Brett Brown felt there were more than enough breaks in the action late to get his desired instructions to his team in case things went down to the wire.
What he didn’t expect was for the young Sixers to disregard those plans and do their own thing.
The Sixers allowed rookie De’Aaron Fox to drain a pull-up jumper with 13.4 seconds remaining and then failed to execute the called offensive set on the other end in a 109-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Thursday (see observations).
“That particular play is most disappointing because we had all the stoppages,” Brown said of the last play. “We had talked. I didn’t need to take a timeout. The game was stopped for a minute. We didn’t need to waste a timeout.
“We had a play designed. We’ve been doing well closing out games and we went rogue. We didn’t show the discipline. That thing you’re talking about is the end result of chaos.”
On that final possession, Ben Simmons dribbled up the court and passed to JJ Redick on the right wing. Redick hesitated before he fed Joel Embiid at the foul line. Embiid pivoted on Willie Cauley-Stein and then put up a jump shot that rolled off the rim to officially snap the Sixers’ five-game win streak.
Not exactly the execution you want to see from an upstart team looking to make a name for itself around the league.
“It’s a tough one for sure, but it’s a lesson,” said Robert Covington, who had a team-high 24 points. “We’re going to go back and watch the small things, what caused the outcome of this game. What we’re going to do is learn from the mistakes, fix them and move on to the next one.”
This version of the Sixers was supposed to be over those type of crucial mistakes, although you couldn’t tell on Thursday night. They had 17 turnovers, which led to 19 points. The Sixers also committed 28 personal fouls compared to 19 for the Kings.
Still, the Sixers were in the hunt for yet another road win because their dynamic duo of Embiid and Simmons overcame some early adversity.
Embiid, who was back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game in Utah for “load management,” looked like the time off didn’t serve him well early on. The center (22 points on 7 for 20 shooting, 15 rebounds, two assists, three blocks, five turnovers) appeared lethargic throughout much of the game before coming on strong in the clutch (see highlights).
Embiid had nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in the fourth quarter as the Sixers went up by as many as six with 1:38 left on the clock.
Simmons was held in check for a good portion of the matchup, mainly by his own doing. The rookie point guard committed his fourth personal foul just 1:17 into the second half and was forced to the bench.
When Simmons returned in the fourth, he made up for lost time. He scored seven of his 18 points in the final frame (see highlights).
But the play by the Sixers’ starters proved to be too little, too late as Fox and the Kings’ reserves (56-17 scoring advantage over the Sixers’ bench) closed the show.
“We tried really hard. We had a couple of mistakes at the end of the game,” Dario Saric said. “This is the NBA. Like JJ said in the locker room, sometimes it’s hard to get a win, especially on the road in this game, in this league. It’s the best league in the world.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Sixers as they now travel to face the best team in the best league in the world: the champion Golden State Warriors.