This one was easy. The three reasons for the Sixers losing 115-103 to Denver were:

1. COVID

2. COVID

3. COVID

Oh, you want basketball reasons, even after the Sixers’ depleted lineup with only eight players dressed and seven available, battled for long stretches in the first half before running out of gas in the second? Sure, Ben Simmons (left knee swelling) and Joel Embiid (back soreness) missed the game due to injury, but with five players missing due to health and safety protocol, the Sixers had no depth.

Forgetting about the lack of depth (which is impossible to do) here are some basketball reasons why the Sixers lost.

Needed more from the veterans

After the game, coach Doc Rivers talked about how much veterans Danny Green and Dwight Howard helped the young players, encouraging them and guiding them on the court. If only they could have played better.

Green and Howard have combined for 29 NBA seasons, including this year. The other five available Sixers combined for eight NBA seasons, with four of the players in their first year.

Green tried to take command early by shooting more, but his shots weren’t dropping. He finished the game 4-for-17 from the field, including 2-of-7 from beyond the arc. Howard played a season-high 23 minutes, 35 seconds and while he did have a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds), he also had a team-worst minus-22 rating and shared the team-high with four turnovers. He also committed five fouls, many unnecessary, as he is prone to do.

Failing to defend Jokic’s passes

The Sixers had trouble dealing with the passing of center Nikola Jokic. They have plenty of company around the NBA.

Jokic had 12 assists and is averaging 11 per game. Teams know what is coming from him but have trouble stopping his passing from the high post.

Of his 12 assists, six led to layups, including this one to Jamal Murray on a backdoor play to start the game.

Even though he had some careless turnovers, Jokic was able to draw double-teams and constantly hit the open man and the Sixers struggled to slow him down.

Joe unable to sustain a hot hand

The Sixers drafted Isaiah Joe from Arkansas in the second round and his calling card in the NBA will be his shooting. In the first quarter of his first start, he showed why. Joe was on fire, hitting 3 of 5 from the field, including 3 of 4 from three-point range.

Then after that quarter, Denver made an adjustment, concentrating on not giving Joe as much room to shoot. After the first quarter, he shot 1-for-13, including 0-for-7 from three-point range.