KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The 76ers must get tougher.
That's one of the takeaways from the 127-121 loss to the Indiana Pacers as the Sixers' season restarted Saturday.
The Pacers (40-26) were physical and more aggressive. They had JaKarr Sampson, a 6-foot-7 former Sixer, guarding 7-footer Joel Embiid. Another former Sixer, guard T.J. McConnell, came off the Indiana bench and had 10 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals in 17 minutes. Yes, he had to be motivated about playing his former team. But Indiana was just so much more physical.
The Sixers (39-27) will face the San Antonio Spurs Monday night in the second of eight seeding games here at the NBA restart at Walt Disney World. But without being more physical, they will have a tough time advancing deep in the Eastern Conference playoffs that begin Aug. 17. Right now, they are a tall, finesse team.
"That is the thing that lets you put a crown on some team," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of toughness. "There is no team that I've ever been around in 20 years of this league that you say, 'Wow, that was a pretty team.' They just outran and outscored and outfinessed everybody, and they're champions.
"I've never seen that once. In fact, it's not even close."
On Saturday, the Sixers looked no different than when they lost, 137-106, at the Miami Heat on Feb. 3. After that game, the Sixers' Ben Simmons told reporters, "We were soft."
It wasn't the first time he used that term after they were manhandled.
The two-time All-Star didn't speak to the media after Saturday's game. Nor did he speak during the team's media availability before Sunday's practice.
But the same message Simmons had following their 31-point drubbing in Miami still applies today.