Sixers’ bench woes, Simmons on Lillard, more takeaways from loss
You can’t win ‘em all.
The Sixers were plagued by a lack of three-point shooting and lack of production from their bench in a thrilling 118-114 loss to the Blazers at Moda Center Thursday night. It was the first loss suffered with their starting five intact. They still hold the top spot in the East at 18-8.
Here are takeaways from the loss.
The Value of Shooting and Shake
Many will analyze the final out-of-bounds play for the Sixers, but the fact is the game was lost well before that. The biggest reasons for the loss were the Blazers hitting nearly three times as many threes and Portland’s bench crushing the Sixers’.
The Sixers had a brutal shooting night from three, hitting just 6 of 27. Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz, two of their most reliable shooters, shot a combined 0 for 9. The Blazers actually shot better from three (44.7) than they did overall (43), going 17 of 38 from deep. That’s such a big discrepancy that the Sixers nearly overcame.
The issue went hand and hand with the lack of production from the bench. As a unit, the Sixers’ bench shot 7 of 20 overall, 1 of 10 from three, and committed three turnovers to just one assist. They were outscored by Portland’s bench, 45-19. Simply put, the Sixers desperately missed Shake Milton, who was out with an ankle injury.
Tyrese Maxey did not play well. It’s also important to note that Maxey is a 20-year-old rookie who’s playing time has severely fluctuated recently. Doc Rivers was not pleased with his bench’s performance and said their lack of fluidity offensively fed Portland’s offense.
“I just thought the ball stuck,” Rivers said about his bench’s second-half stint. “We took tough, bad shots. That got them running, that got them easy baskets, that got Carmelo [Anthony] going.”
Though Matisse Thybulle has been excellent defensively and Dwight Howard has provided toughness, that pair sharing the court offensively is problematic. Couple that with Maxey, whose outside shot hasn’t come around yet, and you saw the result. You’d have to think Daryl Morey will be looking for a stretch big and perhaps another shot creator to pair with Milton ahead of the trade deadline.
Simmons His Own Hype Man
Whenever you face off against Portland, the main concern is slowing down Damian Lillard. While Lillard got off to a hot start, he was slowed significantly in the second half by Ben Simmons.
While trapping the perennial All-Star certainly helped, Simmons clearly had a different approach. Lillard shot just 2 of 13 from the field in the second half and 0 of 6 from three.
“I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night,” Simmons said postgame. “It’s not a one-off thing; if you watch me, I’m typically guarding the best player, and typically the best players are guards … and I love that.
"I love that my teammates can look at me and tell me, ‘You’ve got to go out and lock this guy up.’ There’s nights that guys go off, it’s going to happen, but most of the time I feel like I’m doing a good job and making the right plays. I feel like I’m the best defender in the NBA.”
It’s certainly a brash statement, but it’s likely not far from the truth. Simmons was a First Team All-Defense pick last season and probably should’ve at least been a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. The league is likely taking more notice of him this season and more performances like Thursday’s could go a long in helping his candidacy.
On most nights, you beat the Blazers when you contain Lillard to such a degree. Alas, the Sixers couldn’t reward Simmons’ effort with a win.
It’s also worth pointing out that Simmons was outstanding offensively. He finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, and just one turnover. He’s found confidence posting up and finishing with a little right-handed hook shot around the rim. Simmons and Joel Embiid (35 points) carried the load but could’ve used a little help.
Tobias vs. Melo
For some reason, the 36-year-old Anthony has given Tobias Harris fits this season. Of Anthony’s six 20-point performances this season, two have come against Harris and the Sixers. Anthony is obviously a future Hall of Famer and one of the best offensive players of his generation, but he’s not that guy anymore.
Harris actually got off to a decent start in this one, tying a season-high with nine free throws. But his stint with the second unit to end the third and start the fourth was brutal. Harris has done well bullying smaller players and shooting over them. Anthony has a very similar body type and hasn’t let Harris get to his spots so easily. It does seem like Anthony does get the benefit of some grabby play, but that’s no excuse for Harris, who is trying to make his first All-Star team.
Anthony scored 17 of his 24 in the fourth quarter, including two big free throws to put his team ahead late. Harris has had few down nights this season. For whatever reason, two of them have come against Anthony.
It’s worth noting that Harris logged almost 38 minutes two nights after playing almost 41 minutes in Sacramento. With Mike Scott out, the Sixers lack a true backup four which means Rivers has had to ride Harris an awful lot.