What’s your prediction for the fight?
OK, so maybe Brett Brown didn’t go full Clubber Lang last month when discussing the Sixers’ installation of a new defensive scheme, but he did anticipate there would be struggles.
But I’m willing to bet even he didn’t think they would be to this extent.
The Sixers’ defense failed to hold up yet again during Wednesday night’s 123-108 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks (see observations).
After ranking 11th in the NBA by giving up 105.3 points per game last season, the Sixers wanted to get even better. When defensive-minded Lloyd Pierce took over the head coaching job in Atlanta, the Sixers enlisted Monty Williams to take over those responsibilities and add some different principles that would make the franchise the league’s top squad in that department.
So far the changes have had the opposite impact as the Sixers have allowed opponents to average 116.8 through five games in 2018-19.
“Like I’ve been saying since preseason, I don’t think we’re very good defensively,” Joel Embiid told reporters. “A lot of teams are taking advantage of that. We’ve got to fix it, we’ve got to correct it.”
One glance at the numbers would have you believe the Sixers did a decent job on the defensive side against the Bucks. They limited Milwaukee to 41.0 percent shooting from the field and 30.2 percent from three-point range.
However, it was the game-changing second quarter that turned the tide. The Bucks connected on 15 of 26 shots (57.6), including 8 of 12 three-pointers (66.6 percent). That turned the Sixers’ 12-point lead into a seven-point deficit by halftime.
“I saw a lot of threes,” Brett Brown responded when asked what he witnessed during that stretch of the game. “I saw eight threes. Brook (Lopez) made five threes in a row.”
Lopez (21 points, 5 for 11 on three-pointers) found his game during that second quarter, but it was also the moment Giannis Antetokounmpo started to put his imprint on the matchup. The “Greek Freak” scored 15 of his 32 points in the second quarter as he added 18 boards and 10 assists for a triple-double.
No matter who the Sixers threw at Antetokounmpo, he was able to get to his spots and score the ball. Actually, the Sixers couldn’t even agree on who should be attempting to slow down the All-Star forward on each possession.
“I feel like I should have been on him the whole game,” Simmons said.
What can be agreed on is that the Sixers’ defense is in shambles right now. The team came into training camp with an emphasis on limiting opponents and finding the right combination to take the next step in the playoffs.
At this moment, the Sixers aren’t even playing postseason-caliber defense. More importantly, they’re not playing the type of defense that lives up to the city.
“It’s Philadelphia, it’s the Sixers,” Simmons said. “We play a certain way. We hold ourselves to a high standard.”