BOSTON — He likely knew the question was coming, but Ben Simmons was without a concrete answer after yet another frustrating road loss for the 76ers.
Simmons, who was the one Sixer who truly shined, was asked about why the Sixers have struggled on the road following Saturday’s 116-95 loss to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
Pausing briefly, Simmons replied, “I don’t know.”
And quite frankly, he was probably right.
The Sixers are now 9-17 away from the Wells Fargo Center, including 1-11 against teams with winning records on the road after a loss that was marked by poor three-point shooting, bad decision making, while watching the Celtics win the physical battles all evening.
Right now the Sixers look like a team with waning confidence.
After losing 127-117 at lowly Atlanta on Thursday, one would think the Sixers would come out smoking.
Instead, they were outscored 32-19 in the first quarter and were in an unsuccessful uphill climb the rest of the way.
“We just got to get our rhythm, we got to get our chemistry and our flow back," said Tobias Harris, who scored 10 points and shot just 4-for-12.
The team also needs its confidence back.
So often the Sixers follow the lead of Joel Embiid, but it’s hard when the three-time all-star center was shooting 1-for-11.
Embiid was 9-for-9 from the foul line but otherwise was a nonfactor on offense.
“They did a good job of doubling him and doing that and he could never get into a rhythm,” Sixers center Al Horford said.
Embiid has been doubled all year, so the Sixers should be used to that type of defense. He declined to comment after the game so it’s not known if his finger was bothering him. Embiid has played three straight games after missing the previous nine following Jan. 9 surgery for a ligament in his left ring finger.
One thing is for sure - when the Sixers aren’t shooting well from three-point range, they struggle, even though they have the height advantage to kick the ball inside.
Against Boston, the Sixers shot 7-for-33 from three-point range (21.2 percent). In the loss at Atlanta, the Sixers shot 9-for-31 (29 percent) from three-point range.
Anytime the Sixers have a few bad performances, it is often on the defensive end that they struggle and that was the case in Atlanta and Boston.
Simmons outlined the defensive problems against the Celtics.
“(Lack of) communication on defense, there were a lot of mismatches in terms of switching,” said Simmons, who had 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers. “We sent them to the line too much, it was like 20 to 25 times in the first half. That is too many times and we have to get back to defense and be locked in.”
And with the offense struggling, the defense hasn’t been able to bail the Sixers out the last two games.
“That has been our identity all year, how we bring it on the defensive end,” Harris said. “Sometimes when the offense isn’t good and the offense isn’t flowing it does affect the defense. It shouldn’t but it has kind of been how we played the last three [road] games and that is something we have to get out of.”
The Sixers (31-19) have lost two in a row and three consecutive games on the road. The other road loss during this streak was a 107-95 setback at Toronto on Jan. 22.
One way that shows the Sixers weren’t as locked in as needed on defense is the opponents’ free throw total. Boston shot 25 free throws in the first half and 41 for the game. Atlanta attempted 37 free throws.