Sixers analysis

With streaking Celtics next up, Sixers seek improved ‘organization' offensively

The Sixers are integrating new players and trying to become a more cohesive offense. 

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So much has changed for the Sixers since they last faced the Celtics.

Back on Dec. 1, Patrick Beverley’s 26-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist night wasn’t quite enough to lead the team to an undermanned win.

After a 1-2 homestand that finished with a blowout loss to the Bucks, the Sixers will be clear underdogs again when they visit TD Garden on Tuesday. 

“I just came back,” Nicolas Batum said following practice Monday. “(De’Anthony Melton) just came back. We have Kyle Lowry, Buddy Hield, Cam Payne. We don’t have Joel (Embiid) … so it's a lot of stuff going on right now. 

“So we know we're struggling right now, but we showed some flashes when we can play great as well. We just can't give up. Just got to keep fighting. … We’ve got to fight and keep working. Today was a great day in practice. It was a great day. We’ve got to get to know each other. Those (practice) days are great for us and we're going to be OK.”

Embiid and Robert Covington remain out with left knee injuries. KJ Martin (questionable — right ankle impingement) was the one other Sixer on the team’s Monday night injury report. Boston is fully healthy. The 45-12 Celtics are riding an eight-game winning streak and have a 26-3 home record this season. 

In Embiid’s absence, the Sixers haven’t been close to that level. They’ve won just four of 11 games since the seven-time All-Star big man suffered his lateral meniscus injury against the Warriors. The Sixers rank 23rd this month in both offensive and defensive rating outside of garbage time, per Cleaning the Glass.

Head coach Nick Nurse wasn’t pleased with his team’s offensive organization against Milwaukee. 

Is he now more inclined to lean on play calls? Does he want his new players problem-solving on their own? 

“It’s got to be a little bit of both,” Nurse said. “I think you've got to have some structure and organization, and then you’ve got to be able to play out of that. The play calls are not going to get you a shot every time. 

“So what are we going to do then? What are we doing up the floor in transition? Are we getting good spacing? Are we relocating? Are we making the extra pass? Those kind of things, that’s offense in general. … Both are important. They kind of fit together.”

Transition offense is still a fundamental area for the Embiid-less Sixers. Without the NBA’s scoring champion, they know any chances to attack in the open floor are worth trying to seize. 

The execution obviously isn’t entirely smooth and intuitive yet. 

“Last night was a night we wanted to try to play a lot faster,” Nurse said. “We probably didn’t get it done to the level we wanted to. I know it sounds really silly, but that’s where organization starts. You get a rebound and four guys are in the paint. 

“Who’s running what lanes? And we were running on top of each other and criss-crossing. Again, that needs some practice and some feel. … If we get a rebound, where’s the outlet going? Who’s bringing it, who’s trailing, who’s rim running? So we worked on that today, and I think that’s where we’re trying to head with this crew in particular.”

The Sixers will aim for better answers to all those questions over their final 25 regular-season games.

First up is their final matchup against the Celtics, who already hold a 7.5-game lead at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

“The schedule’s the schedule,” Nurse said. “Got to play it. Doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure.”

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