SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Here are my key takeaways and "best" and "worst" awards from the 76ers' 109-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center.
The 76ers aren't ready for prime time. They appeared to lack focus while dealing the national media attention and hype that came with a five-game winning streak. Some of them appeared giddy with ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other national publications around the team. The Sixers didn't play with an edge, and the giddiness translated into sluggishness once the game began.
Joel Embiid's left knee has to be bothering him. The Sixers will tell you that he didn't play Tuesday night because of "load management." However, just as in his previous game, he reacted more slowly than usual and didn't have his normal elevation. At one point, he was beaten out by 36-year-old Zach Randolph for a rebound. That should never happen.
The Sixers failed to execute down the stretch. The final play was supposed to be a pick-and-roll involving point guard Ben Simmons and Embiid. It never happened. The Sixers didn't run that play, and Embiid took a jumper that he missed at the buzzer.
Amir Johnson should have received more minutes. The reserve center played 6 minutes, 47 seconds – all in the second half. He also graded out at a team-worst minus-8. However, that was his fault as he scored only two points on one shot attempt, grabbed two rebounds and had a steal. The Sixers really needed some veteran leadership on the court, and he would have provided that.
The Sixers needed more out of JJ Redick in the fourth quarter. The shooting guard didn't attempt a shot and recorded three fouls in the quarter. He'll need to shoot the ball down the stretch for this squad to become successful.
“Best” and “Worst” awards
Best performance: I had to give this award to Kings reserve Justin Jackson on a night when another reserve, De'Aaron Fox, scored what turned out to be the game-winner. Jackson, however, scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter on 4-for-5 shooting.
Worst performance: This was a tough one, but Kings reserve center Skal Labissiere had more personal fouls (four) than points (two). He shot 1-for-4 from the field and grabbed four rebounds, but really didn't put his imprint on the game.
Best defensive performance: Willie Cauley-Stein received this after finishing with two blocks. Both came late in the game on Embiid shots.
Worst statistic: Redick's not attempting a shot in the fourth quarter.
Best statistic: This goes to Kings reserve guard Malachi Richardson for making all three of his field-goal attempts, including two three-pointers, to finish with eight points.
Worst of the worst: I have to give this to the Sixers' execution on the final play. Coach Brett Brown called the perfect play. For whatever reason, the players just didn't run the pick-and-roll, and that cost them.