The 2022–23 NBA season is off to a bad start for the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers were given the opportunity to open the season, but they fell to the Boston Celtics 126-117 before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks 90-88 in a fiercely contested home opener.
The Sixers do have some apprehension that they must get beyond. Last year, James Harden and Joel Embiid had a good chemistry, but they still needed more time to get to know one another. While the offence is carried by the two seasoned stars, Tyrese Maxey, who has star potential, is making an effort to assist the squad. All of the new players are P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House Jr., and Montrezl Harrell. The team immediately faced two title favourites when it had just started to climb the learning curve.
Despite having a terrible, no-good, extremely poor start to the season, there is still plenty of space for growth for both the Sixers and Embiid. Even though Tuesday and Thursday were disappointing, this is not the time to raise the alarm. The top three explanations are shown below.
3. It’s two games
In an 82-game season, two games make up less than 3 percent of the total. It is just too early to draw any firm judgments about this Sixers team, even after two heartbreaking losses. Although being upset with the initial outcomes is perfectly acceptable and actually the right response, no one should let this distract them from the difficult road ahead.
Despite the harsh and heartbreaking losses to the Bucks and Celtics, the season still has a long way to go. Even with important players (Robert Williams and Khris Middleton) absent, the Sixers are predicted to struggle against these clubs. No matter how many mistakes they made in both games, losing to them shouldn’t be taken as a surprise.
The San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers are the Sixers’ upcoming rivals. They ought to destroy both developing squads and balance out their record. Losing those contests would be very concerning, but the season has only just started.
2. James Harden looks amazing
James Harden is undeniably the Sixers’ saving grace. His appearance suggests that he hasn’t lost much of a stride, thus the allegations that his finest days were behind him are likely grossly overstated. He is altering his game in a previously inconceivable way to compensate for the fact that he isn’t as explosive as he once was. The 33-year-old has so far averaged 33.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8 assists.
James Harden taking over in the 4th quarter
Sixers are on a 13-0 run!pic.twitter.com/KHRyGGoi38
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 21, 2022
Coming into the season, Harden’s skills raised serious questions. He was a non-factor in the playoffs at the end of the previous season, when Philly lost in Round 2 for the fourth time in the previous five seasons. He has since scored 22 points in one half against a good Boston defence and led a late comeback against another formidable foe.
Harden might not look this good for very long, but that’s neither a criticism on him nor a cause for concern. Just on the other end of the spectrum, Embiid is also playing shockingly. The games of both stars should return to where they typically are, which would be wonderful news for the Sixers. Harden still has a winning formula even if he does a bit less game-to-game carrying as Embiid reemerges as a superstar.
1. The Sixers are trying (and learning) to make some key adjustments
Although the Sixers entered the season with the same core of players from last year plus a few key additions, this team is still relatively new. James Harden and Joel Embiid have played just 23 games together so far. The guys who are fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth in minutes played so far this season are new additions. There is a lot to work out together.
On defense, the Sixers are trying to switch more often now that they have more versatile defenders. Aftermany noticeable rotation blundersvs. the Celtics, they tightened up a bit against the Bucks, allowing only 90 points. If Embiid didn’t have such a horrible third quarter or made a few key plays in the fourth quarter, Philly could have won.
On offense, the Sixers look out of sorts. Amid Harden’s excellence are a lot of players not doing enough to create advantages off the ball. Embiid is getting flustered in the post but not taking advantage of the double teams that defenses throw at him by swinging the ball around quickly. The team is shooting just 31.0 percent from deep so far and isn’t taking that many triples to begin with.
Doc Rivers deserves some of the blame for this. The Sixers don’t make Embiid’s life easywhen he posts up,and they are not pushing the pace as much as they should for a team withone of the fastest players in the league. Rivers’ squad has plenty of potential, but it’s up to him to push the right buttons and unleash it.
Admittedly, there isn’t any clear remedy for Joel Embiid getting back to his usual form. If it’s any consolation, he also got off to aslow startlast season, although it wasn’t as excruciating to watch as his last two games were. The biggest point of relief is that the season is very long, so he does have some time to find himself. When he does, the Sixers can really start to get rolling.
In all likelihood, this rough patch to start the season will be looked back on and laughed at later in the season. But it doesn’t hide the fact that the Sixers have a lot of areas to improve upon. They will have to lock in these next few days before going on a road trip to finish the month.
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