3 observations after Sixers’ late return to fall short of Grizzlies loss

The Sixers’ fourth-quarter comeback effort on Saturday night in Memphis was a bit short.

Trailing 12 points early in the final period, the Sixers fought back and finally had a chance to win the game after a missed free throw by Ja Morant with 5.9 seconds left. Ben Simmons pushed the ball off the ground and passed Tyrese Maxey on top of the key, and the rookie was unable to convert a long-range imbalance attempt.

Joel Embiid (right knee pain) and Mike Scott (right knee pain) did not travel with the Sixers for this road trip. Seth Curry, Vincent Poirier (health and safety protocols) and Furkan Korkmaz (left adductor strain) stayed away. Memphis regained a star in Morant, who played his first game since suffering a Grade 2 left ankle sprain on Dec. 28 and had 17 points and six assists.

“I don’t let our guys use excuses,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We have to get away from it. It’s going to be an amazing year with COVID, injuries. Push yourself and win the game. … We can’t accept, ‘Well, we’ll be good when everybody’s here.’ C ‘unacceptable. “

As for Embiid, Rivers stressed ahead of the game that the Sixers are careful with the health of their All-Star center.

“No worries. … But when something comes up, we’re going to jump on it and we’re going to be very smart this start of the season, ”he said.

The Sixers’ fourth straight season ends Sunday night against the Thunder. Here are observations on their loss in Memphis:

What to think of Simmons’ night

As was the case in the last two games, Simmons didn’t create much for himself in attacking half-court, missing his first five field goal attempts and not scoring until a layup and one with 7: 45 to play in the second period.

He also gave the ball a few times when he looked for transition opportunities and made seven of the Sixers’ 22 turnovers. In three of their losses, the team turned it over 20 or more times.

“It’s not who played tonight, for me, it’s how we played,” said Rivers. “I thought we were a sloppy basketball team and when you play that way you deserve to lose the game. On the road 22 turnovers are unacceptable.

“I would say of the 22, 15 weren’t forced – just sloppy, driving in traffic, cross-court passes, inside passes where they should have come out. And then I also thought we had a stretch. where there was no ball movement tonight I just didn’t like the way we played.

On a more positive note with Simmons, he continued to contribute in a number of ways besides scoring, including bouncing and facilitating. Any player who is seemingly close to a triple-double in every game he plays is obviously valuable and versatile, but the Sixers needed Simmons to be better with their best offensive player. He tends to set the tone on those nights when Embiid is sidelined and his turnover sets the wrong tone.

“Every night is different,” Simmons said. “The game before I had a triple-double; the guys loaded the paint and I was able to catch up with my teammates. Tonight they were very maneuverable – lots of hands and deflections, which caused turnovers. C It’s up to me to slow down and not get off my feet.

Simmons attempted a three-run for a second straight game, making a long-range try at the end of the first quarter and one in the fourth period.

After being listed as probable again in Friday night’s injury report with left knee swelling, Simmons said his knee did not negatively impact his performance.

“No, I feel good,” he said. “Sometimes he tries to put my legs under me. We have a back to back tomorrow so we’ll see what I feel. But overall I feel strong.”

Rivers said ahead of the game that the Sixers introduced a “small percentage” of games they would eventually like to install, although the team appear to have a few actions they like when Simmons and Maxey split the floor. It was the third game in a row that these two players have started together, and the Sixers are hoping that increased familiarity will coincide with increased efficiency.

One look we’ve seen a number of times begins with Maxey doing an “Iverson cut,” which turns into a side-swept pick-and-roll. Simmons is then often open on the weak side to receive the ball and attack the paint with a head of steam. He missed an interruption to that action in the first quarter. The team has had this game in the mix since preseason, and it looks like Rivers is particularly inclined to perform it with the Maxey-Simmons tandem.

Overall, the Sixers’ best offense this season has involved Embiid as a central character. Without drawing him doubles teams, finding shooters and forcing the defense to scramble, the Sixers shot 7 for 25 on three runs.

Milton continues to thrive as the sixth man

When asked after filming the Sixers on Saturday if he aspires to be an NBA starter, Shake Milton paused for a few seconds before giving this answer:

“I would say I just want to do what’s best for the team, whatever helps the team win. It doesn’t matter if I start or not. It’s an opportunity and I have a really good opportunity to come off the bench right now. If the coach asks me to go to the start then I will start and I will have no problem with that. If he asks me to leave the bench, I will continue to do what I am doing. It’s that simple.”

There is no good reason to change anything in the role of Milton just yet. The mature 24-year-old has the freedom to lead the Sixers’ second unit and has been excellent at it. He scored 28 points on a 10-for-18 shot on Monday and has now totaled 102 points and shot 63.6% from the floor in his last four games.

Milton shot seven more free throws on Saturday. Upon entering the game, he had been fouled on 15% of his attempts to shoot, by Window Cleaner, in the 98th percentile among combo guards.

Rivers wants him to play with constant aggression.

“It’s funny for Shake, I thought he was a great example from the start, because he had a great game (Thursday), it was almost like he was trying to get into the game for get everyone involved, ”Rivers said. said, “Shake it, keep going. Keep your foot on the accelerator. Don’t hold back.”

“I thought he held back in the first half. I thought in the second half he started again. And I want Shake to be that way every night no matter who’s on the floor, in all situations, because that’s his ability., and I try to make him see that. Every night it can be Shake Milton. Late tonight it was.

Howard enters

Dwight Howard started Saturday night for the 1,048th time in his NBA career and the third time as a Sixer. He should leave on Sunday against a Thunder team should be without Al Horford for personal reasons.

The 35-year-old has had some good times, including a put-back dunk on a missed free throw from Simmons and a relentless block on rookie Xavier Tillman, but the Sixers inevitably lose a lot on both ends of the floor whenever Embiid is sidelined. . Howard’s business cards offensively at this point in his career are rebounding and scouting and rolling. To Howard’s credit, he does these things to a high standard and with enthusiasm, and was a good deal on a minimum veteran contract.

Similar to the Sixers’ loss to the Cavs last month, Rivers used Tony Bradley for a stint in the first half, then turned to Simmons as a smallball center when Howard sat down in the third. quarter. Bradley had a few minutes at the end of the third period and the start of the fourth, and he will likely have a chance to gain more confidence from his new coach on Sunday.

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