GRADES: Sixers lose to Pacers after dreadful second half

Tobias Harris, Sixers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tobias Harris, Sixers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Sixers, on a night where they had the opportunity to lock up the number one seed, fall on the road to Indiana as the absence of Joel Embiid was never more apparent than in this second half.

Both teams came out playing well early as Philadelphia was led by their starters not named Embiid while Indiana mostly matched those efforts via Domantas Sabonis and the recently surging Doug McDermott shouldering their load.

Ben Simmons had eight, Tobias Harris nine, Danny Green and Seth Curry each six as Philadelphia led 33-26 after the first.

The second quarter was more of the same. Indiana played effectively while Philadelphia just edged their efficiency. Both teams were led by their best players available but spread the ball across the attack.

Heading to the locker room, the more talented Philadelphia team led 62-51.

Then came the nightmare situation for Philadelphia.

All year Philadelphia has seen their efficiency go up relative to the past seasons when operating in the fourth quarter. Previous renditions had seen the offense sputter as the game tightened and thus spacing/Simmons inability to effectively create in the halfcourt became more apparent.

Embiid has done a decent job offsetting the issue by simply being the best player on the court and scoring from a myriad of levels. Curry and Green’s spacing has surely helped alleviate many of the concerns. Unfortunately, Simmons’ lack of halfcourt creation has been more masked than solved, which was never more apparent than against Indiana.

In the third quarter, Philadelphia produced only 13 points. The offense was stagnant. Indiana tied the game and then took the lead as they buried back-to-back three-pointers in the closing minutes of the quarter before the teams eventually ended the session tied at 75.

Heading into the fourth quarter with the ability to lock-in the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in twenty years… more of the same.

What has otherwise been a tremendous season, was also a reminder of just how crucial Embiid is to his team. MVP debate aside, the answer is Nikola Jokic, Embiid is the fulcrum and glue that bonds the pieces together for Philadelphia. He handles the fourth quarter creation. Simmons serves as a tremendous option pushing in transition and smothering opponents. Harris is a borderline all-star who gets propelled by being surrounded by Embiid’s greatness. Curry and Green’s shooting create gravity that unlocks the floor.

Philadelphia is as much a sum of their parts team as any in the league. Without spacing, Embiid is tremendous but not knocking on the MVP trophy’s door. The starting five has been excellent together all year.

From this tone, it’s fair to infer the fourth quarter did not play out well for Philadelphia.

The reserves for Philadelphia opened the first four minutes of the quarter and performed admirably. Tyrese Maxey was helping initiate offense as George Hill complemented and Isaiah Joe knocked down jumpers.

When Simmons re-entered, Philadelphia led 87-83 with nearly seven minutes remaining. The team only scored seven more points the rest of the way…

A Harris three-pointer and a Simmons dunk were the only points for six minutes as Indiana utilized a 16-5 run to go up seven with less than a minute to play. The offense was anemic and the defense just couldn’t overcome it.

Indiana closed out the final minute and secured the home victory, 103-94.

Grades from a poor second-half effort that prevented the Sixers from clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

C-. . PG. 76ers. BEN SIMMONS

37 mins | 20 pts | 8 reb | 7 ast | 2 stl | 0 blk | 5 TO | 9-16 FG | 0-0 3PT| 2-3 FT | 5 PF | -18 |

A quick glance at the box score and one might assume Simmons played decently. It wasn’t an inherently bad game, yet somehow was awful. It’s been mentioned that each piece is better when part of the whole, but Simmons is discussed as a potential star on his own. Stars aren’t liabilities in the fourth quarter. When he has to play maestro in a half-court game during the fourth, Simmons can still be just that.

B-. . PF. 76ers. TOBIAS HARRIS

34 mins | 27 pts | 5 reb | 3 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 11-24 FG | 2-5 3PT| 3-3 FT | 1 PF | -7 |

Harris isn’t escaping accountability, either. Midseason Harris looked like a deserving all-star. When Embiid went down, Harris stepped up. The competition wasn’t the strongest, but that often gets overlooked during the course of an arduous NBA season. Perhaps it was more of a factor than Philadelphia fans would like to admit. Harris is tremendous and has seemingly improved every year. One game shouldn’t be overanalyzed. Nonetheless, it is more apparent than ever after a night like this just how valuable Philadelphia’s MVP really is.

B+. . PG. 76ers. TYRESE MAXEY

17 mins | 11 pts | 2 reb | 3 ast | 1 stl | 2 blk | 1 TO | 4-9 FG | 0-1 3PT| 3-4 FT | 2 PF | -1 |

Maxey is a rookie and played sparingly as the middle of the season wore on. Doc Rivers isn’t going to get any complaints from this end since he will be locking up the number one seed in the conference before too long. Still, Maxey is making fans alike wonder what can/will be. His off-the-bounce creativity should already have opponents aware. Perhaps this year’s playoffs will be a different setting, but it would delight many fans to see Maxey get some chances, at least early in the playoffs.

D+. . SF. 76ers. DANNY GREEN

29 mins | 6 pts | 2 reb | 1 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 0 TO | 2-9 FG | 2-8 3PT| 0-0 FT | 0 PF | -8 |

Green’s value hides beneath the surface numbers. It’s hard to quantify the only current back-to-back champion in the league. Yet, his performance and the team’s success still hang largely on him making a decent percentage of his three-pointers. 2-8 doesn’t get it done, perhaps 4-8 would have felt different.

D+. . PF. 76ers. MIKE SCOTT

26 mins | 3 pts | 4 reb | 2 ast | 1 stl | 1 blk | 1 TO | 1-4 FG | 1-3 3PT| 0-0 FT | 1 PF | -7 |

Get him off the floor. It is perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Philadelphia’s season. He wasn’t even bad relative to his other performances this season, but he’s also so clearly not good that the continued run is bordering on the dictionary definition of insanity. Embiid, Simmons, and Harris have enough length to play alongside anyone. Isaiah Thomas and Muggsy Bogues could be the lead guards and the defense would still be fine with two guards joining those three. At this point, it isn’t even Scott’s fault. He just simply doesn’t belong out there.

Philadelphia was without Embiid, Matisse Thybulle, and Shake Milton. The team has been tremendous all year and appears it should be perfectly healthy entering the playoffs. This team is poised to make a run. The tape shouldn’t be burned and questions need to be answered regarding the stagnation on offense without Embiid, but all will be forgiven if Philadelphia can clinch the number one seen against down in Miami on Thursday night.

As for Indiana, they’ll be taking on the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday in an attempt to sneak into the eighth seed.

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