It feels as if the sky is falling surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers. The team has now dropped the opening three games of the season including most recently at the hands of the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs. Despite being regarded as 13.5 favorites heading into the matchup, the Sixers were unable to take care of business with San Antonio holding control in the matchup throughout the game.
The Spurs ultimately secured a 114-105 victory in which they outscored the Sixers 95-80 in the final three quarters. The team showed a lack of intensity and Doc Rivers put it bluntly following that, “We’re not ready to win yet. You can feel that and so we got a lot of work to do.”
Doc Rivers Thoughts:
There were a number of concerning issues regarding the team. Rivers pointed to their lack of pace offensively and how the team always seems to be up against the shot clock. He also was unhappy with the defensive effort and believed the failure to get stops has prevented the team from building their own momentum. The Sixers boldly proclaimed that being one of the top defenses in the NBA was one of their goals for the year. There is still plenty of time to right the ship in this regard but the early signs from Philadelphia have not been promising.
Beyond the on-court attributes, Rivers mentioned the mentality of the team as something that needs to be improved. As he put it in his own words, “It’s almost like we played these first two games hard, competed, and felt like ‘OK, now we can win some games’. You still gotta go out and earn the game. Tuck was yelling after the game and he was right. No one’s just gonna give you a win,” per Austin Krell of The Painted Lines.
Sixers Concerning Trends
There was a great deal of chatter coming into the season regarding the upgraded complementary pieces to surround the Sixers stars. While the talent seems to be improved, the production has not been evidence of this. In the matchup against the Spurs, the Sixers’ bench added just 10 total points. Through three games, the Sixers’ bench has been outscored 103-34 by opponents.
The big four of Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris combined for 92 points in the loss to the Spurs. While this is great, it also means the rest of the roster added just 13 points. The overreliance on the stars has been an issue for the Sixers in past years and this does not look to be fixed in the way it was hoped.
While Harden was nothing short of terrific in the opening two games, he did not show the same assertiveness against the Spurs. Harden ended with 12 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds in the matchup. The near triple-double looks great on paper, but the former MVP shot 4-18 from the field and was just 1-6 from beyond the three-point arc. The Spurs also targeted both Harden and Maxey on the defensive end with a variety of off-ball movement sets and screens to create the desired matchup.
The Sixers are just three games into a long season and have plenty of time to get things right. However, it is an extremely discouraging start based on the high expectations and momentum that appeared to be building in the preseason. As Rivers alluded to, there is still a lot of work to be done. They will have to figure things out fast as their next opportunity to pick up the season’s opening win will be on Monday against the Pacers.