Sixers lack of effort and accountability on full display last night against the Memphis Grizzlies
Joel Embiid returned to the Sixers lineup on Saturday night after a 10-game absence due to a left knee bone bruise. The Wells Fargo Center echoed “MVP” chants as The Process took the court in front of fans for the first time in over a year. The Sixers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113 in Embiid’s return. Although a bit rusty, Embiid’s presence was felt on the court, as he scored 24 points, while snagging eight rebounds and blocking three shots down the stretch to seal the victory.
Last night, less than 24 hours after Embiid made his return, the environment at the Wells Fargo Center was different. Embiid was resting and ruled out of the game before tip-off thanks to the game against the Grizzlies being the second night of a back-to-back. The Memphis Grizzlies, held a 75-53 lead over the Sixers with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. By the end of the third, their lead grew to 26 points. The final score was 116-100 and the Sixers, who had an opportunity to grow a half game lead on the Brooklyn Nets, lost to a mediocre Grizzlies team and are now tied with the Nets in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 34-16 record.
Last night’s game wasn’t even close. The only reason it looks that way on paper is thanks to Paul Reed, Isaiah Joe, and Rayjon Tucker, who played well in garbage time. The typically dominant at home Sixers team got destroyed on their home court by a .500 Memphis Grizzlies team.
I completely understand that this is the second night of a back-to-back and that the Sixers were yet again without Joel Embiid, but the performance last night was embarrassing. The Sixers were up 14-13 midway through the first quarter before Doc Rivers went with his bench unit and by the end of the first quarter they were down seven points.
You can blame the schedule and the fact that the 76ers were just returning home after a brutal road trip out west. You can blame the fact that this was on the second night of a back-to-back and the 76ers clearly looked gassed on the court. You can say that not having Joel Embiid continuously hurts this team’s performance. All might be true. But the Sixers are too good of a team to allow .500 teams such as the Grizzlies come into South Philly and steal a win from a team desperately trying to keep up with the Brooklyn Nets in the standings.
Ben Simmons, after such a dominating month of February before the All-Star break, has struggled tremendously. Simmons wasn’t a factor on either end of the court last night and shot 2-for-6 from the floor. He only scored seven points while snagging seven rebounds and four assists. After building his season average to just under 17 points per game, he is now averaging 12.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists since the All-Star break with an abysmal 48.6% true shooting percentage.
As a strong Ben Simmons supporter, it’s really hard to get behind him lately given the fact that he just doesn’t seem to be giving the type of effort you’d expect from your second star while Joel Embiid is not on the floor. Is it possible that Simmons is still dealing with a knee injury? Sure. There have been suggestions that might be the case. He’s not moving up and down the court on defense like he typically does and has left close shots around the basket short time and time again. Simmons did benefit from the return of Embiid on Saturday night and played better than he has in recent memory, but at the end of the day, the Sixers need to be able to rely on someone outside Tobias Harris when Embiid isn’t playing and for Simmons, they just haven’t been able to do that over the last 30 days.
With Embiid out of the lineup, the Sixers flaws were in full effect. Mike Scott is a terrible option as a backup center and was mismatched physically against Jonas Valanciunas all night. Memphis’ center scored six points and pulled in five rebounds in the first five minutes of the game, finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Tobias Harris, the Sixers most consistent player, was the only starter to score in double figures. Harris ended the game with 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and a block. Shake Milton scored 14 points off the bench and Paul Reed hit double figures in garbage time with 10 points.
As someone who is almost too supportive of the Philadelphia 76ers and more specifically Ben Simmons, this past week has been frustrating to watch. For a team that has been great holding themselves accountable throughout the season, in recent weeks, that simply hasn’t been the case.
The Sixers will be back in action tomorrow night in Boston against the Celtics.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY