February 27, 2020
It feels like every time the Sixers play on the road, something bad happens.
On most nights, it's something as simple as a loss (they are 9-21 away from home), often to a team they were expected to beat. But sometimes, as was the case last weekend in Milwaukee and again on Wednesday night in Cleveland, that pain is compounded by an injury to one of the team's All Stars. First, it was Ben Simmons going down with a pinched nerve in his back. Against the Cavs, it was center Joel Embiid leaving the game with what the team is calling a left shoulder sprain.
Falling to the lowly Cavs, who picked up just their 18th win of the season on Wednesday, and losing Joel Embiid in the process, was bad enough, but things only got worse for the Sixers after the game ended.
Without Simmons or Embiid, the Sixers still had a trio of big-name players to fill the void in Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson, but those three combined for just 30 points (on 12/35 shooting) in the 108-94 loss to Cleveland.
And following the game, Richardson sent a message to his teammates on the way out the door.
[h/t Crossing Broad]
This is not the first time Richardson has questioned his teammates. Back in December, following a 19-point loss to a Luka Doncic-less Mavericks, the Sixers guard said the team needed to start "playing harder." Then, earlier this month, Richardson called a players-only meeting in an effort to try to rally the team together amid reports of locker room issues.
Richardson's most recent comments come on the heels of head coach Brett Brown's post game press conference in which he said the team basically called out the remaining three starters from the start of the season.
“I think just our defense and just physicality was a C-minus,” Brett Brown said. “I think it was a C-minus. … I feel like when you don’t have Joel and you don’t have Ben, it’s an opportunity for others to put their hand[s] up and declare, ’This is who we are.’ And it is who we are, it’s who we have been. Tonight was not one of them. I really felt from that sort of physical standpoint, we were a C-minus.” [nbcsportsphiladelphia.com]
The Sixers return home on Thursday night to face the Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back, and without their best two players, they're going to need Harris, Horford and Richardson to step up in a big way.
Currently, the Sixers are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are a half game behind the slumping Heat for the fourth spot, which would give them home court advantage for at least the first round, and 5.5 games behind the Celtics for third with 23 left to play.
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