Philadelphia (WPHL)– On Wednesday night the Sixers took on long time rival the Boston Celtics and lost 87-88 at the TD Garden.
Sixers are currently the 11th seed with a 11-11 record heading into Friday night’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks who defeated the Sixers in last year’s Semi-finals.
There is still 60 games left to be played, but the Sixers have huge glaring problems without Ben Simmons in the lineup. With loses continuing to rack up Simmons is looking more and more like a solution rather than a problem.
The major questions Sixer fans should ask themselves are; Can we win consistently if Joel Embiid misses games? Can We defend opposing teams guards without Simmons? Is Tyrese Maxey the best fit for us as point guard?
Embiid missed 10 games so far this season mostly due to COVID-19. Embiid missed at least 20 games or more every NBA season he played in. The Sixers are 3-7 without the star Center this season and they trend can easily continue if Embiid misses more games this season mainly because they do not defend great anymore.
The 76ers are currently 18th in the NBA in Defensive rating, according to NBA.com. They were second in the league last season. Simmons was a huge part of that as he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and many consider him to be the best perimeter defender in the league. Simmons also ran the offense for the Sixers the past three seasons.
Coming into the season the Sixers only had one Point Guard and which was Simmons. Once it became evident the organization, Rich Paul, and Simmons couldn’t come to hash out the disagreements, Doc Rivers was forced to start Maxey at PG.
By the numbers Maxey is having a good Sophomore season averaging 17.5 points, 4.9 assist , and shooting 46% from the field per game. However, if you watch Sixer games you see he does not control nor run the offense. In Wednesday game late 4th quarter against the Celtics, you can see Rivers on the sideline frustrated with Maxey for not running the play Rivers drew up to get Tobias Harris involved.
Maxey is a good young player and emerged while Harris and Embiid was out with COVID-19, but he is not a PG. He is a good SG who resembles Ben Gordon who was a former Chicago Bull.
Fortunately for the Sixers all of their current concerns can be fix if Ben Simmons ever decides to come back. Many fans believe if Simmons does come back the team will be in same predicament they were in the past four seasons. Which can be very true but if you watch the Sixers past Playoff series closely you will see Simmons was probably least to blame.
Embiid once again was bothered by Al Horford defense Wednesday night. Embiid shot 3 for 17 from the field and finished with 13 points. In the 2018 Semi-Finals Sixers played the Celtics and lost 4-1 in a series Horford got the best of Embiid.
On media day Embiid told reporters Sixers signed Horford for Simmons benefit. That is hard to believe since Horford actually made the spacing worse for Simmons and actually benefitted Embiid since he didn’t have to face him in no more Celtics and Sixers battles.
In 2019 Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors, Embiid had a bad series only averaging 17.6 points on 37% shooting. In 2020, without Simmons due to injury The Sixers were swept by the Celtics in the Orlando Bubble.
Now the infamous 2021 semifinals series versus the Hawks, where Simmons passed the ball to Matisse Thybulle instead of taken an easy dunk. The play was terrible but does Simmons deserve all the blame for the loss?
Sixers were up two games to one heading into game 4. Embiid who finished second in MVP 2021 voting shot 4 for 20 from the field and was 0 for 12 in the 4th qtr. In game 5 the Sixers bench was outscored by the Hawks 39-13.
In game 7, everyone focused on Simmons being scared and his bad free throw line shooting, but no one wanted to acknowledge how he held Trae Young to 5 for 23 from the field or how he finds shooters like Seth Curry all game. Simmons only had 5 points but had 13 ast and had a better +/- than Embiid, Harris, and Curry.
Embiid had 31 points but had 8 turnovers and failed to takeover and be a closer in 4th qtrs. Harris who is supposed to be the Sixers scorer failed to make a impact on the game shooting 33% from the field in game 7.
After the game Rivers said he didn’t know if the Sixers can win a title with Simmons as the PG. Embiid stated to a play where Simmons passed the ball instead of dunking it was a turning point of the game.