The up-and-coming 76ers, with the core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and eventually Markelle Fultz, have people excited about their future. This is a group that has the potential to one day run the league just based on some of the names on their roster. However, they'll need experience and time together if that's ever going to come to fruition.
Philadelphia has shown the potential it's capable of at time against some of the league's best teams. They're a pesky team that gives even some of the elite clubs a hard time. Due to youth and the roster still not being all the way there yet, the Sixers are prone to the types of mistakes that young teams make. This includes blown leads.
The Sixers have blown a pretty substantial lead twice already this season against top-tiered squads. In November against the Warriors, Philadelphia led by as much as 24 and wound up losing by eight at home. Then on Thursday against the Celtics in London, the Sixers gave up a 22-point lead. Brett Brown's team lost by 11, 114-103. Two games that could have been marquee wins turned into big losses.
We could easily chalk this up to young teams losing games they should win and leave it at that, but are there any similarities between these two losses? Is there anything that can be gleaned from this and maybe have an eye kept on it for the rest of the season?
While the rest of the box score tells a pretty normal story, there's one specific area that stands out above the rest. The 76ers got destroyed in the third quarter of both games.
Losing it in the third
The Celtics and Warriors are the NBA's two best teams in the third quarter. The Celtics' net rating of 12.4 is impressive, but somehow the Warriors blow that out of the water with a crazy net rating of 21.9. Philadelphia on the other hand has a third quarter net rating of -3.4, which slots them at 20th. This is a team that was doomed for disaster going into the third against Boston and Golden State.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that both games featured a large disparity in the third. The Celtics spent the majority of the quarter clawing their way back in from their deficit, but this is also where they went on their biggest run. They outscored Philadelphia 37-22 thanks to 11 points from Jayson Tatum. This is where Philadelphia lost the rope, and even with Boston only leading by single digits, the game was swinging in the Boston's favor.
It was like an old sports car trying to reach the speed limit on the highway. It starts off slow, which allowed Philadelphia to take a commanding, but as Boston gained speed the Sixers were unable to keep up. The Celtics were up to speed by the third quarter, and in the fourth they blew ahead of them with a 19-point lead. The acceleration of the car
The Warriors, on the other hand, disposed them in a completely different way. Instead of the slow burn that Boston utilized, Golden State just did to Philadelphia what it does to everybody. Golden State destroys teams in the third quarter with haymakers, outscoring Philadelphia 47-15. Stephen Curry poured in 20 points in that quarter alone. It was a full on blitz. Golden State ended the quarter leading by 10 and never gave up their lead.
What does this say?
Philadelphia has to come out stronger from the halftime break. Boston and Golden State, two of the NBA's best, win their games in the third. So what does all of this say? Well, it could be a sign of excellent coaches knowing how to exploit teams at such a crucial point of the game, but it also says a lot about the experience on the roster.
Experienced teams tend to come out of halftime prepared and ready. Younger teams struggle with this adjustment period. The three worst teams in the third quarter are Chicago, Phoenix, and Sacramento: Three very young teams with rosters that aren't anywhere close to winning yet. Some young teams like the Nuggets have managed to buck this trend, but that is what happens when wins start coming in.
Philadelphia is still learning how to win. That's not easy and it takes time. When the Sixers start taking back the third quarter, they're going to see a lot more wins come their way. For now, they'll just have to keep fighting through tough losses like these and bounce back. It's a journey every young team goes through.