It seemed the Philadelphia 76ers had it all figured out on Tuesday night. Despite playing without four key players in Joel Embiid, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris looked like they were ready to lead the shorthanded Sixers to lock up the Eastern Conference's first seed.
Through the first half, Harris and Simmons both scored 14 points. Meanwhile, 76ers sharpshooter Seth Curry got hot as he hit on all but one of his shots for 10 points. Going into halftime, the Sixers had a comfortable 62-51 lead over the Indiana Pacers.
But the Pacers brought the energy in the second half. As they outscored the 76ers 24-13 in the third quarter, the Sixers needed to feel a sense of urgency going into the final period as the game was tied at 75.
However, Philly couldn't bounce back to their first-half performance. Defensively, they struggled in transition once again. Offensively, guys weren't hitting their shots. And when things weren't going Philly's way, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers saw frustration as a key factor in why the Sixers fell short on Tuesday night.
"We didn't have any execution tonight," Rivers admitted. "First-half, first quarter, we were brilliant with moving the ball, getting the ball to the right spots, and running our stuff. I thought it was one of those games where we got tied into the players, to the refs, our guys did, and we lost our focus."
Rivers claims he saw a frustrated Sixers team from the sidelines, and Tobias Harris confirmed his head coach's beliefs as he thought his team got in its own way while taking on one of their worst losses of the season.
"This is a terrible loss for us as a group," Harris explained. "We lost our composure throughout the fourth quarter, which can't happen for a team striving to be how good we want to be as a group. We gave too much energy to things we couldn't really control and things that were over and done with. Over the course of the game, that added up. Our mental focus just needed to be a whole lot better tonight."
As frustrating as Tuesday's loss was for the Sixers, they move forward, remaining in the driver's seat of the East. While it would've been ideal to lock in the first seed with three games remaining on the schedule, they'll have to win one out of the next three to make it official. Their next matchup comes on Thursday in Miami.
Eastern Conference Playoff Watch
- Pacers Clinch Play-In Spot: After defeating the Sixers on Tuesday night, the Indiana Pacers not only prevented Philly from grabbing the No. 1 seed right now, but they also clinched a spot in the Play-In tournament. READ MORE
- Jaylen Brown Out: Boston Celtics standout Jaylen Brown recently suffered a season-ending injury, which will surely affect Boston's hopes of turning it around in the postseason this year. READ MORE
- Bradley Beal Missing Time: Washington Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal joins a long list of NBA stars missing time right before playoffs. READ MORE