The Sixers Have Heart, Still Searching for Depth
These Sixers have heart
One thing that can’t be taken away from the 2019 Philadelphia 76ers - regardless of how their season ends up - is that they have heart.
Having heart doesn’t mean that you don’t lose, but it does mean that you don’t crack or crumble because of a loss and instead you learn and grown from it. That’s what the Sixers have done time and again this season. There was flashes of this trait in the team throughout the regular season, as their longest losing streak all season spanned just 3 games in early April. (Mentally tough teams don't usually suffer long losing steaks). However, the postseason has truly revealed the mental fortitude of the Sixers.
Each time that the Sixers have been faced with adversity – both on an individual and team level - this postseason, they have responded. When they were booed off of their own home floor by the Philadelphia faithful during their Game 1 loss to the upstart Brooklyn Nets in the first round, and some started to whisper about a potential upset, they bounced back by sweeping the series after that. When they were overwhelmed – and then prematurely written off by some on a national level – by the Raptors in Toronto in Game 1 of the semifinals, they responded by winning two straight games – one at home and one on the road - to seize the momentum of the series. When they were embarrassed back in Toronto in Game 5, they answered with a dominant performance in Game 6 to push the series to a decisive seventh game.
Less mentally tough teams may have folded following any of these situations, but these Sixers have a lot of fight in them. That’s not something that every team that advanced in the postseason this year can say, either. Just ask the Boston Celtics.
For Joel Embiid, the approach is simple: if you play poorly one game (which happens in the NBA sometimes, guys), you try to play better the next time out.
“If you play bad, you want to come back the next game and play better,” Embiid said after Game 6 on Thursday night. “Up there in Toronto, we didn’t play the way we wanted to, and we made a lot of mistakes, and [in Game 6] it had to be corrected.”
The never-say-die attitude that the Sixers have displayed throughout the postseason comes from the top down.
“The notion that you’re down and out is not even a part of our mindset,” Brett Brown said on a conference call with media members following the team’s Game 5 dismantling. “Nobody is hanging their head or second guessing anything.”
It’s one thing to say it – no coach is going to publicly admit that their team has mentally checked out – but it’s another to mean it, and Brett meant it, as we saw in Game 6.
Sixers still searching for depth
Depth has been an issue for the Sixers all season.
That hasn’t changed in the postseason, where the Sixers have had exactly two reliable reserves: Mike Scott and James Ennis. At this point in time, it’s too late for the Sixers to continue to experiment. Every time someone outside of the first five and Scott and Ennis sees legitimate minutes, negative things happen. We've seen it with Jon SImmons, T.J. McConnell, Amir Johnson, Jonah Bolden, Greg Monroe, and Boban Marjanovic. Thus, no one else on the roster outside of those seven players should see meaningful minutes; something I Tweeted during Game 6.
Afterwards, Brown discussed the team’s search for an eighth man in the rotation, and ultimately admitted that the team might be best served by keeping the rotation at a short seven.
“We are searching to find an answer for the eighth man. We’ve tried Amir [Johnson], we played Furkan [Korkmaz] earlier, we’ve played Greg Monroe,” Brown said. “We’re in pursuit of who is the eighth man... It’s not clear. So we decided to try Boban, and the plus-minus says what it says. The game changed quite a bit and I have to think this through. Do you go with seven players? Maybe. Or do you just go back to like, who is the eighth man?”
In order to stick to a rotation of seven, the Sixers would have to go small when Embiid is out by using either Simmons or Scott at the center spot; something that they can do, and that would potentially allow the team to get out in transition and play fast. In order to keep his guys some semblance of fresh though, Brown might have to steal a couple minutes at the reserve center spot from one of Monroe/Amir/Boban/Bolden, but the less he has to do that, the better.