Philadelphia 76ers: What Went Wrong Against Pacers' T.J. Warren?
During the first few minutes of the Philadelphia 76ers' season restart, they dominated the Indiana Pacers on both sides of the ball. Once Pacers forward T.J. Warren established a groove, though, the 76ers were doomed.
Nineteen first-quarter points allowed the Pacers to take back control of the game early. And although at times the 76ers clawed their way back into the lead, Warren's overall performance was nothing short of fantastic. It was apparent he was on fire and going off, but the Sixers didn't have an answer.
After a career-high night, 53 points later, Sixers head coach Brett Brown attempted to explain what went wrong on Saturday night against T.J. Warren. He started first by stating the obvious. "The space that we gave him was too generous," Brown admitted.
"When you have Matisse [Thybulle] and Ben [Simmons], who are the primary defensive assignments, normally you feel comfortable that those two can tag-team a player," he continued. "[Warren] was great tonight. Maybe we could've double-teamed him sooner than we tried to. They have tremendous three-point shooters behind the double-team -- so you try to pick your poison. I thought in the first quarter, he got out and was sensational. [Our defensive] physicality as it relates to the whole game, it wasn't at the level that it needed to be."
Ben Simmons, who is typically an All-NBA defender, didn't have one of his better nights on the defensive side of the ball. Per Rich Hofman of The Athletic, Simmons allowed Warren to knock down nine of his ten shots from the field when guarding him. Five of those shots were three-point attempts, and all were made. In total, Warren put up 24 points versus Simmons, which is unusual for the Sixers.
"Too many times we were guarding him like he wasn't on fire," Sixers veteran forward Tobias Harris claimed after the game. "We gave him too much space and not enough credit for his ability to score. He punished us tonight from the beginning of the game and on. We definitely could've done a better job for sure."
While Brown, Harris, and the 76ers don't want to downplay the performance Warren had, the team understands they could've done a much better job guarding the forward. Although the defensive performance by the Sixers was uninspiring, it likely won't become a trend. Philly will look to patch some things up and get back on track with a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_