Turnover-prone Sixers still struggling to play under control

76ers Bucks Basketball
Sixers coach Brett Brown reacting to a play during the first half Sunday.

CHARLOTTE — Brett Brown has been doing his best to put a positive spin on the 76ers’ losses to the Eastern Conference’s playoff-caliber teams.

Sunday night was no different. The coach is treating the Sixers’ 118-110 setback against the Milwaukee Bucks as a learning experience, like their other recent road losses to the Miami Heat (Feb. 27) and Washington Wizards (Feb. 25).

His Sixers blew a 20-point lead in the first half and then a 19-point one after intermission. They committed a season-high-tying 26 turnovers, which led to 36 points by the Bucks. Six of those turnovers came during a 21-0 run that gave Milwaukee a 93-86 advantage after three quarters. Most of the turnovers during that stretch were careless mistakes.

A bad pass by Marco Belinelli was the first turnover in that stretch. Dario Saric committed an offensive foul on the second one. Then passes by Ben Simmons and Ersan Ilyasova sailed out of bounds. T.J. McConnell followed that up with an errant pass before Joel Embiid was stripped of the ball.

The unpoised Sixers (34-28) committed nine turnovers in the third quarter.

“You see teams just crawl into our chins,” Brown said. “They’re really smothering us, and how we react and respond is going to be a key influence as to how successful we are.

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“As painful as any kind of loss is, those two leads evaporated kind of through the method I just said. We will learn from this.”

One could argue that the Sixers should have learned from this a long time ago. Turnovers, after all, have been their Achilles heel all season. They keep making the same errant passes over and over while, at times, playing out of control. While they’ve gotten a little better, the Sixers average a league-worst 16.5 turnovers. That’s a full turnover more than the Los Angeles Lakers (15.5),  their closest competitors, average.

It didn’t help matters Sunday that the Sixers’ top three players were their turnover leaders. Embiid had a game-worst seven turnovers. Simmons had six. JJ Redick had five.

But turnovers are nothing new to Embiid (3.9 per game) and Simmons (3.6), who are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the league in that category.

On this night, a lot of Embiid’s giveaways came from trying to do too much while drawing a crowd.

“We may have tried to overdose trying to post Joel,” Brown said. The Bucks “turned him over and we kind of slowed down.”

The Sixers will turn their attention to getting a rare road win Tuesday night against Charlotte. They have lost seven of their last nine road games. The Sixers did defeat the Hornets, 110-99, Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Charlotte (28-36) has lost three straight games.