The 2021-22 Philadelphia 76ers have had a bunch of different identities. The Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons led Sixers early in the offseason, the Joel Embiid solo Sixers, the Tyrese Maxey-Embiid Sixers, the “we finally have a backup big man Sixers, the trade depth for a superstar Sixers, the post-James Harden trade Sixers. I’m sure there are ones that I missed. It has been a year where Philly has constantly been playing chameleon, trying to change their colors to match a style that gives them the best opportunity to win. One of the few things that was consistent throughout the season, though, was the Sixers’ ability to take care of the basketball. The turnover was once the hallmark of a Brett Brown coached team here in Philadelphia, but with the emersion of Tyrese Maxey and the continued growth of Joel Embiid, it seemed that this Sixers core had finally turned the corner. Over the 82 game regular season, the Sixers averaged only 12.5 turnovers per game, tied for the 3rd best mark in the association. That number makes it even more surprising what has happened since the postseason has begun.
The Sixers have become an absolute turnover machine in the playoffs. They’ve averaged nearly 15 turnovers per game since the playoffs started, which puts them in 11th place of the 16 playoff teams. Of the 5 teams worse than them, 4 of them had a first round exit. The other is the Memphis Grizzlies, who seem destined to fall to the Golden State Warriors out West. It’s becoming a death sentence for a team that has otherwise played relatively well. Last night, in a brutal Game 5 loss in Miami to the Heat, the Sixers tallied 15 turnovers, which is actually lower than their counts from the 2 wins so far this series (18, 16), but still unacceptable in a playoff game. It’s a trend that started against Toronto, and has not been curtailed yet. Until it does, though, it’s hard to have faith in the Sixers’ abilities to win important games in the playoffs.
It’s hard to pinpoint what’s exactly causing these issues. Some of it can be chalked up to James Harden still fitting in with his new teammates, but that excuse grows less valid by the day. Is it effort? Is it Tyrese Maxey’s growing pains? Embiid’s injury? Poor coaching? Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess and most likely a combination of all of those reasons. The bottom line, though, is what we do know for sure: if the Sixers fail to get this under control, it will be another 2nd round exit and another long offseason awaiting them in Philly. There are only so many more of those offseasons that can happen before major changes are needed.