SAN FRANCISCO — At some point, the training wheels have to come off. Even if there are bumps and spills along the way, which there will be, it's time for the Sixers to navigate down the stretch without the need for a late-game regroup.
Brett Brown did not call a timeout on the Sixers' final possession of their one-point loss to the Kings on Thursday in Sacramento (see story). For that, he came under scrutiny.
After De'Aaron Fox hit a jumper to give the Kings the lead with 13.4 seconds left, the Sixers ran a disconnected final play. Ben Simmons dished off to JJ Redick who passed off a shot to instead find Joel Embiid. The big man attempted the game-winner over Willie Cauley-Stein and missed.
The Sixers ended their wining streak at five, but also failed to close out the game as they have done in the past, making it a sore spot for those watching.
The onus shouldn't fall solely on Brown. As the head coach, it is his responsibility to prepare the players to succeed in that scenario, not physically go on the court and execute it. If the team was out there with no clue as to what it should run, that would be one thing. But that's not the case.
"There was a minute-and-a-half stoppage where I could go tell my team, 'If they score, this is the play we're running,'" Brown said Friday after practice. "We don't have to call a timeout. I'm not calling a timeout. And I got the team on the floor that I want. And maybe by calling a timeout that will allow them (the Kings) to sub their best defensive players and do different things.
"In that example, here we come, 13 seconds left. We have our play. We know what we want to do. We've drilled it for two weeks now, the exact same look how we've been closing out games. We've been doing a good job. Last night, we didn't."
Yes, the Sixers had won five in a row and have been turning heads early into the season. That doesn't negate the fact this is a young team — and a newly-constructed one at that — that's still learning how to play together, especially in the final seconds. This isn't a veteran squad with the proven know-how to close out games like it's second nature.
Simmons, who cited "a lot of miscommunication," has played less than 400 minutes in the NBA. Embiid is only at career game No. 40. Redick is a veteran, but he's new to the system. These aren't excuses, they're facts. The Sixers are bound to blunder. It's those mistakes that will help them in the long run to get that been there, done that experience.
"Should've, could've, would've," Simmons said. "You learn from it and it's on to the next one."
Brown acknowledged the Sixers aren't at the point where he can just sit back on the sidelines without getting involved. He doesn't have to hold their hands either. Sometimes one of the best ways to learn what to do is by knowing what not to do, a good lesson to experience this early in the season rather than months from now.
"That's the holy grail of getting to that point where I can just let the team run the team," Brown said. "But at that stage now, it isn't there yet and it shouldn't be now. It's further along than it was Game 5, and it's going to be a hell of a lot further along when it's Game 20. But right now, I've still got to put them a little bit, put them in some spots. Last night's end-of-game execution was disappointing."
Brown emphasized young players holding one another accountable and closing out down the stretch Friday at practice, one day before taking on the defending champion Warriors. The Sixers will be walking into one of the most difficult arenas to play in on the road with a difficult loss to overcome.
"Now we know," Simmons said. "Now we've got to come in every game ready. It's not easy to win in this league."