WASHINGTON — It’s not exactly breaking news that the Sixers need their two All-Stars to play well and make good decisions.
But what is especially clear is that when Ben Simmons and/or Joel Embiid have mistake-filled efforts, it is difficult for the Sixers to win.
So much of the success depends on consistent performances from Simmons, 23, and Embiid, 25.
Both had frustrating efforts in Thursday’s 119-113 loss at Washington to the 7-13 Wizards. The Sixers committed 21 turnovers. Embiid had eight and Simmons had seven. Washington scored 30 points off the 21 turnovers. The Sixers are 15-7 this season (10-0 at home, 5-7 on the road).
Embiid admitted afterward that he was trying to do too much as the Sixers attempted to mount a comeback. They were down by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter. They cut it to five with 3 minutes and 3 seconds left but never got below that deficit.
“We were down and you have to make something happen,” said Embiid, who committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter. “It is only right for me to be aggressive and try to make plays. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.”
Those turnovers negated a 26-point, 21-rebound performance.
Simmons, who had 17 points and 10 assists, also had that overshadowed by his turnovers.
Talking about the team’s turnovers, Simmons said: “Just not taking care of the ball. Charges, traveling, they had a few steals on us, so just taking care of the ball.”
Stars attempting to do too much isn’t out of the ordinary. The Washington loss showed that better decision-making is needed by both players.
Here is a look at the Sixers’ seven losses and details about Embiid and Simmons. In only one of those games, against Oklahoma City, did both have a strong statistical game.
Nov. 4 at Phoenix, 114-109. Embiid didn’t play, sitting out the second of two games due to his altercation with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. That suspension not only helped cost this game, but it set Embiid back a little conditioning-wise. Simmons had 6 points (2-for-8 shooting), 6 assists, and 4 turnovers.
Nov. 6 at Utah, 106-104. Simmons suffered a shoulder sprain and played just 10:05. Embiid had 27 points and 16 rebounds, but shot just 5-of-16 and had 3 turnovers.
Nov. 8 at Denver, 100-97. Simmons was still out with his injury. Embiid committed a game-deciding offensive foul against Nikola Jokic with 0.9 seconds left and the Sixers trailing 98-97. On that play, Embiid gets a pass for that foul because, according to the NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report, a personal foul should have been called on Jokic instead of an offensive foul on Embiid. What Embiid doesn’t get a pass for is his eight turnovers that game.
Nov. 13 at Orlando, 112-97. Embiid sat out the game due to load management. Simmons had 18 points, shooting 9-for-12, with 5 assists and 2 turnovers.
Nov. 15 at Oklahoma City, 127-119 OT. Both players had strong statistical lines. Embiid had 31 points and 12 rebounds, shot 4-for-8 from three-point range and had just 1 turnover. Simmons played a game-high 45:33 and had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists, while also committing 5 turnovers.
Nov. 25 at Toronto, 101-96. Embiid went scoreless for the first time in his career, shooting 0-for-11, including 0-for-4 from three-point range. He also committed four turnovers. Simmons had 10 points and 14 assists but 7 turnovers.
Dec. 5 at Washington, 119-113. Simmons’ and Embiid’s combined 15 turnovers overshadowed otherwise strong statistical lines.
Losing without their best
All NBA players are going to have off games, but the Sixers have difficulty when one or the other of their All-Stars isn’t near his best. Both are in the top 20 for committing turnovers. Simmons entered the weekend sixth with 3.9 per game and Embiid was 18th at 3.2 This isn’t unusual. The turnover leaders are usually All-Star players because they have the ball more. James Harden leads the NBA with 5.1 per game.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt the team.
The Sixers are 2-2 with Embiid out of the lineup and 1-1 without Simmons, not counting the Utah loss when he missed the majority of the game. Embiid has been ruled out of Saturday’s home game against Cleveland with a bruised left hip.
Obviously, both Simmons and Embiid have done far more positive than negative, but as the losses show, one or both usually need to be on his game for the Sixers to win.