The Philadelphia 76ers may have lost their opening bout, but all things considered, they certainly turned in an impressive debut against one of the best teams in the league. A late collapse may have overshadowed their valiant effort, but if anything, the team just proved that they cannot be counted out just yet — even in an Eastern Conference teeming with elite talent and fast up-and-comers.
Still, Philly clearly has a lot of issues to solve with just a single game off the books. And their contest against Milwaukee showed exactly what they need to keep toe-to-toe with the best clubs in the association.
Loss to Milwaukee showed just what the 76ers lack this season
Without James Harden, the 76ers rode with Tyrese Maxey to man point guard duties — to which he performed rather admirably as he finished with 31 points and eight assists with zero turnovers. In addition to his well-known scoring prowess, he showed flashes of his much improved court vision, especially at finding open shooters, with five of his eight dimes resulting in three-pointers.
Maxey also reprised some of last season’s two-man actions between Joel Embiid and Harden as the 76ers frequently went into that pairing on the scoring end. The reigning MVP ultimately had a less than stellar outing, but the team still found a lot of success on the offensive end for the most part.
Still, the Bucks were able to leverage Philly’s lack of a natural playmaker to concentrate their defense on Maxey and Embiid. While that opened up the floor for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tobias Harris, who feasted on a bunch of consequential open looks, when the team wasn’t scoring, they were turning the ball over (15 turnovers) and squandering transition opportunities for Milwaukee.
Maxey’s ball security notwithstanding, point guard instincts cannot be developed overnight. And that was pretty apparent when the Bucks tried to ice him in pick and rolls. The 76ers were still able to score on some of those possessions, but that definitely wouldn’t have happened if the team had an experienced floor general (e.g. Him).
Aside from Maxey, Philadelphia has some good passers and connectors, but no great ones. That’s a point of vulnerability especially in late-game situations, when the offense became far from deliberate and was just plain predictable.
With the 76ers still preoccupied with the whole Harden situation, the front office should look into demanding a point guard as part of the deal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an All-Star — what the team simply needs is a calming presence who can help organize them in the half-court.
Nevertheless, the Philadelphia 76ers looked impressive in their season-opener. However, they need to cover all bases this season if they want to have more than just a fighting chance against elite competition, and having a bona fide facilitator will be one step in that direction.