The 76ers left Philadelphia on a six-game winning streak after defeating their rival Boston Celtics, 118-115, to take control of the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Road losses to the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic should have quickly humbled that Sixers’ run.
In the second game of the trip against the Magic, the Sixers were missing starting point guard Ben Simmons. With an offense featuring Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick, the Sixers went 11:42 of game time without a BUCKET.
Shake Milton made a shot to pull the Sixers within one, 78-77, with 4:32 left in the third quarter. Their next bucket game from rookie Zhaire Smith, who hit a three-pointer with 4:50 left in the game. The Magic lead 108-85 at that time.
This game should have proved Simmons’ importance to this offense. They need him because of his ability to drive to the basket, which allows open shots for Redick, Harris and Butler. His exceptional passing ability shouldn’t be forgotten either.
TJ McConnell started in his place and the numbers speak for themselves. In 29 minutes, McConnell finished with two points and two assists. He struggled to push the ball in transition, evidenced by the team’s zero fast break points. Whenever he was without the ball on offense, the Magic didn’t even bother to guard him but instead doubled Joel Embiid the entire game.
“You know, they’re bad losses, but we’ll bounce back,” Redick said after the game, via Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia inquirer.
Between the Hawks and Magic games the Sixers allowed an average of 124 points. They looked lost defensively in both games. They struggled to defend the pick-and-roll and allowed too many open three-pointers to both Atlanta and Orlando.
Head coach Brett Brown needs to find solutions fast with just eight games remaining until the postseason arrives.
The Sixers are 3-4 against the Hawks and Magic combined this season. Both teams are under .500 with the Hawks already being eliminated from the playoffs and the Magic currently ninth in the standings.
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