We're going to bounce around a little bit in today's newsletter, in part because last night's loss to the Hornets was so frustrating, and also in part because there's a few topics worth bouncing around to. That might start to be the norm here as we approach the trade deadline, and the focus might veer a little bit away from the day-to-day games and towards a more macro view of the team and its direction.
Before we get into the stuffs, I'll probably run a mailbag question to lead off tomorrow's newsletter, so if you have something that you want answered, send it over to email@example.com.
In today's newsletter:
- Quick thoughts on last night's debacle against Charlotte.
- Thoughts on the Simmons update.
- Lillard getting surgery, and how that impacts the Sixers.
- Roundup of coverage from last night's loss.
- Miscellaneous links.
Once you get past the frustration of having watched last night's debacle against the Hornets, there's one of two directions your mind can go. The first is that, after having just won seven in a row, the Sixers were due for a letdown eventually, and the performance isn't concerning at all. The second is that the performance showed many of the weaknesses that prevent the Sixers from being real threats in the playoffs, and those weaknesses were exposed the very first time the Sixers played a team capable of exploiting them.
I think there's some truth to both stances.
The Sixers' perimeter defense is very bad, and that showed against a Charlotte squad that's led by Gordon Hayward (30/4/7 on 13-16 shooting), Terry Rozier (22/4/4/ on 10-18), LaMelo Ball (13/7/8) and Miles Bridges (21/8 on 9-20).
On top of that, Joel Embiid didn't cover up the Sixers' porous perimeter defense as effectively as he normally does, in part because he picked up two early offensive fouls and played a much more passive brand of defense to keep himself out of foul trouble. To make matters worse, the Sixers couldn't stop turning the ball over, with 17 turnovers (compared to 10 for the Hornets) leading to 23 Charlotte points (compared to 12 points off turnovers for the Sixers).
The game was the perfect storm for the Sixers: bad perimeter defense, against a team that can take advantage of it, made worse by a less effective Embiid and further compounded by gift-wrapping the Hornets a ton of transition opportunities thanks to uncharacteristic unforced errors by the Sixers. If Charlotte makes more open shots, the Sixers lose that game by 25. They played terribly.
The turnovers, and Embiid's muted defensive impact, are problems limited in scope to last night's game. They're not too concerning, even if they were frustrating. The small, slow, and ineffective perimeter defense is certainly a long-term problem that the Sixers have to address if they want to be taken seriously, not to mention the lack of reliable offensive options outside of Embiid.
These aren't new limitations, though, and it's part of what has made covering this team so weird: we know they're not good enough without Ben Simmons (or a trade), and that seven game winning streak wasn't enough to pull the wool over our eyes.