Sixers: Good, bad, ugly from opening night loss to Celtics

James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

Ugly elements of Sixers’ loss to Celtics

  • Team defense (and Embiid, again)

The Sixers’ defense was absolutely dreadful. Even with Embiid struggling rather severely, the offense looked good — even great at times. Harden, Maxey, and Harris all look primed for great seasons and Embiid is destined for bigger and better nights. That said, the defense was hot garbage — and it shouldn’t be.

That starts, you guessed it, with Joel Embiid. He was terrible. The effort level, the body language, all of it was bad. He has the capacity to win Defensive Player of the Year, but Embiid has to show the desire. He has to be more active, more engaged. There’s a difference between being selective and being disinterested. Embiid let his offensive struggles impact his defensive effort, and that’s never okay. He needs to get his body language in check. You’re trying to lead your team to a championship — act like it.

Embiid was not the only issue of course. It was a tail as old as time: the Sixers giving up easy dribble penetration and by extension open look after open look from 3. The backcourt tandem of Harden and Maxey is brilliant on offense. On defense, however, they’re both notable liabilities. That makes life harder on Embiid even when he’s playing well. Tucker fought admirably against Tatum and Brown, but the defense around him failed. The bench has multiple quality defenders (so please excuse me if I kindly ignore your pleas for Matisse Thybulle), but it’s hard to play collectively strong defense when Montrezl Harrell and Georges Niang are guarding with cement in their shoes.

It was a frustrating game overall that ultimately doesn’t matter very much. The Sixers will have better nights. Embiid is a tried and true MVP candidate who will inevitably look more like himself. James Harden looking so good is probably the takeaway, all things considered. Boston is the best defense in the NBA and one of, if not the biggest obstacle standing in Philly’s path to a title. There’s plenty here for the team to learn from and seek to improve upon. Next up is Milwaukee on Thursday.

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