Sixers Lead

4th Quarter Woes Exposing Philly’s Flaws

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The Philadelphia 76ers’ ability to close out opponents was called into question once again Tuesday night, when the team narrowly escaped with a win over the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers. Philly saw a large second half lead slip away in the fourth quarter for the second time in three games. Luckily for the Sixers, they overcame and still won the game with a timely dunk from Joel Embiid. Philadelphia faced a similar situation in Denver a few nights ago, when a 19-point lead going into the fourth quarter evaporated, turning into an ugly loss. These types of games have become too common for this group of players, dating back to last year. The lack of closing ability is worrisome on the surface, but also highlights several of Philly’s flaws this season. The Sixers must address these flaws if they want to be considered a legitimate Finals contender.

 

Shooting Woes

This iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers is not meant to be a heavy three-point shooting team. They are much better suited for a brand of basketball that revolves around getting the ball inside and racking up free throws. In each of the latest blown leads, however, they struggled to convert either. On Friday in Denver, the 76ers were 1-8 from three-point range and only got to the foul line four times in the fourth quarter (2-4). Two of those misses came from Joel Embiid very late in the quarter. For the game, Philadelphia ended 8-17 from the stripe, shooting well below their season average of 74%.

Sharpshooter Tobias Harris has been ice cold to start the season. Following last night’s performance where he was 0-11 from 3-pt range, he is now shooting 21.7% on the year. Simply put, Tobias Harris must be better on a team that lacks 3-point shooting depth. To his credit, head coach Brett Brown confirmed post game that he was dealing with a stomach virus. Regardless, Harris needs to be smarter with his shot selection, particularly if he isn’t feeling 100% in a given game.

Free throws are a necessity for teams that play hard-nosed basketball. That being said, Philadelphia needs to improve in that area moving forward. As mentioned before, they’re shooting 74% from the line. That number is down 3% from last year’s season average, and ranks them at 21st in the league. Overall, Philly has just been average on offense, ranking 17th in points per game this season and 19th in offensive rating.

Road Disadvantage

While the season is young and the Sixers played good talent on the road, it’s noted that Philadelphia has not played well on the road this season. They’re 3-3 in road contests, not winning any of those games by more than 6 points. In each of the three losses, Philadelphia saw early leads evaporate. At home, Philadelphia has an average margin of victory of 11.3 points. On the road, that number shrinks to -0.2 points. In order to make a deep playoff run, more consistency must be seen on the road against tough teams.

Health Risks

The Sixers are noted for having plenty of injuries, an issue that they fixed in the offseason with the addition of Al Horford. A lesser known issue for Philadelphia is the abundance of stomach issues that plagued the team last season. Last season, several games were missed by players, most notably Embiid, with gastroenteritis or the stomach flu. Last night, the bug hit for the first time this season with Tobias Harris playing sick. Whether this is a sanitation issue or a diet issue, it’s a problem that shouldn’t be as frequent as it is for an NBA franchise.

The Philadelphia 76ers undoubtedly have talent. Their defensive capability gives them the opportunity to compete with almost any team. However, they also have plenty of issues to address. Three-point shooting needs to improve and become more abundant. Free throws cannot be missed, especially at crucial game points. Philly has worked long and hard to get into the conversation for a championship. with the likes of the Clippers, Lakers and Bucks. While it’s easy for a young team to get complacent with winning, the Sixers must stay hungry and continue to improve on the fundamentals before they have a shot at claiming the NBA title.

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About Dave Pedron

As a Pennsylvania native, Penn State grad, and diehard Sixers fan, I'm very excited to cover the team and usher in the next chapter of the Process.

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