By Peter Brennan

The wheels are coming off the Sixers, who lost last night in Miami 137-106.

And it wasn’t even that close.

They fell to 31-20 and are in the 6th seed in the East, 5 ½ games behind No. 2 seed Toronto.

The dreams of an NBA title look like a fever dream.

In other words, this season has become a nightmare.

After going 5 of 10 in the first half, All Star center Joel Embiid only took and made four shots. In the second half to finish with 29.

“Still trying to figure it out, what I’m asked to do,” Embiid said after the game. “Nights are different. You don’t know what you’re getting. Some nights you get the ball, some nights you don’t. But at the end of the day, it starts on defense. We all got to come out and get stops and run off of it.”

The Sixers gave up 41 third-quarter points, 81 second-half points and a season-worst 137 points total.

They’re now 9-18 on the road.

“I don’t know. If you want to get me the ball, I’m sure we can find a way. I don’t know. I mean, I had pretty good start and I don’t know what happened. I gotta go back and watch the tape. I’m not sure.”

That’s a question for coach Brett Brown, but Embiid didn’t blame him.

“At the end of the day, the coaches can only have so much control,” he said. “They’re not on the court shooting the ball or passing it, making plays. All they can do is call the plays and we just got to execute.”

“We were soft,” said Ben Simmons, who was a game-low minus-31 and had a game-high four turnovers.

It’s not the first time Simmons has called the 76ers soft. In January 2019, Simmons said his team was “too soft” after it was dominated in the paint and on the boards in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Butler, then a Sixer, disagreed. But a month later, Philadelphia made a big splash in trading for Tobias Harris.

With this season’s trade deadline looming Thursday, questions will arise about whether Philadelphia’s roster is set up to compete for a championship.

“The physicality side of things, we gotta step that up. That comes with experience, also just comes with personality,” Simmons said. “Don’t get bullied. Fight over screens, get through screens. If you gotta knock somebody over, knock ’em over. If you gotta hit somebody in the face and knock ’em down so they don’t score, hit ’em in the face.”

Philly had its worst defensive efficiency (148.9) in a game in the past 20 seasons. Miami, on the other hand, had its best offensive efficiency (148.9) in a game in the past 20 seasons.

“Our defense was poor,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “When you create three turnovers for a game, it’s just not a reflection of who we are. I think we’re the third- or the fourth-best defensive team in the NBA. And we weren’t even close to that tonight.”

Philly sent Butler to Miami in July in a sign-and-trade deal that brought Josh Richardson to the 76ers. The move helped the Heat go from a playoff bubble team to an Eastern Conference contender, and it’s contributing to the 76ers’ current struggles.


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