The Sixers, for the most part, have exceeded expectations so far this season. If you had of told me before the season that the Sixers would be 13-10 through what has been a brutal schedule-- ranked 1st in strength of schedule according to Basketball reference-- I would've taken that laughing to the bank.
This team is still young and has gone through some growing pains so far, and Monday night's loss to the Suns is another one the team has to learn from. You can't just go through the motions in the first half and play down to a level of competition.
1. Suns dominated the offensive glass
The Sixers lead the league in Defensive Rebounding (37.2) and are 8th in Defensive rebounding percentage (79%) but were surprisingly bullied on the offensive glass.Tyson Chandler beat Joel Embiid to some key offensive boards and had some tap outs. Josh Jackson also grabbed some key offensive rebounds over Ben Simmons. All of which lead to second-chance opportunities.
When you're climbing back into the game you have to be able to complete the defensive possession with a rebound, especially when the shots aren't falling and the opposing team is hitting every shot like Devin Booker and TJ Warren were doing.
2. Struggles from the Three-point line
It was a night to forget from the three-point line. Robert Covington, JJ Redick, and Dario Saric all shot a combined 5 of 23 from three, and a good portion of those shots were clean looks.
The Sixers have quietly struggled from the three-point line over the past 2 weeks. Since November 13th the team has shot 31% from three on 28 attempts. After ranking in the top 5 in makes and attempts, and 8th in percentage early in the season, they have dropped to 15th, 14th, and 21st in Makes, Attempts, and Percentage respectively.
Robert Covington has finally started to come back down to earth after reaching an unsustainable 50% from three at one point. Since November 18th he has shot 30% from three. I don't expect this slump to continue, but this rough patch he has hit has been a bumpy one, to say the least.
3. Devin Booker is so good
I love it when "Smarter-than-you" NBA Twitter tries to discredit and rip apart a player that other NBA fans love to watch. That's what happened to Devin Booker during his first two seasons. Efficiency nerds and number crunchers considered him an overrated and inefficient chucker on a bad team, instead of realizing that he was only 19 and had all of these ways to score and showed some flashes as a passer while playing with a crap team and a terrible coach.
Booker is finally coming into his own this season. Now that the Suns have somewhat better talent, and Earl Watson is out of town, Booker is finally producing better efficiency and has grown more as a passer. He is a scoring machine, and after starting the game 1-8 at one point, Booker lit up the Sixers for 46 points, while making some ridiculous shots that reminded me of Kobe Bryant.
I love stats as much as the next guy, but at some point the eye-test has to account for something.
Booker is going to be a multi-time all-star and if you're still one of those people who doesn't like Booker's game, then you must not like to have fun at all. This guy is special and he cooked the Sixers. He struck fear in me every time he touched the ball.
*side-note TJ Warren was getting buckets too*
4. Sixers are missing Fultz and TJ McConnell in a bad way
Going into the season, Markelle Fultz was expected to be a secondary ball-handler to Ben Simmons, and when his shoulder injury cropped up, it put more of load on Simmons and backup point guard TJ McConnell. McConnell went down last Wednesday against Washington with his own shoulder injury and in the last 3 games now the Sixers have struggled to properly run the offense when Ben Simmons goes to the bench.
Nik Stauskus, who has been pretty much out of the rotation this year, has seen more court time in the last 3 games and has brought back some poor results and Jerryd Bayless has had to move to back up point guard, and has been asked to create more than he should. Fultz and McConnell need to come back soon.
5. Never go through the motions
This is the lesson this young team needs to learn. You can never relax in the NBA even against the bad teams. The Sixers went through the motions in the first half, especially the second quarter. The offensive was poor and the defensive intensity was lackluster, that was the ball game.
Losses to the Kings and Suns are tough lessons to learn. You can't just flip the switch on after giving a struggling team confidence, and tonight was another hard lesson. The team will grow from this.
The Sixers play the Lakers this Thursday on National TV at the Wells Fargo Center. The last time these two teams played, a certain someone had a 46-15-7-7 stat-line. Let's hope the Sixers come out with better energy to start the game and beat another struggling team.