The better NBA teams seem like they can turn it on and off during the course of an 82-game season.
The defending champion Warriors are a perfect example. They got blown out by the lowly Mavericks Saturday — granted, without Stephen Curry — and then went out and beat a hot Pistons team Sunday.
The Sixers appear to have that gift — the ability to turn it on and off on a given night.
After watching the poor effort the Sixers gave in a 119-98 loss to the Magic at Amway Center Monday night (see observations) and with just eight games remaining in the regular season, it would probably behoove them to turn it on.
After big wins over the Bucks and Celtics, you can excuse away a disappointing loss to a young and feisty Hawks team that the Sixers clearly overlooked. But the effort they showed Monday night in Orlando was putrid.
They were sloppy early, committing eight turnovers in the first half. Their defensive was porous throughout, allowing the Magic to shoot 51.7 percent from the field and still having trouble defending the pick-and-roll. Ben Simmons was out with an illness, but there’s no excuse for the Sixers to go nearly an entire quarter without a field goal at one point in the second half.
Joel Embiid reportedly refused to talk to reporters postgame. Hard to blame him after this one.
You can blame Brett Brown. You can blame Embiid getting in foul trouble. You can blame the quiet Tobias Harris and JJ Redick. You can blame Simmons’ absence.
Whatever you decide is the culprit for this one, it boils down to effort. The Magic looked like a desperate team. The Sixers looked like a team desperate to get home from a two-game road trip.
When they do return to the Wells Fargo Center, a tall task awaits them. They take on the Nets, a team that's fighting to secure its first playoff berth since 2015 and that's had the Sixers' number through three games this season. The only reason Brooklyn didn't take all three contests is because of a Herculean effort by Jimmy Butler in the Sixers' lone win back on Nov. 25.
The sky certainly isn’t falling. The Sixers are still in the driver’s seat for the East’s third seed and once they get to the playoffs, games like these will be a distant memory.
But with just eight games left and plenty to sort out with a new-look team, the Sixers should probably turn it on ... and keep it on.
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