CAMDEN, NJ – While James Harden has been out, the Philadelphia 76ers defense has surged to one of the top overall units in the league thanks in large part to an increase in effort in transition situations. Meanwhile, the Sixers’ offense has been very bad despite Joel Embiid being unstoppable.

The Sixers are in the top five of several defensive stats but their offense has fallen to brutal depths. They rank 24th in points per 100 possessions in halfcourt situations since Harden went down, per Cleaning the Glass. For a team that doesn’t run in transition or generate offensive boards, this makes it extremely hard to win and close out games.

When asked after the Sixers’ Wednesday practice what issues he is seeing with the offense, head coach Doc Rivers said that pace is one reason why. But he explained that it goes beyond that,

“The pace has been really slow,” Rivers said, “and that’s fine by us. We’ll do that. We don’t mind that. Getting stops, we still wanna run. We emphasize it, we still wanna get out and get into our pace. But there are gonna be nights, coincidental nights where you have three or four games that are low-scoring. If you win the games, you’re happy with it. If you don’t, you’re not. I don’t look at points as much as I look at efficiency. If you’re pretty efficient, that’s all you can be, whether you’re going fast or not.”

Rivers, though, admitted that the Sixers offense has not lived up to that standard of efficiency.

“We haven’t been efficient for the most part, up and down all year,” Rivers said. “We’ve had efficient stretches. It’s a work in progress. [With] limited guard play, we know it’s gonna be a sloppy, slower game right now and you’ve gotta go into the mode of winning and keeping it to where you need it…We still wanna work on our efficiency ‘cause that’s the key.”

A slow pace is something that the Sixers have been trying to overcome all season. Losing Harden has made it tougher, as he can run fast breaks or kickstart them with outlet passes. Losing on some of the few easy offensive opportunities they have has led to stretches where the offense looks lost when Embiid isn’t making nearly every shot he takes.

Tyrese Maxey said after Sixers practice that the team is really trying to hone in on winning each possession. With a team that plays at a slow pace, that becomes all the more important.

“Doc always says something when the playoffs come around: the game is within single-possession games, like one game every single possession, and then you gotta win as many of those possessions as you can. So, we’re gonna try to start working on that now even in the regular season,” the Sixers’ young guard said. “I think that’s what we’ve been doing. I’m trying to get the best shot available every single trip down and make it extremely hard for them on the defensive in every trip.”

Rivers has plenty of things he can try to make the Sixers’ offense more efficient. With still over 80 percent of the season remaining, now is the time to try out new things. Regardless of what they look to tweak or improve in as they prepare for five games in eight days, the Sixers will need to be at their most efficient when they return to action on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.