Shooting Yourself in Both Feet – Observations from Pacers 101, Sixers 98

That’s a bad loss, first one at the Wells Fargo Center since December 21st, if you can believe it.

It was a combination of the same things we’ve seen in other losses – turnovers, second chance points, bone-headed plays, and a lack of fourth-quarter execution.

Take all of that, wrap it up into a nice package, and you get a three-point home defeat to a good Indiana team that played a somewhat mediocre game.

I say “mediocre” because they’re a top-ten shooting team that went 40% from the field last night and just 20.8% from three point range. Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for a diddly-poo 5-32 mark and went 1-9 from three, yet the Sixers couldn’t capitalize on a pedestrian back court offering from a team that normally shoots 47.5% and 37.1% in each department.

Here’s the thing; when you turn the ball over 21 times and allow 14 offensive rebounds, that creates a beefy gap in total shot attempts. The Pacers were +20 in this department with 95 shots to the Sixers’ 75. The fact that Brett Brown’s team was at all close in this game is a minor miracle.

I’ve said before that this team has been able to find ways to paint over the turnover issue by compensating in other areas.

Not last night.

They shot right around their season average of 46.8%, so no advantage there. The rebounding issue was complemented by measly 15-point bench effort and 25 fouls, some of which were bogus and others untimely. The refs were all over the place last night.

But the Sixers had issues in those four main areas last night – fouls, turnovers, rebounding, and bench points – so it’s like shooting yourself in each foot, then re-loading and doing it again.

Brown was asked post-game why his team is still having turnover and foul issues:

“Because I think it’s hard to expedite people’s birth certificates. I think you’re seeing young guys, if you go into who and where, it’s (that) we gotta get better with individuals. As a team we have to get better. Some of it I have to own. I think when you look at the trending that has been going on, say after the All-Star break, we are improving. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”

I mean, he’s not wrong. The Sixers have games in March were they’ve turned it over just 9, 9, 11, and 14 times. But they still throw up clunkers with 21, 26, and 18 turnovers, which are all above their season average. So while the average number has come down slightly as the season progresses, the wild swings in performance have not. They still have some horrendous games in this area.

The Pacers took the season series 3-1, which means they own the tiebreaker in the east. The currently occupy the 3rd seed in the East while Philly sits at #6, so we’d be looking at Indy/Philly if the playoffs began today.

Embiid

Joel didn’t speak last night.

While reporters were wrapping up Brett’s post-game availability in the conference room, Embiid apparently went to do his media in the Sixers’ locker room before the main group got there. We were told by Sixers’ PR that a couple of reporters had already made it to the locker room but did not ask Embiid any questions, so he walked off and didn’t come back to speak to the rest of the group when we got in there.

Seems weird right? I understand why he wouldn’t want to talk after that, but it’s not typical that the locker room becomes available while the coach is still speaking. I’d also like to know who the reporters were that stood there and stared at Embiid, but didn’t ask him anything.

Anyway, Joel finished with 29 and 12 on 50% shooting last night while going 0-5 from three and committing right turnovers. Some good, some bad, a rollercoaster of a night.

I don’t know if you notice this, but I feel like Jo loses focus in games where he’s getting fouled or turning the ball over or not hitting. He picked up a technical foul when he shoved Lance Stephenson from behind and some of his battles with Myles Turner and Al Jefferson, of all people, seemed a bit choppy with pushing and shoving and some gamesmanship and embellishment in between.

Sometimes I feel like Jo gets distracted a bit and pulled off his game, so I asked Brown if he was seeing the same thing:

“I don’t think he takes him out of his game. There are some times that I think it almost gets him going. I think it’s part of players – young players especially – to maintain a composure. I’m sure if we had that (Stephenson situation) again, perhaps that’s not the way he would want to handle it. But in general, I don’t think it makes him sort of have a meltdown and lose focus. He’s pretty good like that and likes to get excited.”

Fair enough. Maybe I asked it the wrong way.

Follow up – do you think Joel tries to overcompensate or “press” when he’s scrapping with other players? Does he feel like he has something to prove out there?

“Maybe. Maybe. Some of the plays he made at the end were good, like his back-down and up and under dunk. But in general, I think that it’s not a concern of mine. I hear your question. It’s not a concern of mine.”

Makes sense. Joel does seem to feed off of conflict and energy in some cases.

But I do think that sometimes he has a hard time staying… grounded? I get the sense that he feels like he has to put everything on his shoulders. He wants to dribble and pump fake and create and shoot three-pointers, and in the process he turns it over eight times. The final shot of the game was an Embiid 26-footer, a play Brown says included both Jo and JJ Redick as options. I’m all for Embiid taking deep looks, but not that deep, and not in the final seconds of the game.

Late Execution

To Brown’s point, they got it to 92-89 after perfect execution on an inverted pick and roll:

Can’t do it any better than that. They’ve had success running that Embiid/Redick action in late game scenarios in recent weeks.

And here Embiid defends the rim before getting a switch on the other end and taking Bogdanovic to school in the low post:

Good, right?

Positive plays in crunch time. Solid execution. Clutch conversions.

But you also had this:

And this, on the very next possession:

That’s two consecutive trips down the floor, completely wasted.

That was the theme last night; every time they did something well, there was a dumb play to counter it. It was frustrating to watch from a media standpoint, so I assume you were even more annoyed.

Ben Simmons

10, 13, and 10 for a triple double.

Also zero shots in the fourth quarter and a 1-4 mark in the third. He hit one shot in the second half.

To critique or not depends on whether you think it’s important for him to score down the stretch. Is it good enough for Embiid and Redick to handle the late-game load and take the tough shots? Or does Simmons need to get involved? We’ve occasionally seen aggressive Ben show up in the 4th quarter of games, but last night his only contributions in the final five minutes were two assists and a defensive rebound.

Trevor Booker

Did he look kind of pissed out there? Maybe not pissed, but just putting a bit of extra energy in this one. I thought his return was gonna be a nothing storyline, but he looked like he had something to prove. He only had 5 points and 6 boards, so whatever, but he spoke pregame about being released by the Sixers:

He’s not wrong. Indy is a better fit for him. And Ersan Ilyasova is a better for Philly.

Overall, a forgettable night for the Sixers, but at least Brent Celek got a shout from the crowd:

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