WASHINGTON — In years past, overcoming a 12-point deficit and trailing a playoff-contending team by just two points with a minute to go would be considered an “A for effort” for the Sixers.
If they held their own against a more experienced team and didn’t get dominated by John Wall, a 120-115 loss on the road wasn’t really that bad … was it?
Not this season.
The Sixers are in a new phase, one with actual pieces versus promising potential. With that comes higher expectations to win, and it starts in the locker room after the first game.
“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” JJ Redick said. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.”
The Sixers were in Wednesday's game until the end (see observations). They withstood the combined 53 points from Wall and Bradley Beal with a 29-point performance by Robert Covington and double-doubles from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (see studs, duds, more).
The team acknowledged it had a chance to win. Yes, there were encouraging moments. No, they weren’t hanging their heads and writing off the season after opening night.
At the same time, they are not ignoring the missteps that landed them in the loss column. Those are the turning points to learn from this season.
The Sixers gave up just three points off four turnovers in the first half. The second half was a different story: 20 points off 13 turnovers. Down two points late in the fourth, the Sixers committed a pair of turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that hindered them from closing the gap. Those errors have been a focal point of conversation among the players.
“Too many turnovers. That's big,” Embiid said (more on him here). “That's been the talk in the locker room. Got to work on that.”
The Sixers have one day of practice before facing the Celtics and Raptors in back-to-back games. It's just a small taste of what's to come in a stacked schedule over the first two months of the season. The attitude is be good enough to win, not good enough to compete.
“We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that,” Redick said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to be in the playoffs this year. That’s got to be the mindset.”