Short-handed Sixers embarrassed by Blazers: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (29-15) visited the Portland Trail Blazers (13-33) on Monday. Both teams wanted to snap two-game losing streaks. The Sixers lacked consistent offensive organization and looked lost on defense in an embarrassing beatdown at the hands of the Blazers, 130-104.
Before we get to the action, some notes.
The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who has a sore left knee. Tyrese Maxey has a sprained left ankle and was out.
De'Anthony Melton is recovering from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness and was not available.
Robert Covington missed the game with a bone bruise in his left knee. Kenny Lofton Jr. was not available due to personal reasons.
Nick Nurse started Patrick Beverley, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, Tobias Harris, and Paul Reed.
The Blazers were without the services of Shaedon Sharpe, who has a lower abdominal strain.
Robert Williams III is out for the season with a torn ligament in his right knee.
Moses Brown has a fractured left wrist and was not available.
Chauncey Billups started Malcolm Brogdon, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, Jabari Walker, and Deandre Ayton.
- As ugly as it was at times - and, boy, was it ugly - the Sixers played with a clear purpose on offense: attack the rim. Philadelphia took turns slicing through the paint like hot knives cutting through butter. It wasn't exactly the most synergistic attack - they weren't spraying the ball all over the floor with inspiring off-ball movement. But, whoever had the ball hunted the rim aggressively. Oubre kept his dribble alive and stayed on his feet as the traffic came and the contact approached, finding angles to gently place the ball into the net with an arm extended above the rim.
Beverley led the assault on the rim throughout the first half. I think we're all quite surprised by how crafty he is on offense. We're all typically prisoners of the moment affected by recency bias. But, Beverley has really taken the liberty he has on offense and run with it. Despite not having much burst on the ground or vertical pop at the rim, he's finding ways to beat defenders around the rim and he's using his strength to compile and-ones.
His weapon is nashing, keeping his dribble alive as he drives under the basket. Sometimes he'll keep going because there's nothing to do if he stops under the rim. Other times, he'll turn right back around and flip the ball over the near lip of the rim to beat a lulled defender. Beverley even attacked the middle of the floor and threw down a dunk in this game.
My favorite part of the Beverley experience has been the hook shot. He got the Blazers a couple of times by planting, faking, and reverse-pivoting into a flip shot over his shoulder. His touch on it is incredible.
There are only two veterans I can remember joining the Sixers in their mid-30s and actually being better offensive players than they were elsewhere: Beverley and JJ Redick.
- The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast went haywire late in the third quarter and there was a period of time during which all we had was the audio. Given the waste being laid on the court, it was the best part of the second half.
- It made all the sense in the world that the Sixers wanted to establish some rhythm for Harris early in this game. And his first touch of the game came from sound strategy. The Sixers ran a miniature dribble weave to get him isolated against Simons above the free throw line and put him in position to get his feet wet with some bully ball. But, it was the next two touches that raised these eye brows.
Philadelphia ran Harris off weak-side pin-down screens to curl into the pass and shoot off the catch early in the action. Sure, Portland wasn't paying him any respect and willingly died on the screens. But, that's not the way to get Harris going. The Sixers are too good at manufacturing mismatches to lack method in their attempts to jump-start Harris' motor, especially on a night when Embiid and Maxey are not available to get theirs any way necessary.
- Even with Embiid and Maxey headlining a large pool of Sixers who were unavailable for this game, Portland is so bad that this shouldn't have been too overwhelming of a matchup for Philadelphia. But, the Sixers let a perfectly manageable three-point halftime deficit swell early in the third quarter.
I can understand defensive lapses from time to time, especially when the lynchpin of your defense isn't available to clean up messes that start on the front line. But, it was the total disorganization on offense that was inexcusable. It was especially jarring considering that they actually set up in Horns on a couple of possessions early in the quarter. Some of their best offense comes out of that formation. While I don't expect every possession to feature as crisp execution without the two best players on the court, you should know to get to your bread and butter when things are going awry.
When you have sets that work so well, you spend time putting different players in different positions in those sets so that they're prepared to be in any spot in any situation. And given the success Philadelphia had on the drive in the first half, it doesn't really matter whether you're catching and attacking at the rim or catching at the elbow and driving from there.
The Sixers didn't need to have good perimeter shooting to manufacture decent possessions, but they floated in and out of organized plays all quarter long, all while not doing a damn thing to stop the bleeding on the other end of the floor.
- In the time it took you to read the first clause of this sentence, Ayton caught the Sixers asleep on defense and jetted backdoor to dunk home a lob...again.
- Danuel House Jr. taking step-back double-clutch long twos. I'm going to bed.
The Sixers (29-16) will visit the Golden State Warriors (19-24) on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on TNT.
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