With just under three and a half minutes left in Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, Joel Embiid made a 3-pointer off an assist from JJ Redick, cutting the Philadephia 76ers’ deficit to six points.
The Sixers were fighting back from being down as many as 26 points. Their offense was playing better, and it was more fluid. The team had picked up the tempo and got better shots in the halfcourt.
Despite Embiid’s shot, Philly was unable to continue their momentum over the final minutes. The Raptors went on a 12-1 run to end the game, and the Sixers lost 129-112 on the road.
The fourth quarter was the Sixers’ best one offensively. After being down 105-86 at the end of the third, it seemed as though the Raptors had a victory locked up.
But a 15-5 run to begin the fourth quarter gave the Sixers a boost. Playing better on the defensive end, along with not committing many turnovers helped the Sixers cut into the Raptors lead. Though Philly turned the ball over 23 times in the game, they only committed four in the fourth quarter.
The run to begin the final featured the Sixers showcasing better spacing and more aggressiveness on offense. As a whole, the group became more open while Redick ran off screens for jump shots; he scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Slow start and brutal turnovers
Though the Sixers played better on offense in the fourth, they looked sluggish through the first three quarters – and the team’s high number of turnovers didn’t help.
Ben Simmons had a career-high 11 turnovers, as he struggled to handle the ball well inside. The Raptors did a good job defending him in the paint and cutting off driving lanes, but the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year also simply didn’t protect the ball as well as we’re accustomed to seeing on some possessions.
With the Raptors cutting off driving lanes, Simmons wasn’t able to do what he does best. He only took nine shots, tied for the fewest field goal attempts by a starter with Dario Saric. The struggles by Simmons to get into the lane led to the Sixers’ spacing crumbled. The 22-year-old would get caught in the lane and be forced to pass, leaving him unable to do a large part of what he does best.
Finding a fix from 3-point range
On top of that, the Sixers had 40 attempts from beyond the arc, making just 35 percent of their 3-pointers. The Sixers have averaged 35.9 shots from 3-point range through eight games, ranking them No. 5 in the league.
Even with the high volume, Philly ranks No. 21 in the league for 3-point percentage (33.8). The Sixers haven’t taken enough quality shots and need a player who can move without the ball well and cut into the lane to put pressure on the defense. The obvious hope is that Wilson Chandler can be that player, as he’s a capable shooter who made 35.8 percent from the 3-point range last season.
Chandler is still dealing with a left hamstring injury and has yet to make his season debut. Before Tuesday’s game, Jon Johnson of 94WIP reported Chandler is close to returning.
While he’s not the knockdown shooter the Sixers need, he does have a career field goal percentage of 49.6 percent. Philly needs someone who can be a cutter and can make the defense rotate and collapse instead of simply staying home on Simmons and Embiid.
The Sixers played a good team in the Raptors who played well against them defensively. But along with that, they also took advantage of the Sixers’ weak transition defense, scoring 27 fastbreak points, and totaling 56 points in the paint to Philly’s 36.
Philadelphia still has time to refine its offense, but for now, their offensive play hasn’t been among the best in the Eastern Conference.