Game Review: The Wizards beat the Sixers Monday, but the Sixers really lost to themselves
The Sixers’ structural issues contributed heavily to their downfall
Joel Embiid appeared visibly upset every time he took to the court Jan. 17 at Capital One Arena.
Putting up 32 points in 29 minutes in the Sixers’ 98-117 blowout loss to the Wizards, Embiid accounted for 33 percent of the Sixers’ total points, nine made on free throws. Tyrese Maxey, the Sixers’ second leading scorer, with 18 points in 33 minutes, put up about 18 percent of the Sixers’ total points.
The next leading scorer was Seth Curry with 8 points in 33 minutes. Every starting Sixer, including Furkan Korkmaz with 6 points and Tobias Harris with 7, had a plus/minus in the negative double-digits. No matter how hard they tried, Embiid and Maxey’s attempts to carry their team were in vain.
Coached by backup assistant coach Joseph Blair, as both Wes Unseld Jr. and Pat Delany found themselves in coronavirus-related health and safety protocols, the Wizards had a more even spread of points per player.
Montrezl Harrell led D.C.’s scoring with 18 points, followed by Kyle Kuzma and Thomas Bryant with 15 each. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bradley Beal followed with 14 and 13 points respectively. Every rotational Wizards player sustained a plus/minus healthily in the positive.
Oddly enough, the Sixers’ stats nearly mirrored the Wizards’. Both teams had 12 turnovers each, and the Sixers had 42 total rebounds while the Wizards had 49. The Sixers even led in a few stats, including offensive rebounds and steals. On paper, this game doesn’t look like a blowout statistically. So, what happened?
The blowout score of this game wasn’t an exceptional win on the Wizards’ part, but rather, a structural failure by Philadelphia. This game alone proves that when one Sixer goes down, the rest fall apart. By the end of the game, despite being within a ten-point deficit, Doc Rivers pulled his starters and put in Charlie Brown Jr., Paul Reed and Myles Powell, all on two-way contracts with Philadelphia’s G League associate, the Delaware Blue Coats, alongside Maxey and Charles Bassey.
“All of them played better than our guys,” Rivers said in a postgame press conference. “It was just one of those nights. I thought we got outplayed in every phase of the game.”
The Sixers’ loss on Monday was an example of their internal problems
Less than a year ago, the Sixers were a team full of optimism. They finished the shortened 2020-21 regular season ranked 1st in the Eastern Conference with a record of 49-23. After years of debating whether Embiid or Ben Simmons would be the better player to keep around in the long run and repeatedly trading away role players in failed hopes of finding a third star, the Sixers’ structural tensions hit a breaking point after a game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs.
Simmons decided not to take an open layup, choosing to pass the ball to a confused Harris instead. The mistake cost the Sixers not only the game, but their season.
Simmons spent the summer ducking his teammates’ attempts to reconnect, skipped media day and has not played a single game this season. According to Sportrac, a website that tracks statistics across sports leagues, Simmons is being fined over $360,000 per missed game, and has racked in over $13 million in fines since the start of the 2021-22 season. Despite many opportunities to trade the most-fined NBA player of all time, Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey hasn’t taken up a single offer.
Rumors about a trade for Damian Lillard came and went. A trade for Russell Westbrook was immediately shut down by the Sixers’ front office. Morey turned down a package of Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk and promising sophomore Saddiq Bey Jan. 18. Most recently, Morey appeared disinterested in a Kings package of Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and Tyrese Haliburton for Simmons, Harris and Matisse Thybulle.
It’s not Embiid’s fault that the Sixers failed on Monday. The problem with the Sixers goes beyond irresponsible in-game choices, bad coaching decisions and injured players. As with Bryan Colangelo and Elton Brand before him, the Sixers’ future is in the hands of Daryl Morey. With Embiid in his prime and playing better than ever, dropping 50 points in 27 minutes on Jan. 19, Morey’s changes to the roster would be appreciated by the 76ers big man sooner rather than later.