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Philadelphia 76ers

Losses vs. Eastern Conference elites are concerning

The Philadelphia 76ers have a 7-5 record, but their losses should concern fans because they were blowouts against Eastern Conference rivals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown announced his team’s intentions to make the NBA Finals this season, and while the team’s 7-5 record is somewhat encouraging, a few of the team’s losses illustrate the amount of work the team has to do to hold its own against the Eastern Conference’s elite. Of their five losses, three of them came against teams predicted to rival the Sixers for the top spot in the conference.

The trends have revealed themselves: turnovers, inability to guard superstars, and poor shooting are holding the Sixers back against the East’s royalty.

The Sixers will have to go through a combination of the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks in order to reach the Finals. Through just 11 games, Philly has lost to all three of those teams, and there were not many encouraging moments in any of those games.

They lost to Boston 105-89, fell to Milwaukee 123-108, and Toronto beat them 129-112. The decisive nature of these losses proves that the team needs to improve before they even hope to beat any of those teams in a seven-game series.

The Celtics blew the Sixers out on opening night, and Philadelphia’s dreadful shooting played a major role in the big loss. The Sixers hit only 19.2 percent of their threes against Boston, and considering the Celts hit just 29.7 percent of their long-range attempts, it feels like a lost opportunity from the Sixers’ perspective. Additionally, the 76ers hit just 58.3 percent of their 24 free throw attempts while Boston only visited the line 14 times but made 71.4 percent.

In their five losses, the Sixers have tended to beat themselves with careless turnovers, but that was not the case against the Celtics. The teams tied in that department with 16 a piece, but inefficient shooting nights from Markelle Fultz (2/7), Robert Covington (3/10), and Dario Saric (3/8) saw the Sixers lose by such a large margin.

Against the Bucks, the Sixers shot slightly more efficiently from the field, but they lost the turnover battle. Philly had 16 while only forcing Milwaukee into 11 giveaways. The Sixers ended the night with four steals and five blocks, which the Bucks dwarfed by posting seven steals and 10 blocks.

The game ended with the Bucks having seven more field goal attempts than the Sixers, and those extra possessions, as well as dreadful performances from Saric (-16) and Covington (-26), helped the Bucks wipe out the 76ers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo catalyzed that win for Milwaukee, but the Sixers’ lack of respect for Brook Lopez came back to bite them once the final buzzer sounded. The center shot 5/11 from deep, catching fire after he missed his first four attempts from long range.

Philly tends to struggle against superstars, and Giannis burned the team with a triple-double consisting of 32 points, 18 boards, and 10 assists. Lopez, the Bucks’ center, only grabbed one rebound, but the Bucks still managed to pull down one more board than the Sixers. Antetkounmpo’s 18 rebounds show that Philly’s wings need to work harder to box out, especially when guarding the 6-foot-11 Greek Freak.

When they played Toronto, the Sixers had trouble containing their opponents’ superstar yet again. Kawhi Leonard went off for 31 points on 19 shots with four steals, and he drove Simmons crazy all game.

The Australian point guard finished with 11 of the Sixers’ 23 turnovers, turning the ball over on slightly less than 50 percent of all the offensive plays he was involved in. Technically speaking, he did post a triple-double: 11 points, 10 assists, and 11 turnovers. Aside from the fact the point guard made a team’s-worth of turnovers by himself, the Sixers shot only 41.8 percent from the field, almost 10 percent less than the Raptors’ 51.1 percent clip.

The Philadelphia 76ers recently laid an egg against the Brooklyn Nets, losing 122-97 in an all-around embarrassing game, but they bounced back on Wednesday to beat the Indiana Pacers. Victor Oladipo dropped 36 for Indiana on the Sixers and Philly turned the ball over a whopping 28 times against Brooklyn, so the trends carry over into games against some slightly weaker Eastern Conference opponents.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to limit turnovers while keeping up the pace of the offense, pick out better shots, and defend superstars well or at least make sure their teammates do not affect the game much.

Fultz still has more field goal attempts than total points after 12 games, the team has the third-worst turnover percentage in the NBA, and Leonard, Oladipo, and Blake Griffin have all had games of more than 30 points against the Sixers

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. If the team can fix at least one of these glaring issues in the near future, then we could see a different Sixers squad by the time the final stretch begins.

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