MILWAUKEE — The 76ers have problems.
Joel Embiid has finished with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in each of the last four games. Ben Simmons has had two triple-doubles. And JJ Redick is having another fantastic season. But …
"We need help," said Sixers coach Brett Brown, whose team dropped to 2-3 after Wednesday's 123-108 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum.
"We need other people stepping up, and playing more as a team and getting Mike [Muscala] and Wilson [Chandler] back in this," Brown added. "I like what we have. I really like what we have.
"It's just early days. You know we are struggling a little bit."
That was evident during this week's road games on back-to-back nights against the Detroit Pistons (4-0) and Bucks (4-0).
Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, an All-Star power forward, posted a triple-double with 32 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists in Wednesday's blowout. The night before, the Sixers surrendered 50 points to Blake Griffin in a 133-132 overtime loss to Detroit.
Sixers power forward Dario Saric was on the receiving end of those two dazzling frontcourt performances.
These games were a barometer to see whether the Sixers' early-season hype was justified. They showed that the Sixers' lackluster performance against the Boston Celtics in the Oct. 16 season opener wasn't just because of rust. The team just isn't that good yet.
The Sixers were competitive against the Pistons on a night when Simmons was sidelined with lower-back tightness. However, the Sixers didn't make any adjustments or attempt to double-team Griffin. They also lacked awareness in certain situations, committing careless fouls and mistakes in key moments. And they didn't have a go-to guy not named Embiid or Redick.
Things were mostly the same Wednesday, even with Simmons back on the court.
By now, it's obvious that the Sixers' new defensive scheme is a struggle. Opposing players get to the rim with ease and consistently hit three-point shots while the out-of-place and poor-communicating Sixers look confused.
It's also obvious that their best bet in the halfcourt offense is the dribble handoff from Embiid to Redick. Besides that, the Sixers lack movement and originality in the halfcourt.
One can argue that those games are further proof that the Sixers aren't as good as last season's team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
"You can't assume anything in this league," Redick said. "I think maybe we assumed we would just pick up where we left off, there would be more carryover from last year. Players get better. Teams get better. The league evolves.
"If we learned anything these first five games, it's that we have some improvement to make and we have some catching up to do."
Redick is confident that the Sixers will catch up.
Offensively, the Sixers' biggest holes were caused by not re-signing last season's sharpshooting reserves, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, in free agency.
As a result, the Sixers have no one other than Simmons, Redick, and Embiid to provide consistent scoring. That's why Brown tries to stagger their playing time to make sure at least one is always in the game.
"Those three are doing a lot of work," Brown said. "They really are carrying the fort a lot."
Embiid is averaging 29.2 points and 12.4 rebounds. Redick is the team's second-leading scorer at 21.2 points. Simmons averages 12.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.5 assists. The trio provides 55.5 percent of the team's scoring.
"We can't just rely on certain guys," Robert Covington said. "So other guys have got to definitely make things happen."
The Sixers hope that Muscala and Chandler make something happen.
The back-to-back games marked Muscala's first two contests with the Sixers, after he missed the first three games with a sprained ankle. The reserve post player was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason. Chandler hopes to make his debut Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets. The reserve forward, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Denver Nuggets, is sidelined with a strained left hamstring.
Regardless of who plays, Simmons said the team needs better defensive communication and to hold people accountable.
"We can't come off the bench and not know certain plays or not be physical enough out there," he said. "It's Philadelphia. It's the Sixers. We play a certain way, and we hold ourselves to a high standard."
So far, they're not living up to their standard.
With just five of 82 regular-season games complete, Saric pointed out that the Sixers have time to improve.
"I think the whole team needs to play like last year," he said. "We are not on the same page, and we don't look perfect."
He looks at Saturday's home game against Charlotte as a time to pick things up.
"I think everybody needs to step up and try to play like last year with the confidence," Saric said. "I think we are thinking too much. We've just got to play the game."