Yam’s 76ers player of the week: Nobody
It feels wrong to be giving out a 76ers of the Week award, given that in this week the 76ers only managed to win one game and it was against the Sacramento Kings. Nobody on this team deserves it this week. All the things that were once exciting about this team have turned sour, and their struggles have proved to be more than just players missing games.
On Saturday night, the 76ers lost in double overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where Karl Anthony Towns sat for the entirety of both overtimes after fouling out. Every time it seemed the 76ers had the game sealed, they immediately blew it away. It was miserable and rather than pretending to be happy about some silver lining I found in a team that is 2-8 in their last 10 games, I am going to air my grievances.
I have issues with a fair amount of what’s happened over the past two weeks, but here is my biggest issue of them all. In Saturday’s loss, Tobias Harris took seven shots. SEVEN. Harris is considered to be the second option offensively for the 76ers, and he played 45 minutes, how in the hell does he only take seven shots.
Two overtime periods, and an outburst of scoring in the second half for Philadelphia, and all we got from Tobias was a wide open layup. A score that put the 76ers ahead. But rather than close the game out, they celebrated like the game was over and ended up giving up a bucket. Forcing them to play another overtime period.
I like Harris, I think he is an incredible leader, and a great voice in the 76ers’ locker room but this is beyond unacceptable from this team. Blame it on the coaching staff, the lack of minutes played together recently, or Harris himself. I don’t really care. With the current circumstances, that just can’t happen.
Let’s talk about Joel Embiid, because I think there was a lot of heat going his way after that game which was deserved to some extent but let’s look at the bigger picture. After missing nearly two weeks of action, Embiid came back and played 45 minutes, and dropped 42 points in his return. That was a tall task to request of the Big Fella, but he performed nonetheless. The final possession hurts, but the 76ers aren’t in that position if it weren’t for him.
The one issue I have really isn’t with Joel, but more how they just completely lean on him in late game situations. The offense gets stagnant, nobody creates any action, and it’s just dump the ball to Embiid and see if he can make something spectacular happen. This is the problem, and it has been the problem for literal years, but it’s hard to blame that on Joel.
Tyrese Maxey struggled this weekend, he faced a tough matchup in the Warriors game where he faced off against the one of the best point guards to ever play the game and then had a rough go at it on Saturday as well. The Timberwolves game is probably the worst we’ve seen from Maxey this season unfortunately. He looked timid, and hesitant especially late in the game and had a hurtful turnover late in the second overtime.
I don’t want to haggle this kid, he has been so good this year and this is an area where he needs to improve, but that’s all. There is an incredible increase in magnitude when Embiid is on the floor, and late in the game when there is an expectation to force feed him the ball, it is understandable to see Maxey struggle.
It’s hard not to feel some type of way about a team that has lost 8 of 10, and it’s also hard not to give them a pass for the circumstances they had to play under in that time. The 76ers have had bad luck with injuries and safety protocols, and had to battle all of that through their longest road trip of the season too. It is understandable to struggle, the issue I have is that the problems that they have in late games situations have not gotten better.
We saw this early in the season against Brooklyn, and we saw it again against the Timberwolves. The game plan is to just get the ball in Embiid’s hands, and everyone stands around. If you can’t find a way to get Maxey, Curry, or Harris involved then I have no confidence in their ability to win games when it matters the most.
That being said, I’m not losing sight of the long view. This is a transition period for this team and this is the first time they showed signs of true weakness. They are a good team when they are healthy, but these consistent shortcomings concern me when consider their championship aspirations.
Mandatory Credit: Yams