76ers

Sixers can't pinpoint clear reason for last-second loss to Lakers

Sixers can't pinpoint clear reason for last-second loss to Lakers

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The consensus around the Sixers’ locker room following their 107-104 loss to the Lakers was a failure to execute the game plan (see observations). They had two days after being upset by the Suns to map out a strategy against the Lakers, who they already beat once this season. 

However, that didn't matter as the Sixers' comeback bid Thursday ended when Brandon Ingram drained a wide-open three-pointer with 0.8 remaining on the clock to snap the Lakers' five-game skid.

So what went wrong? The thing is, there’s not one clear-cut error to pinpoint. The players saw the missteps from different perspectives. 

Lack of early defensive intensity
The Sixers gave up 32 points in the first quarter and trailed by 13 in the period. They let Ingram get hot as he scored 10 of his 21 points in his first 11 minutes. 

Rather than setting the tone at home, the Sixers allowed the Lakers to find a rhythm. 

“I think that we were just playing conservative,” Brett Brown said. “We were trying to play fundamentally correct and conservative and keep the game in front of us and sometimes, a lot of times, that isn’t always the answer. You walk that tightrope of, ‘Well, you lead the NBA in fouls,’ yet you want to play with a sting. So sometimes they contradict each other. Somewhere in the middle is what I wish we played more of and I think that’s part of growing our team.”

Lopsided offensive rebounds
The Sixers made limiting the Lakers’ offensive rebounds a point of emphasis leading up to the game. The Lakers were aggressive on the glass and dominated the Sixers, 15-7, on offensive boards. Sixers opponents have averaged 9.9 offensive rebounds this season. 

“The game plan was we’ve got to rebound the ball. I didn’t do that tonight,” Joel Embiid, who finished with seven boards, said (see highlights). “That’s one of the reasons why we lost it. I think the main thing was just offensive rebounds. They were active and they got what they wanted.”

Second-chance points
Robert Covington targeted multiple areas of improvement, one of them being second-chance points. The Lakers scored twice as many as the Sixers, 22 to 11, which tied back to their offensive rebounds and aggressiveness fighting for loose balls. 

“We’ve got to be more mindful of the way the game’s flowing and how that team plays,” Covington said. “They’re a young team, downhill … we’ve got to make sure in order for us to be successful, we have to stick to the game plan. And tonight was one time we didn’t.”

Executing the offense
Ben Simmons, who notched his third triple-double of the season (see highlights), looked at the loss from a point guard's perspective. He saw missed opportunities to get into the offensive schemes the Sixers had practiced. 

The offensive production was imbalanced between starters and the bench. Richaun Holmes was the only reserve to score the entire game. He had two points through three quarters before netting 11 in the fourth. 

“I think it’s just calling the right sets and then knowing where the ball needs to be and know what we need to run,” Simmons said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”

Turnovers
In a game like this, it goes without saying the Sixers needed to limit turnovers. They committed 18, which led to 25 points or nearly a quarter of the Lakers' total. Embiid, Simmons and JJ Redick each had four turnovers. 

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

What exactly is going on with the Sixers?

After missing out on LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and any and all superstar free agents this summer, even their bench, fill-out-the-roster type of guys are dodging the Sixers like a plague.

The latest being forward Nemanja Bjelica, who was in Philly (but not really) for just a bit longer than Eagle-for-a-second Frank Gore.

Bjelica, 30, reportedly agreed to a deal with the Sixers on July 5, providing a boost off the bench and an upgrade over Ersan Ilyasova. 

That was all grand until Tuesday, when news broke that Bjelica had spurned the Sixers and was going back to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

But in the greatest (or lamest) twist in a strange and sad offseason for the Sixers, Bjelica is now looking to stay in the NBA and is working toward a deal with the Sacramento Kings, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. That can't be right. No one would willingly sign with the Kings.

Bjelica posted career bests in points (6.1) and three-point percentage (41.5) last season. While he would have been a nice bench addition, it's not the end of the world. But it sure isn't a great look that the Sixers were toyed with and lost out to a lowly team like the Kings. 

After the Bryan Colangelo debacle and the star-hunting strikeout, we're officially at the "Player X would rather sign with the Kings" stage of the offseason.

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

LeBron James is a Laker. Kawhi Leonard is a Raptor.

The Sixers went star hunting and came up empty. So now what for a team that won 52 games but is likely one more superstar away from winning a title?

You may not like this answer, but the correct course of action is … nothing — at least not this offseason.

The only star that could possibly be available is the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler — if you choose to believe the rumors. Butler, who is an outstanding two-way player, will be 29 entering next season and has an expiring deal. He already forced his way out of Chicago and reportedly wants to force his way out of Minnesota. How much are you giving up for that?

On a smaller scale, the Sixers lost Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to sign with the team for the mid-level exception. The Serbian forward decided instead to take his talents back to the EuroLeague ... or maybe not. Bjelica certainly wasn’t a star but he appeared to be a solid bench piece that might’ve actually been an upgrade from Ersan Ilyasova. So what should the Sixers do with their MLE?

Nothing — again, at least this year.

Who do you want that’s left? Joe Johnson? Michael Beasley? Jamal Crawford? That’s three hard no’s for me.

The Sixers should go into camp with what they have and let the competition play out. Maybe they’ll figure out what to do with Jerryd Bayless’ deal or waive Richaun Holmes or sign Jonah Bolden or make a small trade, but this roster is mostly set. And that’s fine.

This team, that again won 52 games, should be better. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should only improve. Markelle Fultz can only go up. Dario Saric took a huge leap in Year 2 and we know the kind of worker he is. Wilson Chandler is an upgrade over any player the Sixers had on the bench last year, especially when you factor in defense.

They’re not the favorites to win the East, nor should they be. But that’s fine. With the Warriors continuing to load up and James now out West, what chance does any team in the East have? (Zero is the answer, by the way). 

Fast forward to next offseason. Leonard, Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are among a loaded free-agent class. Any one of those players would be a fit and a huge upgrade for the Sixers and they’d be joining the team at the right time. Embiid and Simmons will both be a year more mature and developed and the Warriors will be a year older with their cap situation tighter.

As for the MLE, if the Sixers go star hunting again next offseason and wind up with someone like Leonard, they could use it on a ring-chasing, veteran mercenary. That’s much more valuable than one year of Johnson, Beasley or Crawford on a team that doesn’t have a realistic shot at a title next year.

Brett Brown may have set a tough bar for the offseason. When he did his now infamous star-hunting presser, it raised expectations from the fan base. Since the Sixers came up empty in their quest, most look at the offseason as a bad one.

There’s no nice way to put it: Missing out on James and Leonard sucks for the Sixers. But all is far from lost. Name another team in the NBA that has two superstars the caliber of Embiid and Simmons both under the age of 24. You can’t because such a team does not exist.

Would the Sixers have been better off if they landed a star this offseason? Of course. But now knowing that they swung and missed, their best course of action is inaction — for now.

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