PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — From a five-game winning streak to start the season, to drama with Joel Embiid just before the All-Star break — the Philadelphia 76ers have had a roller coaster of a first-half to the 2019-20 season. The team now heads into the break on a three-game winning streak following a huge win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Sixers now sit in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 34-21 record.
The time may allow players and coaches to regroup for a late-season push for the playoffs. For head coach Brett Brown, this will give him a chance to find a way to have franchise cornerstones Embiid and Ben Simmons to coexist on the floor. That could start by building off of Tuesday’s win which saw a major lineup change with Al Horford coming off of the bench for the first time since his rookie season in the 2007-08 season.
As we take a look back at the first 55 games of the season, this team has shown flashes of pure dominance but also signs of vulnerability.
For the bright spots, we finally saw Simmons take legitimate three-pointers in a game and sink them with confidence. Unfortunately, we have not seen one since early December against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Other positives include Furkan Korkmaz exceeding many fans’ expectations and stepping into the role of what Brown calls a “bomber.” This idea of Korkmaz being the go-to shooter came to light after back-to-back games of over 30 points. On the year, he is shooting just below 40% and has 105 makes from beyond the arc, both of which lead the team.
This has also been coupled with rookie Matisse Thybulle emerging as a player that knows his role of a three-and-D guy that has given other teams’ ball handlers fits with his hounding defense. So far this season, Thybulle has racked up 40 blocks, which is top-10 among first-year players and is first among rookies in total steals with 68.
Then there is the team’s defense as a whole. Before the season, fans and analysts were enamored with the length the Sixers have, and that has resulted in the Sixers being the ninth-best defensive team in the league.
So why are they not at the top of the conference? Road struggles.
At home, the Sixers look almost invincible, with a 25-2 record and 93% win percentage at home. In home games, the team ranks first in defense, allowing just under 102 points per game and are scoring just under 112. Another thing to note is that the Sixers have defeated each of the top eight teams — Lakers, Raptors, Celtics, Nuggets, Clippers, Heat and Jazz — at home.
But on the road, it is the complete opposite, with a 9-19 record and 32% win percentage away from the Wells Fargo Center. The team ranks 10th in the league on defense when they are the visitors, giving up an average of 110 points per game and scoring just 105 points.
This lack of consistency may be as simple as this — the team is extremely young. The franchise currently rests on the shoulders of a 25-year-old in Embiid and a 23-year-old in Simmons. So far, we have seen that these two lack the maturity to take the reigns as leaders.
Hopefully, the break will help both players find a way to refocus and dedicate the last 33 games of the season to improving on the road.
The Sixers also added Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III to the bench, which may help alleviate the pressure on the team’s starters to shoulder the scoring. Together, the two average 29 points per game.
They also both come to the team shooting nearly 40% from three-point range.
As the team makes a run to the playoffs, keep this in mind, according to ESPN, the Sixers had the fifth-hardest schedule this season, which means this team possibly could be battle-tested when playoff time comes.
Buckle up, this makes for an interesting ride.