By Sean Kennedy
Unlike Drake, the Sixers started at the top but now they’re here. The 3-0 start to the season and 4-game west-coast winning streaks seem like weird fever dreams as Philadelphia may have hit a new low, getting blown out by the worst team in the league on their home court to drop their 11th straight game. With the two worst offenses and bottom-three defense on the floor, something had to give and it was the movable object that lost out, as the Sixers defense allowed Milwaukee 130 points, easily topping their previous high of 117. The prime culprit was defensive rebounding, as the Bucks grabbed 20 offensive boards, while out-rebounding Philadelphia by 17 on the night. As Malik Rose said, with a bunch of guys on 1-year expiring deals, there’s no reason they should be letting guys beat them to a loose ball.
Really, the game was Sam Hinkie’s tanking masterpiece as the mismatched group of d-leaguers and NBA journeymen that now comprise the Sixers bench was what lost them the game. Playing the first half of the second quarter with the entire bench in, comprised of 3 players who weren’t on the team a week ago, the Sixers allowed Milwaukee to go on a 22-4 run, turning what had been a competitive game into a laugher. The Sixers were torched by Milwaukee’s O.J. Mayo off the bench, who tied a career-high with 7 threes to finish with a game-high 25 points. He may have shown up terribly out of shape this season after signing his big free-agent deal and been in and out of the rotation all year, but if you can hit an wide-open shot, you’re bound to have a ton of success against Philadelphia. The game quickly devolved into a unwatchable bore, perfectly encapsulated by the fact that one courtside fan fell sound asleep in the third quarter (h/t @tmoore76ers).
There were a couple positives for the Sixers, mainly from the usual suspects. For the second straight game post-trade deadline, Thad Young put up monster numbers with 28 points, 5 boards, 7 assists, and 6 steals. You have to feel awful for Thad as he spends about 1/3 of the game visibly frustrated with everything, but as long as he keeps channeling that frustration into his game, I’m alright with it. Michael Carter-Williams actually finished with a +6 plus/minus, which seems impossible given the final score. His turnover woes reared their ugly head, but he did an outstanding job attacking the paint against a Milwaukee group without a premiere shot-blocker at the big man position. He finished with 20 points on 7-11 shooting, including one ferocious put-back dunk. The Sixers will need those two guys to keep bringing their ‘A’ game each and every night if the team is ever going to break this losing skid.
- Please don’t be fooled by the 4-6 shooting effort from BJ Mullens as five of those six shots were low-efficiency jumpers that he’s going to miss more often than not. During one sequence, Mullens air-balled a three and on the Sixers’ next possession, fumbled a decent Tony Wroten pass under the basket, turning what would have been an easy lay-in into a turnover. Then, as Brett Brown immediately pulled him out of the game, he had the audacity to tell yell at Tony across the court to calm down. You don’t tell Tony Wroten to calm down! As my girlfriend aptly put it, it’s like the Sixers traded Hawes for the previous, worse version of himself.
- However, it’s not as though was all sunshine and three-quarter court shots for Wroten in this contest. Wroten got the start alongside Michael Carter-Williams this game in place of Elliot Williams and did a nice job for the most part. He finished with 19 points on 9-15 shooting and 5 assists against just 2 turnovers. That being said, one sequence stood out poorly for Wroten as on three consecutive possessions, he botched a breakaway dunk, missed an open lay-up at the hoop following a nice drive, and then back-rimmed another dunk attempt while trying to throw down a tomahawk along the left wing. As I tweeted out, he was taking those shots about 60 feet too close to the basket.
- Like the Sixers with MCW, the Bucks look like they found a first-round gem in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The young man they call the Greek Freak lived up to the billing with some fierce dunks and some outstanding blocks on the defensive end. On the breakaway dunk Wroten missed, it was partially because Antetokounmpo was sprinting from behind to try and catch him, and then he recovered enough to block Carter-Williams’ follow-up attempt off Wroten’s miss. He’s still raw, as evidenced by the 5 turnovers, but he could eventually be a Serge Ibaka-like defensive presence with better ball-handling.
The Sixers may have lost the game but they won the tanking war. Philadelphia kept open the possibility of having the best odds at the first overall pick, as they’re now just 3.5 games ahead of Milwaukee in the standings. MCW and Wroten played decent, but the entire bench unit was putrid and none of the new guys showed much promise in their first outing. 3/5 tanks