The Sixers (16-15) played host to the Atlanta Hawks (14-16) on Thursday. Philly intended to expand their means of winning to two games. Atlanta was hoping to break a losing two-game skid. Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to send the Sixers to another loss at the hands of a COVID-stricken team, 98-96.
Before we get to what I have seen, some context is due.
The following Hawks were part of health and safety protocols and were not available:
- Young Traé
- Clint Capela
- Danilo Gallinari
- Kevin huerter
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
- Lou williams
- Sharife Cooper
De’Andre Hunter was recovering from an injury to his right wrist and was absent. Solomon Hill was also released with a hamstring tear.
Nate McMillan founded Delon Wright, Skyler Mays, Cam Reddish, John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu.
The following Sixers were subject to health and safety protocols and were not available:
- Danny Green
- Shake Milton
- André Drummond
- Georges niang
Ben Simmons is not mentally ready to play and has been eliminated.
Doc Rivers founded Seth Curry, Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.
It was refreshing to see Matisse Thybulle tackle a corner fence and arrive in the middle of the paint at the start of the game. While that doesn’t translate to a Thybulle score on the disc, it’s a defensive move. On the play, he kicked Seth Curry, who quickly imitated his teammate without pushing into the traffic lane.
More than anything, you want Thybulle to show life on offense. His move is a lottery ticket from night to night. So if he can punish a fence and defend himself and do
Something whatever happens is a positive result. The problem with it – as it is with any non-Embiid Sixer doing anything – is constantly identifying and acting on such opportunities.
It was a brutal first quarter for Tobias Harris. In addition to missing his three field goal attempts (okay, all were three, much to analysts’ delight), Harris managed to tip the ball into Atlanta’s basket on a defensive rebound. In between it all, there was the overwhelming indecision that has plagued Harris’ game since his return from COVID. Every time he caught the ball, Harris opted to have dribbled the time limit on the shot clock until he eventually passed out from whatever he was trying to do. With the dribbling raging, the Philly offense came to a halt.
Editor’s Note: Harris’ tip-in on Atlanta’s basket turned out to be the difference in the game.
Tyler Johnson, who is no doubt from Delco, entered the game and quickly attempted three trebles in 5 minutes of play. He only made one, but that’s the state of mind. that the Sixers need in their second unit. Quite frankly, they need the whole list. The second unit, in particular, lacks someone comfortable calling their own number in the event of an attack. Many teams have players who will pull their teams out of games. The Six have guys who are more prone to making turnovers than throwing shots. Anyone can guess what the future holds for Johnson in Philadelphia. But, the Six need reserves that only have to see the rim to be encouraged to let it fly.
The Sixers, who trailed 19 in the first quarter, returned to the competition by doing two specific things in the second quarter. First, they put forward a concerted team effort on the defensive glass. Even as the ball leapt off the edge and into no man’s land, the smaller Sixers were there to secure it against the stretched Hawks and turn down second chance opportunities in Atlanta. The Sixers are 26th in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage so far this season. Atlanta only got 2 offensive rebounds in the second frame.
The other vehicle for the Philly race before half time was the passing lane activity. The defensive effort was evident after a horrific first quarter. With Atlanta feeling confident and less reckless with their passes, the Sixers took advantage and forced live ball turnovers for the outings.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a worse effort at both ends of the starting unit’s floor than the dreck they put out in this game. On the defensive side of the ball, they were content to allow Atlanta’s wings – the only combined depth position they had in the game – clearing ball screens and dribbling into midrange jumpers as Embiid slumped towards the edge in drop cover. It wasn’t until after Reddish warmed up that the Sixers started bombarding screens. But at this point, the Sixers were already facing a multiple possession deficit. The emergency came, but it didn’t take that long to arrive.
On offense, the Sixers just haven’t made any meaningful passes. They love to use both sides of the court, but they perform the same nothingness of dribbling that doesn’t really advance the offense. You have to turn a corner of the hand or screen, or show a scroll for these actions to make sense. For all intents and purposes, it was a facade.
It’s been a big blow to Isaiah Joe lately. It looks clean, but nothing is falling. It’s not even like the shots aren’t getting closer. There were at least three hits in this game in which the ball hit two parts of the rim before coming out. Of course, his motto is three-point shooting. It doesn’t do anything else well enough to warrant minutes if the shots don’t fall. Unfortunately for him, “near” only counts for horseshoes and hand grenades.
It wasn’t the masterpiece Embiid painted in Boston on Monday night, but he saved his energy for the fourth quarter. It wasn’t so much his offensive focus that was great. On the contrary, he locked himself on defense. Embiid danced between both the strong side of the lane and the weak side of the lane, shading the Atlanta ball carriers enough to delay their workouts while also picking up Onyeka Okongwu who was hiding in the lane. Atlanta pummeled the Sixers with midrange jumpers in the fourth quarter. But, they were a little hesitant to attack the rim.
Rivers and his team found themselves without a clue of what to do once Bogdan Bogdanovic came on in the fourth quarter. They were perfectly comfortable letting Tyrese Maxey stand on an island against the taller, more experienced shooter. And he burned them. Of course, that wouldn’t have happened if they’d changed their defensive plans just a little bit. But, they continued to switch screens with Bogdanovic as the ball manager. As such, Atlanta simply scoured the screens until Bogdanovic was isolated with Maxey. If Rivers had done whatever – hard hedge, soft hedge, blitz, brawl, take it out of Maxey – aside from the change, one of those Bogdanovic isolations could have turned out differently.
The Sixers managed to stop their last defensive stanza of the game. Even though Bogdanovic got the change he wanted, Thybulle started possession on him and helped Atlanta not to shoot in time. The Sixers had one last look – a kick at Embiid for a midrange jumper to even the play at the buzzer. But just like most plans for Embiid Thursday night, it was correct a little behind.
This jumper summed up all night for Embiid, who never really seemed interested in securing victory for his team on the attacking side. Of course, it’s a little different when Enes Freedom isn’t standing between you and the cup. You might be able to get a seven-footer to take over games a number of nights a week, but Embiid never did anything. He’s won the benefit of the doubt with his clutch play this season, but he needs to at least tilt his head in the mirror to assess why his team lost on Thursday.
The Sixers (16-16) will visit the Washington Wizards (17-15) on Sunday. Tipping is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. EST. You can follow the action on NBC Sports Philadelphia.