“I think we’re in a good position,” Sixers Ben Simmons said. “I’m looking forward to building more chemistry with these guys. We recently just made the trade. So I think for us it’s just going to take a little bit of time.”
By Lewis Gould
The Sixers get back to work tomorrow against the Heat after taking time off for the All-Star game.
And they are committed to preparing for a deep run into the playoffs.
Just how far depends on how they handle the Boston Celtics, who have won 10 of their last games against Philly.
Sixers general manager Elton Brand had that in mind when he made a trade-deadline deal for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, and Boban Marjanovic to give Philly perhaps the best starting lineup in the Eastern Conference.
The 76ers are 3-1 since the trade, with the notable loss coming to the Celtics without Kyrie Irving, but there’s hope that the 76ers will finally be able to make a serious title run with the versatile Harris joining Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, and Jimmy Butler in the starting five.
The 76ers are 1-7 against the Celtics, Bucks, and Raptors — the lone win against Toronto without Kawhi Leonard playing — so there is definitely something to prove. But the roster has been so fluid. The club began the season with Robert Covington and Dario Saric but moved both to the Timberwolves for Butler. Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala were shipped to the Clippers for Harris.
“I feel like we need to learn and we need the regular season to do that,” coach Brett Brown said. “We’re going to learn a lot. I think we’ve done OK [through the difficult part of the season]. We’ve had a different team along the way to still do OK. But more than anything we’ve got way more to grow and give to get where we want to go.”
The question is whether the 76ers can overcome the perception that they can’t beat the Celtics.
Embiid is visibly bothered by Al Horford’s defense. It was apparent during Tuesday’s meeting that Embiid had become frustrated and began settling for 3-point shots.
The 76ers have a wealth of talent but there are concerns about the chemistry with Embiid, Simmons, Redick, and Butler, who was effective in the early going against the Celtics but disappeared late.
It’s going to take time for the 76ers to mesh. Harris is going to take some shots away from Butler and Embiid, which may cause issues. Embiid looked frustrated during the Celtics game because of a lack of touches.
Harris, meanwhile, is a solid player but has only four games of playoff experience and has never been on such a talented team. He has emerged as one of the league’s rising players and this will be the ultimate challenge.
There is pressure on the 76ers. They have a roster full of stars and young talent. Last year’s playoff elimination by the Celtics was a painful experience, and with the Raptors and Bucks also contenders, this season could turn out the same way.
“There is going to be ups and downs,” Harris said. “It’s just, when we do have a game like this that we lose, we make an adjustment from it and we understand how we need to play to be the best team that we can be. So I think there are things from this [Celtics] game that we can take and go back and look at and get better at, and just move forward from there.”