Following a grueling overtime matchup with the Orlando Magic Sunday night, the Philadelphia 76ers traveled home Monday for the second leg of a back-t0-back. Next up on the schedule was a meeting with Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on national television.
As expected, many eyes were glued to this game. Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are two of the game’s top big men, and once again in a race for MVP. Injuries and protocol prevented the All-Star centers from squaring off last season, but that would not be the case Monday night. Both players put on big performances as they attempted to lead their team to victory.
Thanks to a late push from the Nuggets’ supporting cast, things went down to the wire. The Sixers had an opportunity to send things to overtime, but Georges Niang was unable to connect on a corner three in the game’s final second. In the end, Jokic and company walked out of Philly with a 114-110 victory.
After the game, head coach Doc Rivers was asked about what went wrong in the matchup. He went on to cite two areas of concern, the first being lack of ball movement on offense. While the Sixers were able to generate a ton of good looks, he felt they could have gotten better shots if the ball was swung more.
“We got to get the ball moving again. I thought we were so prepared, and you could see in the beginning of the game, for all the traps, all the movement. We got everything we wanted, and as the game went on, it just dissipated. We were a one-action team, and that’s something we can’t be offensively,” said Rivers.
Later on, he cited transition defense as the other key weak point in Monday’s loss. In total, Denver recorded 29 fastbreak points while the Sixers only had 11. This has been a common issue for the Sixers, and Rivers opened up on what can be done to rectify the problem.
“Getting back, getting loaded, being more disciplined. It’s disappointing, I can tell you that, because it’s a recurring thing. I think Kevin Durant said after the game ‘you know they don’t get back.’ Orlando, they made a concerted effort. You could just see them doing it. It’s something we just have to get better at,” Doc Rivers said postgame.
Even with the addition of James Harden, lack of ball movement continues to be a problem at times for the Sixers. In his first few games, we saw how hard the team can be to defend when the ball is zipping around. Unfortunately, it just has not been something they’ve been able to maintain in this recent stretch. Part of it could be growing pains, but it’s certainly something to monitor moving forward.
As a team that thrives in the open floor, the lack of transition defense is a major concern. Not only are opponents getting easy buckets on the break, but it forces the Sixers to walk the ball down the other end of the floor. This has been an area of weakness dating back to last season and is something they desperately need to address if they want to remain competitive.