MILWAUKEE — Twenty-five points from Dario Saric wasn’t enough.
Fifteen assists from Ben Simmons didn’t get it done.
Brett Brown pointed to the need for team basketball, not just a handful of players to carry them through four quarters, Sunday following the Sixers’ letdown 118-110 loss to the Bucks (see observations).
“Whatever we do we have to get done as a team,” Brown said.
The Sixers' roster was designed with versatile players so they could shift across the court instead of being pigeon-holed into rigid roles. Their system has been based on ball movement, leading the NBA in passes and touches per game, according to NBA.com. They rank third in assists per game behind the Warriors and Pelicans. Those stats equal up to, getting everyone involved.
“Joel (Embiid) is the only real like ‘let’s-give-it-to-Joel-and-let-him-go-to-work-type-of-guy,’” Brown said. “Other than that, that’s not who we are. You need body movement and team movement.”
It would be easy to point to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as the downfall of the Sixers, but it was a dismal third quarter that shifted the game. The Sixers had led by as many as 20 points. The Bucks erased that with a 21-0 run and 33-14 scoring imbalance in the third.
The Sixers committed nine turnovers in that quarter alone, more than a third of their total 26. The Bucks scored a massive 36 points off those errors.
“We just kept turning the ball over,” Simmons said. “Offensively, we didn’t make any plays, didn’t execute.”
That ‘we’ concept is what the Sixers will continue to emphasize as they lead up to the playoffs. It’s key on both ends of the floor.
“Defensively playing together, meaning you just have each other’s back,” JJ Redick said. “There’s always going to be offensive players or offensive sets that puts the defense at a disadvantage and it’s relying on the back sides, it’s relying on the trust, it’s relying on the next guy to put out fires. Those are what good defensive teams do. We’ve done that all season. I think we can all recognize we’ve had a little slippage lately, including tonight. We’ll get better.”
Simmons said as the point guard, it comes down to communication, leadership and getting his teammates in the correct positions. He notices a difference when there's not as much team involvement.
"It’s just not the way we play and not the way we should be playing," Simmons said. "Everybody knows that. I think once we all are on the same page coming into games, I think we’ll be fine."
As easy as it would be to find Embiid on the majority of possessions or dish the ball to Redick to knock down threes, that's not going to net the best results.
"Team offense, team defense, we’re doing really good things," Brown said. "But tonight, you didn’t do it for five, six-minute stretches, you get hurt."