Here are my key takeaways and "best" and "worst" awards from the 76ers' 124-116 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers are one of the league's most-improved teams and fun to watch. However, they just don't have the composure to sustain a run against an NBA title contender like the Warriors. That was obvious in the third quarter when the Sixers basically panicked. Instead of ball movement they displayed in the first half, guys were jacking up shots. There also was a lot of standing around and lackluster defensive efforts.
Justin Anderson's presence was missed. Sixers coach Brett Brown went with an eight-man rotation due to Anderson being sidelined with shin splints in his left leg. As a result, the Sixers were forced to rely heavily on their starters. They were in complete disarray when Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were both out of the game. The intangibles that Anderson brings would have helped out.
The Sixers could have also used Amir Johnson's veteran leadership. Like in last Saturday's loss to the Warriors, the 13-year veteran didn't have his number called Saturday. The Sixers have to find ways to utilize his veteran leadership on the floor against experienced and battle-tested squads like the Warriors.
Ben Simmons was the most-dominant Sixer on this night. The rookie point guard finished with a team-high 23 points, a career-high 12 assists, eight rebounds, one steal and just one turnover in 37 minutes, 44 seconds of action. Simmons made 11 of 15 shots and is getting better every game.
Offensively, the first-quarter Robert Covington was completely different from the Robert Covington of the second, third and fourth quarters. Covington drained his four first-quarter attempts – all three-pointers – post 12 points in the quarter. However, he went 1-for-7 on three-pointers the rest of the game.
“Best” and “worst” awards
Best performance: Steph Curry is the obvious choice. The Warriors all-star point guard scored a game-high 35 points. Twenty of his points came in the decisive third quarter. That's when he made six of seven shots — including all four of his three-point attempts.
Worst performance: This was a tough one, but I had to give it to T.J. McConnell. The Sixers backup point guard failed to deliver his trademark spark off the bench. His two points matched his season-low total of the season. He graded out with a minus-12.
Best defensive performance: Kevin Durant gets this one by finishing with two points and a team-high two steals.
Worst statistic: This goes to the Sixers and Warriors going a combined 0-for-9 on three-pointers in the second quarter.
Best statistic: This goes to the Sixers shooting 69.2 percent from the field in the first quarter.
Worst of the worst: This has to go to the Sixers' third-quarter performance. After leading by 22 points at intermission, they were outscored, 47-15, in the decisive quarter to trail 99-89 heading into the fourth. The 32-point differential was the NBA's largest for any quarter in the shot-clock era.