The Sixers suffered their fifth loss in their last six games Saturday night, falling to the Nets at Wells Fargo Center.
They were not remotely close to victory. In the first contest of a four-game homestand, the Sixers trailed by as many as 30 points and dropped a 136-121 game.
Brooklyn improved to 20-28 and the Sixers dipped to 30-18.
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Nets guard Cam Thomas posted 40 points. Tyrese Maxey scored 23.
The Sixers were seriously undermanned Saturday.
On top of Joel Embiid (left knee lateral meniscus injury), they were down Tobias Harris (illness), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response), Nicolas Batum (left hamstring tightness) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise).
“It’s a different illness than what he had just last week, so hopefully that’ll get better quick,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said of Harris. “Nico gets evaluated again tomorrow. Melt has been on the court. I think he certainly will be on the court again tomorrow, but I don’t know how close he is yet. But he is out there doing workouts and moving pretty good. Cov’s going to be a while.”
For Brooklyn, Dorian Finney-Smith, Day’Ron Sharpe and Dennis Smith Jr. were out.
The Sixers will host the Mavericks on Monday night. Here are observations on their blowout loss to the Nets:
Miserable start for Maxey-led offense
The Sixers missed their first seven three-point attempts, including three by Maxey, and didn’t make a long-range shot until the 4:11 mark of the second quarter. The team began 3 for 16 from the field and often appeared dependent on their All-Star guard to generate something out of nothing.
The Nets sensibly forced the ball from Maxey’s hands on several early blitzes and the Sixers weren’t crisp in capitalizing on those potential 4-on-3 opportunities. Maxey was also visibly annoyed that he didn’t get foul calls on a few driving layup tries, throwing his hands out and looking to the officials in disbelief.
“You try to give them some simple actions, like pick-and-roll stuff, but (the Nets) made it difficult,” Maxey said. “They trapped and did different things like that. ... It’s a lot of different lineups, a lot of guys that haven’t played together, a lot of different situations.
“We’ve practiced a lot of lineups, but some of these lineups we haven’t practiced just because we haven’t had the time. So it was hard, but we’ve still got to go out there, compete extremely hard and try to win games.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. made eight early free throws. Besides that, the first quarter was light on good things to say about the Sixers’ offense.
No sparks off the bench
With Harris sidelined, the Sixers’ Maxey-less minutes were especially difficult.
The team couldn’t create anything easy in the half court with Patrick Beverley at point guard. Many players strayed from their comfort zones offensively and did not excel in larger roles. Marcus Morris Sr. air balled a fadeaway jumper. Furkan Korkmaz’s floater didn’t hit the rim.
The Sixers went down 49-24 on a Thomas three. Brooklyn had a massive advantage from long distance Saturday, sinking 20 threes to the Sixers' 12.
Unsurprisingly, Ben Simmons was not among the Nets to make a three. Simmons, who played 14 minutes off the bench, heard boos from Sixers fans on every touch. He recorded no points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Mo Bamba matched up with Simmons and played behind starting center Paul Reed. Nurse said pregame that his preference is for Reed and Bamba to fill the full 48 minutes at center without Embiid, though KJ Martin ended up getting a brief run at the five Saturday.
According to Nurse, his two available centers also had physical issues vs. the Nets.
“Paul was a little under the weather tonight, so we were trying to limit his minutes,” Nurse said. “Mo got in there and got a little banged up. So it was a tough manpower night. I still don’t like to use any excuses about anything. We still should’ve tried to play a little better, especially at the defensive end. Get up and guard the three-point line better. We just obviously gave up way too many — and way too many open ones.”
Martin was one of six bench players Nurse used over the first three quarters. None of them had a game-turning impact.
Sixers show frustrations
Rookie guard Ricky Council IV made his first appearance before garbage time in the NBA, checking in with 8:37 left in the second quarter.
Clearly, Nurse didn’t like how the Sixers’ established players had performed to that point. He also wasn’t pleased with the officiating; Nurse picked up a technical foul in the second quarter. Oubre did the same in the third and Beverley was ejected from the sidelines in the fourth.
The frustrated Sixers raised their game a bit in the second period, cutting the Nets’ lead to 16 points at halftime, but Thomas caught fire late in the third and Brooklyn decisively won the quarter.
Terquavion Smith certainly made the most of his fourth-quarter minutes, draining five three-pointers and scoring 17 points, but the outcome was never in doubt.
It was at least a great night personally for the microwave-scoring rookie, who's been learning from watching and listening to fellow guards Maxey and Beverley.
“Those two guys have just been teaching me to be tough on the court and just be myself,” Smith said. “Every time that I get in, they tell me to just be myself and shoot it when I’m open. Having that encouragement from those guys that have been in the league, it means a lot to me. I appreciate them for taking me under their wing.”
While it wouldn’t be logical to extract anything major about the Sixers from Saturday’s shorthanded effort alone, it’s clear they could benefit from adding shot creation and outside shooting ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Whatever’s next for Embiid, the team needs players who can lessen the burden on their stars, make defenses respect them, and hit open jump shots.
Regardless, the Sixers should obviously be much better equipped to compensate for Embiid’s absence when first-choice starters like Harris, Batum and Melton are healthy.
As for Embiid, he’s stayed in touch with his teammates while everyone waits for more info on his next steps.
“His spirit is as good as anybody’s that’s hurt or that’s going through something,” Maxey said. “But he’s been great, honestly. He called me and congratulated me (on being named an All-Star).
“He texted us and told us to be successful, try to win games. And he’s supportive of us. We’re supportive of him as well. Whatever he’s going through — his rehab or whatever he has to do — we’re going to be right there with him.”