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Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

Off nights happen, but when you compound those struggles with terrible transition defense and a pathetic effort on the defensive glass, winnable games slip away.

After some disappointing losses, I sit down the following morning to start my re-watch with one clear question in mind: was that game really as bad as it seemed?

There are some nights when shooting variance dominates the outcome, or when a team's star player just has an off night, or the team is uncharacteristically lethargic, perhaps because they're on the road, on a back-to-back, or caught in a trap game. If those aren't common occurrences, it's much easier to come to grips with that the morning after, when you're further removed from the poor performance.

After re-watching last night's incredibly disappointing 106-103 loss to the Washington Wizards, the second time the Sixers have lost to the Wizards in a little more than two weeks (the only two games Washington has won in their last nine), who were playing without Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant, it was a combination of stuff you can easily move on from, but also some legitimate long-term concerns.

Yes, the Sixers had an uncharacteristic off night from Embiid, something they can frequently struggle to overcome. But it was their deficiencies as a team that prevented them from persevering through those struggles. With the exception of some late-clock prayers from Kyle Kuzma (24 points on 10-19 shooting), the Wizards didn't sneak out that win because a ton of jumpers happened to fall. In fact, they made just nine 3s on the night (compared to 11 for the Sixers) and shot just 6-16 on long mid-range jumpers (compared to 5-11 for the Sixers).

Instead, the Sixers allowed the under-manned Wizards easy opportunities thanks to piss poor transition defense and a maddening inability to secure a defensive rebound, allowing the Wizards to collect 41.7% (!) of their offensive rebounding opportunities in the half court, per CleaningTheGlass. If you had to write a script – a premortem, if you will -- on how to lose to the Washington Wizards without Bradley Beal, an off night from Embiid, a lazy showing on the defensive glass and half-hearted effort to get back in transition would be the blueprint. Check on all three.

So I will mostly write last night's outcome off as being the case of an off night, something all teams go through from time to time. It's something which, in a weird way, is a performance that almost stands out more because of how consistent the Sixers have been of late. But I'm not going to let them completely off the hook, either, because some of the reasons they weren't able to overcome an off night from their star came down to consistent issues that have been popping up all year long.

Here are some quick'ish thoughts:

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