MEMPHIS – Here are my key takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 105-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night at FedEx Forum.
— The Sixers did a no-no in regard to Basketball 101: They stopped feeding the hottest player in the game. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was straight en fuego. Yet in the crucial part of the game, he might as well have been the last man on the bench. Never mind that he scored 17 points and made 5 of 6 three-pointers in the first two quarters. He made of 5 of 7 shots total in the half. But the shooting guard attempted only two shots after intermission, making one. It wasn’t because he was afraid to shoot. The Sixers went away from him.
— The Sixers haven’t fixed their turnover woes. On this night, they committed 24, which led to 39 Grizzlies points. Ten of their giveaways came in the fourth quarter. As their league-worst average of 17.6 turnovers suggests, this has been a season-long problem.
— Joel Embiid just didn’t have it against the Grizzlies. The big man looked tired and was a liability when he came out to guard on the perimeter. That really hurt the Sixers in the fourth quarter. So did his two missed free throws with his team down, 100-98, and 1 minute, 23 seconds remaining. Embiid scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. However, this was far from one of the performances that garnered him Eastern Conference player-of-the-week honors earlier in the day.
— Don’t let last week’s victories over the disinterested Toronto Raptors and the undermanned Boston Celtics fool you. The Sixers have work to do. That’s not a knock. Monday was just another reality check. The Sixers are an up-and-coming team with a young core, a squad capable of stealing a win against an elite team. However, they are also a team that more often than not loses to inferior competition. They won’t become a legitimate contender until they cut down their turnovers, hold onto huge leads, and stop losing to the NBA’s cellar dwellers.
— This Sixers are also going to need better bench production if they expect to reach the playoffs. It turns out that several players are hurt and James Young was assigned to the Delaware 87ers. T.J. McConnell and Justin Anderson attempted seven shots apiece. However, Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker each attempted only one. That might be good on a night when Embiid is dominating. But this wasn’t one of those nights.
‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards
— Best performance: Luwawu-Cabarrot wins this in a losing effort. On this night, the second-year veteran was the best player on the floor. He made a career-high six three-pointers in a career-high eight attempts en route to a season-high 20 points.
— Worst performance: I had to give this to McConnell. The Sixers backup point guard snapped his streak of solid performances. He missed five of his seven shots and scored seven points. He also had more turnovers (four) than assists (three) and graded out at a minus-15.
— Best defensive performance: This goes to Myke Henry. The Grizzlies reserve swingman had a game-high four steals.
— Worst statistic: This goes to the Sixers’ committing 24 turnovers.
— Best statistic: Luwawu-Cabarrot’s hitting 6 of 8 three-pointers.
— Worst of the worst: This was the Sixers’ eighth loss this season in which they squandered a lead of at least 11 points. This time, they blew a commanding 15-point advantage with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter.