There’s no other way to slice it: The Sixers’ 119-113 loss to the Wizards Thursday night was ugly (see observations).
Ugly because their defensive effort was poor. Ugly because the Wizards are simply not a very good basketball team. Ugly because it brings their road record to 5-7 on the season.
But mostly ugly because of the 21 turnovers that led to 30 Washington points — 15 of which were committed by the team’s two young All-Stars.
It appeared the Sixers took the lowly Wizards lightly.
“I think we just came in too relaxed,” Ben Simmons told reporters postgame. “Didn’t take care of the ball. Waited too long down the stretch to try to get the game back.”
The Sixers actually came out with a purpose and built a 33-25 after one. Then everything fell apart.
Careless play on both ends tilted the game. On defense, the Sixers lost track of Davis Bertans, one of the better three-point shooters in the league, who hit 5 of 5 from three in the second quarter. They also committed six of their turnovers in what turned out to be a 40-point period for the Wizards.
The Sixers made a push and got the game to within five, but it was too little, too late.
“Terrible,” Tobias Harris said when asked about how the team responded. “We gave them looks. Bertans came out and killed us, especially in the second quarter. We turned the ball over. They got 30 points off our turnovers. That's the name of the game right there. Honestly, you got to give them credit, they made shots, but we couldn't guard them, we couldn't stop them tonight.”
Harris was one of the lone bright spots for the Sixers. He poured in a season-high 33 points and turned the ball over just once.
The biggest issue was the play of Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons remains unwilling to shoot and his indecisiveness on drives was a big factor in his seven turnovers. This should’ve been a game that Embiid dominated with Washington’s frontcourt banged up. Instead, he took just 12 shots and turned the ball over eight times.
Embiid expressed frustration over the carelessness with the ball but felt like he was making the proper decisions when passing out of the post.
“My teammates were open,” Embiid said. “Tobias got it going. We went to him a lot and I just do whatever I’m asked to. It doesn’t matter how many shots as long as I make the right plays. It doesn’t matter if I take 12 shots or 20 shots. I’m just doing whatever I’m supposed to, follow the game plan and go from there.”
Turnovers have been an issue since Brett Brown was hired. That’s largely been because of youthful rosters he had and Brown wanting them to get out and run.
Those excuses are gone now. Brown has said so himself.
As has been the case with the team’s high turnover numbers this season, Simmons and Embiid were the main culprits. They’re high usage players so it’s to be expected to some extent.
But nights like Thursday simply can’t happen.
“Well, we're always trying to help our two young guys,” Brown said. “You're trying to help those guys get better. And it's not going to win anything. It won't win any game that matters, let alone a regular-season game. It's not going to put us in any position where we can close out a game. We have to get better in that area and I got to help them.”
There’s no reason to panic or think the issues aren’t correctable, but the Sixers need to take better care of the basketball.
And it starts with Simmons and Embiid.
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