Philadelphia 76ers: A scary trend has emerged in recent losses

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Despite great success for over the first half of the 2018-19 NBA season, there is still a scary trend emerging in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 18 losses.

At 33-18, the Philadelphia 76ers are snug among the elite squads of the Eastern Conference. After the acquisition of wingman Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Sixers are one of the rare NBA teams with three players that have All-NBA-talent ceilings.

Obviously, a roster gushing with talent at the top is a tremendous thing.

However, if the Sixers want their flashy roster to translate to postseason success, Brett Brown and company have one glaring issue that requires attention.

The Sixers have 18 losses on the season. From afar, only 18 total losses through late-January is an impressive feat and a beneficial ingredient for a playoff berth. But, if one takes a microscope to those 18 losses, a scary trend emerges: blowout losses

This chart from Basketball Reference says it all.

Each bar signifies a game; the green bars represent wins, while the red bars represent losses. The longer the bar, the larger the point differential. Therefore, trends in wins and losses are signified with greater clarity, thanks to our salient eyesight.

Out of the 18 red bars scattered on the chart, several are noticeably long. Your eyes don’t fool you; out of the 18 Sixers losses this season, 10 of those losses were by 11 points or more.

What might cause these large, occasional hiccups in the Sixers 2018-19 campaign?

Their bench.

One of the drawbacks of owning a top-heavy roster like the Sixers do is the conundrum that evolves on the bench. How can elite teams find a way to fund a serviceable bench?

The Sixers simply don’t have the postseason resume that other past trios of stars had. Neither Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid or Butler have made a conference finals appearance in their respective careers. For a high-caliber veteran looking to join a second unit and ring chase, latching onto the Golden State Warriors or LeBron James’ whereabouts could be a better option in the ‘now.’

This puts Coach Brown and Elton Brand into a disadvantageous situation.

Perhaps the answer lies in 10-day contract auditions, as the team signed Corey Brewer to a second 10-day contract on January 25th. Brewer offers the Sixers bench something that they didn’t have before in his stable role.

Brewer is well-traveled, and he knows his game. He’s a lanky, tenacious defender with leaping ability and a solid shooting stroke. In no way does his skill-set or attitude appear like it will overstep boundaries and disrupt the natural flow of a game.

On the other hand, it seems a majority of the Sixers’ bench is in “prove it” mode where they feel implied to make their stamp on the league. This isn’t always the best psyche for a role player to have.

Brewer proved he could rise up when called upon, as he poured in 20 points, six boards and four steals as the injury-riddled Sixers limped in and out of Denver January 26th.

Furthermore, injuries have crept back into the spotlight for the Sixers this season, which could also explain their occasional blowout woes.

For example, Butler has missed seven games as a Sixer this season after his debut against the Orlando Magic. The Sixers are a respectable 4-3 in those games.

However, of those three losses, two of them fall into the ’11 points or more’ category. Minus Butler, the Sixers fell by 12 points against the Indiana Pacers in December and 16 points against the Denver Nuggets.

What’s more staggering are the margins of defeat without Embiid.

In their four contests minus the big man, the Sixers are 1-3. Those three losses featured a 34-point drubbing by the Portland Trail Blazers and the recent 16-point loss to the Nuggets, with an embarrassing two-point home loss to the Atlanta Hawks sprinkled in.

While the Sixers struggle without their superstar center, other Eastern Conference elite have handled the loss of their best player better this season.

The Toronto Raptors are 11-3 without Kawhi Leonard, the Pacers are 7-6 minus Victor Oladipo, the Boston Celtics are 5-2 absent Kyrie Irving, and even the Milwaukee Bucks are 2-1 without Giannis Antetokounmpo in the lineup.

It’s reasonable to assume that the other elite teams in the East have better reinforcements on deck to support the loss of their star, despite the makeshift trio of talent the Sixers put together in November.

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Occasional blowouts won’t fly in April, May, and June basketball. If the Sixers plan to progress past the second round this postseason, Philly needs to find a way to prevent these hiccups soon.