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December 12, 2018

Instant observations: Sixers depth issues apparent in loss to Nets

Sixers NBA

The Sixers have a legitimate excuse for struggling Wednesday against the Nets. Well, as legitimate as you can get playing in the NBA. With Jimmy Butler out with an injured groin, Mike Muscala out with an upper respiratory infection and Markelle Fultz, well, you know, the team only played seven players more than 10 minutes in their 127-124 loss — just the second at home this season.

The problems that led to the Sixers' second loss of the season on their home hardwood are definitely partially the players' faults — the team turned the ball over way too much and were much too sluggish on defense as they tried to make their comeback (after falling behind in the first place of course). But fault belongs partially to the front office, which doesn't have this team built with much depth or durability.

In any case, here's what I saw Wednesday night:

The Good

• Furkan Korkmaz started his first NBA start by drilling a three and continued to play with hustle and with a chip on his shoulder after Philly declined the team option on his contract. In 35 minutes of game action the 21-year-old held his own, scoring 18 points while adding five assists.

• And for our regular entry into the museum of Joel Embiid highlights, we enter this impressive move in iso on the block, one on one against Jarrett Allen. He makes it look so easy:

Embiid is at his best when he, for lack of a better phrase, stays in his lane and works down low. He has the arsenal of post moved to be a beast against nearly any defender in the NBA and he took full advantage Wednesday as he had 23 points and 13 rebounds in a MONSTER first half.

Quiet for most of the second half, Embiid drained a hugely important three to cut the Nets late advantage to six inside the four-minute mark. His 33 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes wouldn't be enough to salvage a win.

• Ben Simmons threw down the following alley-oop to help Philly close the gap in the second:


In all Simmons really filled the stat sheet, scoring 22 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks.

• Teams should probably not leave Wilson Chandler open behind the arc. He hit three three-pointers Wednesday and actually has the second best three-point shooting percentage (41 percent) of players who average at least one attempt per game on the team (behind only Butler).

The Bad

• Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Sixers have an awful lot of trouble against the Nets for some reason. Entering the game at 10-18, the Sixers had split two prior meetings this year. The first was an ugly and unexpected loss in Brooklyn, and the second required a Jimmy Butler game-winning three to secure victory.

After building a modest lead in the first the Sixers just were unable to get into a rhythm on either side of the ball and trailed 31-29 after the first 12 minutes.

It wasn't much better in the second, as an Allen Crabbe trey put Brooklyn up eight at the 4:26 mark. A strong finish to the second and start to the third put the Sixers back on top but it didn't last long, as sharp shooting Spencer Dinwiddle and Crabbe built Brooklyn back up to a 12-point lead as the third quarter wound down.

As Philly often does, they made it a game. But turnovers — careless ones at that — stifled their momentum as the clock wound down. A late charge was too little too late.

• The Sixers haven't had any major injuries to deal with, but they've had some serious turnover in their starting line up over the first three months of the season. Here's a look at the line up on opening day (before their blockbuster trade), on Monday when they defeated the Pistons, and Wednesday night vs. Brooklyn:

Opening night MondayWednesday 
 Dario Saric Wilson ChandlerWilson Chandler
 Robert CovingtonJimmy Butler Furkan Korkmaz
Joel Embiid  Joel EmbiidJoel Embiid 
 Ben SimmonsJ.J. RedickJ.J. Redick
 Markelle FultzBen SimmonsBen Simmons

With Muscala and Butler out (along with, Fultz), Philly had more or less two reliable guys on their bench in T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet. Which meant Amir Johnson, and D-leaguer Shake Milton got limited time off the bench — and for spurts the line up resembled something from 'The Process' days. 

Dealing with a short-handed roster against the Nets is one thing, but if they can't stay healthy, get deeper or both they'll have major issues against stiffer competition as the season continues. At times, the Sixers had a line up with three guards and Chandler and Simmons playing I guess the center and power forward spots. This could become a problem.

• I had a friend ask me the other day, a friend from New York, if I would trade Fultz for D'Angelo Russell and a couple second round picks. I am still on the fence about Fultz' potential here in Philly, but watching Russell — a former second overall pick himself — in person Wednesday made me think it might be a perfect fit. He is good with the ball, he's a natural scorer and he just looks like a really good third or fourth option on a championship team.

This potential trade is based on absolutely nothing except for conjecture — but it's an interesting thought. 

The Ugly

• Dinwiddle continues to come off the bench and wreck against the Sixers. He has 20 career games of 20 points or more with three of them against the Sixers — including his career high of 31 during their last meeting. He had a new career high of 39 Wednesday.

• In the first half, Embiid was the only Sixers' player to take a free throw. He shot three, while the entire Nets team shot 16. For a team in the top two in free throw attempts and makes per game in the entire NBA, that was ugly.

In all just two Sixers' players went to the charity stripe for the first 47 minutes of the game, as Embiid and Simmons combined to go 11-for-13 (Shamet would add three more from the line with five second left). Brooklyn went 37-for-43.

• It's hard to win when you allow your opposition to shoot 50 percent from long range (and 51.4 percent overall). 

Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

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