The dream of an undefeated regular season is over for the Philadelphia 76ers.
After winning their first five games of the season, the surprisingly good Phoenix Suns handed them a 114-109 loss Monday night.
The 76ers defensive performances when Joel Embiid sits out are very alarming and confusing.
Suns guard Devin Booker lit up the Sixers defense all game scoring 40 points on 15 of 19 shooting. As a team, they shot 53% from the field.
Simmons believes their defensive performance against the Suns can be learned from.
“Last game, that was the worst defensive we’ve played all year. There’s a lot of things that kept us in the game, but a lot of things hurt us,” Simmons said during Tuesday shootaround via Serena Winters. “It wasn’t a surprise that we put ourselves in a big enough hole to not win that game. We learn from it.”
The defensive numbers say it all
Embiid’s impact on the Sixers defense cannot be disputed.
Despite having several above-average defenders at a variety of positions, they are nowhere near the same caliber defensive team without him.
The Sixers have given up an average of 117.6 points per game when Embiid sits, compared to 97 when he’s played. That’s nearly a 20-point difference.
In the three games he’s missed due to injury or suspension, the opponent’s field goal percentage is 54.9%
Opponents are shooting just under 42% when Embiid plays.
Due to a small sample size of six games, these numbers will likely be closer together as the season progresses.
But it’s all we have for now and they are telling.
Some notes on the offense
During long stretches of the game the offense looked out of sorts, due largely to subpar performances from Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson.
Combined they shot 5 of 19 from the field and scored only 14 points between them. They also had four turnovers each.
Simmons is looking forward to getting Embiid back from suspension.
“Just got to bounce back. It’s nearly impossible to go 82-0, but it’s a good wake up for us,” Simmons said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “I think having Jo back, we can get back into a rhythm, get back into a flow.”
The team struggling offensively shouldn’t be all that surprising when Embiid isn’t playing. He’s their best offensive player who creates open shots and space for everyone else.
They don’t have many players who can consistently get shots for themselves and others, which can lead to the offensive stalling out throughout a game.
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