3 Observations From Sixers’ Blowout Loss to Nets

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

This was a forgettable one on all fronts for the Philadelphia 76ers. The team fell to 40-25 on the season after getting blown out 129-100 by the Brooklyn Nets in front of a packed house at the Wells Fargo Center.

Joel Embiid finished the game with 27 points and 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant led the Nets with 25 points to go along with 14 rebounds and seven assists. Seth Curry scored 24 points and recorded five steals. Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points and five assists.

Nothing really went right for the Sixers from the very beginning, and the Nets made as big a statement a team could make in a regular season game. It will be incredibly interesting to see these two teams if they potentially match up against each other in the playoffs.

The Sixers next take on the Orlando Magic on the road on Sunday night. Here are three observations from the blowout loss:

Nets expose Sixers' major weakness

Before we get to the action on the court, Ben Simmons was booed lustily by the Philadelphia faithful, as expected, when he came out for pre-game warmups. Now to the actual game.

The Nets began the game on fire, quickly building up a double-digit lead. They scored 40 points in the first quarter alone, connecting on 65.4 percent of their shots. The Sixers looked antsy out of the gate, and the Nets took advantage throughout the night.

The Nets took a 72-51 lead into halftime after playing a thoroughly dominant first half. They shot the ball 65.9 percent from the field in the first half, and the trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry combined for 49 points on 19-of-28 shooting from the field.

The Nets scored 102 points through the first three quarters on 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 52.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc. They were able to rest most of their starters in the fourth quarter due to them being up 102-70. The Sixers benched all of their starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter.

One of the Sixers' biggest weaknesses is their lack of perimeter defense. The Nets present a tough matchup for the Sixers due to their combination of perimeter shooting and players who can create off the dribble. The Sixers, outside of Matisse Thybulle, do not have any other solid perimeter defenders. Things are not going to go well for them if they have to attempt to have Tobias Harris cover Durant and Tyrese Maxey cover Curry.

The Sixers can attempt to have Embiid step out onto the perimeter to help out defensively, but that strategy has its own set of flaws. Embiid can get driven by on the perimeter by a player like Irving, and putting him on the perimeter severely weakens their inside defense.

The Sixers have enough talent to be able to overcome their defensive weaknesses against most teams, but the Nets – especially when they are shooting lights out like they did tonight – are uniquely equipped to present a ton of problems for them. Any potential playoff matchup with the Nets will be interesting and entertaining on multiple fronts.

Harden's brutal night encapsulates Sixers' offense as a whole

The Sixers' offense never clicked into gear, and James Harden had his first poor night in a Sixers uniform. The team shot … and Harden was never able to really get anything going.

He did drill a step-back three in the first quarter. It was the 2,561st made three of his career and it moved him into third place in the NBA all-time in three-pointers made.

Outside of passing Hall of Famer Reggie Miller in the all-time made threes list, it was not a good night for Harden. He usually excels at both drawing fouls and finishing around the basket, but the Nets did a great job of defending him on his drives to the basket. They swarmed him and, while they did get away with a few fouls, did a good job overall keeping Harden uncomfortable. He only took two free throws, knocking them both down.

Harden finished the game with 11 points on 3-of-17 shooting. All of his made shots came from three-point range. He also recorded six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

The Sixers as a team shot poorly, making just 32.6 percent of their shots from the field and 38.9 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Those numbers were inflated a bit from some garbage time in the fourth quarter. The team's off night shooting is not something to worry about long-term, unlike the team's lack of perimeter defense mentioned above.

In five games with Harden on the floor heading into tonight, the Sixers averaged 125.4 points per game while shooting 51.0 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three-point range. The point being that every team will have some poor shooting nights at some point over the course of the 82-game schedule and that their poor shooting tonight is nothing to be overly concerned about. The Sixers just need to chalk this one up and move onto the next game.

Embiid's free throws, Harris' three-point shooting are lone positives for Sixers

While it was a rough night for the Sixers in all facets, there are two small positives to take away from this game.

The first is Embiid's ability to get to the free-throw line. He shot the ball 5-of-17 from the field as he joined in the team's poor shooting. However, he got to the line 19 times, making 15 of them. He was playing with an increased level of physicality in the first quarter, leading to him getting Andre Drummond into some early foul trouble.

Drummond committed three fouls in the first quarter alone. The Nets had their hands full trying to guard Embiid around the paint. Embiid and Durant got into it, trash talking each other after Embiid drew a foul on him late in the first quarter.

This supposed war of words between Embiid and Durant was about the most fight anyone on the Sixers showed all night. 

De'Andre Jordan, who the team signed late last week, did a solid job once again playing as the team's backup center. He finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.

Harris has been struggling to adapt to playing next to Harden. He averaged 12.4 points while shooting 41.0 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three-point range in his first five games playing alongside Harden.

However, he put together one of his better performances since Harden became a Sixer. He scored 16 points and knocked down four of his five attempts from beyond the arc. He showed he could effectively play as a catch-and-shoot player, taking advantage of the open looks created when Harden drives to the basket. Having Harris start to mesh with Harden will help the Sixers' offense a ton down the stretch heading into the playoffs.

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