Sixers play down to their competition in Brooklyn

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Brooklyn 116, Philadelphia 108 – Box Score

Throughout the season, even in the midst of turnover-filled collapses and poor shooting nights, defense was always the bedrock the Sixers were able to build upon moving forward. After the San Antonio win last week, they had moved up to the 3rd-best defensive rating in the NBA. Wednesday night in Brooklyn, that foundation crumbled, and Philadelphia lost its three straight game to an opponent it should have handled with ease.

The Nets shot the ball better than they normally do (13-32, 40.6% from three), but it was lazy, undisciplined defense that doomed the Sixers. They made poor rotations and time and time again, fouled jump shooters, the cardinal sin on the defensive end. Brooklyn scored 30 or more points in each of the first two quarters and Philadelphia finished with a 123.0 defensive rating on the game, which would easily be worse than any team’s mark on the season.

Still, thanks to a strong offensive performance of their own, the Sixers were still very much in the game until the fourth quarter. But then, Brooklyn went on an 11-0 run to take control of the game. The surge was bookended by a Nik Stauskas three and and a Jahlil Okafor jump shot in the lane, which I’m sure made the Sixers castoffs very happy. In between, the Nets received 6 straight points from Spencer Dinwiddie, part of his team-high 27 on the night. Dinwiddie was the biggest beneficiary of Philadelphia’s foul-happy ways, going 13-15 at the foul line on the game.

Joel Embiid did everything he could to keep his team in the ball game late, scoring 10 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter. The big man also corralled 14 rebounds on the game, while getting his points efficiently, shooting 12-14 at the foul line. The Nets were often forced to hack Embiid, because simply had no answer for him on the interior. Here was a typical possession where Embiid forced his way to the basket through sheer force of will.

Alongside Embiid, Ben Simmons did his best to show why he felt he deserved one of the All-Star replacement spots. Simmons tallied 24 points on 11-16 shooting, to go along with 7 assists, absolutely charging through the lane for some hellacious dunks. It might be in the Sixers’ best interest for the league to keep putting other All-Star alternates ahead of Simmons; I like him with a chip on his shoulder.

Finally, coming off their worst shooting performance of the season, the Sixers received a nice boost with the return of J.J. Redick to the starting lineup. He changed the dynamic on the perimeter in a hurry, knocking 3 of 4 threes on his way to 20 points. Redick had a team-best +10 plus/minus in his 26 minutes, as the Sixers received zero combined made threes from their bench players.

With the loss, Philadelphia drops back down to .500 on the season at 24-24. With Detroit trading for Blake Griffin and only 1.5 games back of the Sixers for the 8th seed, these are the type of games Philly could ill afford to give away. They’ll look to rediscover their defensive identity and get back on track Friday night at home, in a nationally televised game against the Heat.

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