There are a few reasons, the most obvious being youth. The Sixers’ point guard, Ben Simmons, is a 21-year-old, albeit a supremely talented one who tied Magic Johnson Tuesday by posting the seventh triple-double of his rookie season. And the guy they turn to most for offense down the stretch, Joel Embiid, is still figuring out how to deal with the swarming defense and double-teams opponents throw at him.
“I think it’s hard to expedite people’s birth certificate,” Brett Brown said. “I think you’re seeing young guys, if you go to who and where, we have to get better with some individuals. As a team, we have to get better. Some of it I have to own. When you look at the trending that’s been going on, say after the All-Star Break, I think we have been improving. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”
Brown is correct the Sixers have improved with turnovers, at least until the past two games. In the first nine games after the break, the Sixers turned the ball over just 12.7 times per game, a substantial improvement from their season average of an NBA-worst 17.2.
“I think some of them were self-inflicted,” Brown said. “I’d be curious to go back and watch the tape and see how many of the turnovers were in the first three to four seconds of the shot clock; some of the decisions to make passes in early offense did not help us. And some of the turnovers I give Indiana credit for. But we can almost sort of all go home after that statement that turnovers were the single thing that I think influenced this game.”
There’s no doubt the Sixers could have beaten the Pacers without so many turnovers. The Sixers had 20 fewer field-goal attempts than the current No. 3 seed in the conference and they still lost by three points. If you’re the positive type, that’s encouraging. Still, it’s not a winning formula.
“We dug ourselves in a pretty good hole turnover-wise,” T.J. McConnell said. “You can’t beat a team with that many turnovers.
“It comes from being unselfish. Some of the plays we’re trying to make the extra pass and that’s the kind of guys we have, trying to get the best available shot, but sometimes that’s not the right shot. We’ll live with us being unselfish, but you just got to take care of it.”
It’s not realistic to expect the Sixers to solve this problem overnight. Especially given the pace they play (fifth-fastest in the league), they’re not going to be a low-turnover team anytime soon.
But it’s reasonable to think that, with a few tweaks, they can trend closer to their recent stretch with 12.7 turnovers per game than their 21 giveaways against the Pacers.
Whether it’s being a little more selfish, being smarter early in the shot clock or simply continuing to grow up, nights like Tuesday can become more and more uncommon.