Going from Cleveland to San Antonio doesn’t seem like an ideal road trip.
The Sixers likely agree after sleepwalking their way through an uninspiring 123-96 loss to the Spurs at the AT&T Center Monday.
The loss drops them to 6-10 on the road and 20-12 overall.
Here are observations from the drubbing.
• Feels like we’re a broken record but the bench is just killing this team.
T.J. McConnell hurt them defensively early on. The Spurs were using their point guards to screen for DeMar DeRozan, forcing McConnell to switch onto the All-Star guard. It went predictably bad.
Landry Shamet continues to struggle against dribble penetration and the physicality of the NBA. Mike Muscala got roasted when matched up against LaMarcus Aldridge.
Credit to Gregg Popovich. He saw these mismatches and the Spurs exposed them. But Elton Brand is going to have to make a move to improve this bench.
• While the reserves were certainly a crucial factor in the Sixers losing an early lead, the starters came out in the second half and did nothing to eat into the Spurs’ lead. Fatigue is no doubt a factor, but this was a brutal effort.
The most telling stat is free throws. The Sixers are among the league’s best in getting to the line, but took just seven free throws.
• Ben Simmons continued his aggressive ways. He was once again looking for his shot when driving to the basket and it led to 16 points (7 of 10 shooting), six rebounds and six assists in just 29 minutes.
He continues to do some nifty work in the post as well.
Simmons got the moves. pic.twitter.com/SOokrY9AH7— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 18, 2018
Simmons looked like the one player that was locked in and engaged all night.
• Joel Embiid dominated early on yet again.
JoJo jammin'.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 18, 2018
He works his way to the rim for a quick drop and the Sixers are up, 19-13. pic.twitter.com/xYGZoQg0KK
But unlike other coaches that have waited until the second half — for some reason — Popovich started doubling Embiid as soon as he got going. Embiid took just one shot in the second half and was 0 for 6 from three.
He finished with just 13 points, his third-lowest point total this season, on 6 of 17 shooting.
• Jimmy Butler had a brutal shooting night. In his second game back from a groin strain, Butler finished just 3 of 13 for six points.
He did have this nice alley-oop.
• DeRozan continues to kill the Sixers. In four games against them last season, he averaged 32 points per contest. Tonight, he recorded 20 points in 29 minutes. DeRozan is a perfect example of a player that always hurts the Sixers. He can score in isolation and is deadly in the midrange.
Aldridge, who also finished with 20 points, also proved to be a tough guard for the Sixers. He’s one center that can pull Embiid away from the basket with his ability to hit midrange jumpers. As mentioned, he cooked Muscala in the post.
• Rudy Gay is having a productive season for the Spurs as he dropped a game-high 21 points. He’s an accomplished veteran that can create and make shots. He also appears to be playing with a little more purpose on the defensive end than earlier in his career.
It’s only mentioned here because he’s the kind of player the Sixers sure could use. The Spurs are on the outside looking in at the playoffs, though it is early. If San Antonio is looking to possibly get an asset for Gay at some point if they fall out of contention, Elton Brand should place a call.
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