TORONTO – The 76ers are falling short of their preseason hype and expectations.
Seventeen games into what was predicted to be an NBA-title contending campaign, the Sixers are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They look fortunate to be 11-6 and 1½ games out of second place.
They have enough individual talent to pull out expected victories at home. Yet the Sixers are not above anything going wrong on the road, where they’ve lost six of their last seven games.
Joel Embiid is drawing national headlines for going scoreless in Monday’s 101-96 loss in Toronto. And the Sixers have a knack for producing miscues, horrible shot selections, and disappearing at inopportune times. They were held scoreless after Josh Richardson’s turnaround jump with 4 minutes, 2 seconds left gave them a 96-91 cushion.
The 76ers went on to miss their final eight shots and commit three of their 16 turnovers en route to losing by five points.
Now we’ll find out how the Sixers will respond at home during Wednesday’s game with the Sacramento Kings.
“You are going to walk out of here and find something that is going to make us better, and we will do it,” coach Brett Brown said following Monday’s game. “At this moment, 10 minutes after the game, it stings. You’ll wake up in the morning. You’ll be wiser for it and learn things that we have to just respond to better.”
He pointed out how the Sixers missed four straight foul shots before the Raptors drained a three-pointer.
“It’s kind of like a seven-point swing,” Brown said. “You would like to have a few of those turnovers back at the end of the game. That’s where I’m at.”
Richardson, who missed three straight foul shots after being fouled while attempting a three-pointer, said that the Sixers lost four of five games they should have won. While he doesn’t like losing, the shooting guard said it’s better to go through tough times now rather than later on.
However, the Sixers will need their franchise players to be more consistent and make better decisions. Ben Simmons (seven) and Embiid combined for 11 of the team’s 16 turnovers.
They’re also in the process of finding the best rotation.
On Monday, Raul Neto was the backup point guard after he played just garbage minutes against the Miami Heat on Saturday. The fifth-year veteran didn’t play at all in the two games before that. Trey Burke didn’t play Monday after being the backup point guard in the previous four games.
But correcting their miscues and improving their execution, especially late in games, is atop of their to-do list.