers from clinching the No. 1 seed in the East for at least one night.

There will be at least one more meaningful game before the playoffs. The Philadelphia 76ers failed to clinch the No. 1 seed on Tuesday night after losing 103-94 to the Indiana Pacers. Next up, the streaking Miami Heat.

The Sixers carried a 62-51 advantage into the halftime locker room, then disaster struck in the second half in what has been a familiar script in recent games. The Pacers fought back in the third quarter and tied it at 92 in the fourth before taking the lead for good. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for Philadelphia which watched its beleaguered bench fail to put the game away.

After the game, head coach Doc Rivers pinned the brutal loss on poor play on the offensive end. They shot 43.7% from the field (38-of-87) while being paced by Tobias Harris (27 points) and Ben Simmons (20 points).

“Honestly, this is a terrible loss for us as a group,” Harris told reporters. “We lost our composure throughout the fourth quarter which can’t happen for a team striving to be how good we want to be as a group.”

Yes, Joel Embiid (non-COVID illness) was missing in action in this one. So too were Matisse Thybulle (hand) and Furkan Korkmaz (ankle) and Shake Milton (knee). But the Sixers had more than enough firepower to survive Indiana and couldn’t do it.

“I thought the first five minutes of the third we were just horrible offensively,” Rivers told reporters. “It’s rare that I’ve said this was an offensive loss, but this was an offensive loss for sure tonight. I thought our defense overall held in.”

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Sixers Players Contradict Rivers’ Assessment

While Rivers credited his defense for holding their ground, some of his players seemed to contradict that assessment. Harris and Simmons kept harping on bad defensive effort during their post-game Zoom calls. Both players talked about failing to create transition offense and giving up too many open looks in the second half. Harris specifically blamed it on their mental focus not being there.

“Transition has been our best offense all season,” Harris said. “When we’re at our best, it’s because we’re locked in defensively. In the third quarter, they just had too many looks, too many good looks, too many open looks. I relate that to the defensive end.”

Simmons, who controls the tempo as the point guard, offered that the pace became too slow.

“I think we slowed down our pace,” Simmons said. “We got a lot of good looks, we just didn’t knock them down.”

Rivers Rips Offense For Pacers Loss

Tyrese Maxey filled up the stat sheet off the bench against Indiana. He scored 11 points in 17 minutes while dishing out three dimes. However, the Sixers struggled to get into a rhythm on offense when he was in the game. They didn’t have their normal spacing on the floor, something that seemed a bit off even when Simmons was running the point.

“We weren’t very organized tonight,” Rivers said. “We didn’t run our stuff. We ran a lot of random [stuff], but that happens. You ask your team after the game, how many times did we run our early offense? And when they can’t give you the answer, that’s the answer.”

The Sixers will get one night to put this one behind them before hopping a flight to South Beach for a must-win versus the Miami Heat. They still need to win one more game to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference following Brooklyn’s 115-107 win on Tuesday night. The Heat may decide to rest their starters on Thursday since they wrapped up the No. 6 seed unless Miami wants to try and move up another spot.

“It’s just bounce back,” Harris said. “And I think our mental focus just needs to be a whole lot better.”

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