Hack-a-Simmons: Four Observations from Sixers 118, Wizards 113
Ben Simmons didn’t have much to say after attempting 24 free throws in the 4th quarter of last night’s nail-biting win.
“It’s not gonna happen much longer. I’m gonna knock em down,” the Sixers point guard explained.
Down by 19 points going the fourth quarter, a short-handed Washington team clawed its way back into the game when Scott Brooks decided to start fouling Simmons around the five-minute mark. Simmons hit only 12 of those 24 free throws, but drained 6 of the last 8 heading into the two-minute mark. He finished with 31, 18, and 4 and added 2 steals and 2 blocks.
The hack-a-Ben set an NBA single-quarter record for free throw attempts and turned a snoozer of a game into something reminiscent of an old Big East tournament slug fest.
Brett Brown had a series of good post-game quotes regarding the fouling strategy.
On the frequent fouling:
“I mean we’ve done it ourselves. This one was done early and it did stretch out the game. It was done in my old life with Bruce Bowen a lot. And then you’re in a decision, do you take him out of the game or do you roll with him? And tonight, we decided to roll with Ben. And it’s going to be part of his evolution. He’s going to have a long career, he’s going to have to learn to navigate through this.”
Do coaches use this tactic reluctantly?
“You feel a bit like you’re cheating the game. You feel a little bit that you’re taking something away from the fans. But the bottom line is you’re doing it to win. And we will all do anything we can, within the rules, to find a way to win. We had great success doing that to DeAndre Jordan last year when we beat the Clippers. The thing I believe is that it’s such a copy cat league. It’s so well-coached and well-scouted that you would expect this to happen more and more. This is gonna be part of Ben’s growth and as a team we’ll learn how to deal with it better as well.”
Did you ponder taking Simmons out of the game?
Was it the way he was missing free throws?
“No, it’s just the general notion. I’ve been doing this for a long time and you know it’s not going to go away. So you sit there and think about it. You walk that slippery slope of ‘how do I help my team win? how do I help a player grow?’ Sometimes they don’t connect as easily as you’d like. This one didn’t.”
Well you couldn’t have liked the way Washington was nailing threes…
“Yea, see, this is the thing, you guys are gonna go and write about Ben Simmons. I’m gonna look at our defense. This is where the story should be told. There’s a subtitle beneath this with Ben Simmons, that’s true, but they also had 48 (fourth quarter) points. Some of it I shake their hand, other periods there were lapses. We had a few technicals. We had a few turnovers. That play at the end of the third where we foul Jodie Meeks, I thought it was a poor call. But they called it. ‘Bam, bam,’ that’s how they go into the fourth. Those are the things that interest me the most. I get the global issue of Ben Simmons being fouled. But it’s deeper than that to me.”
He’s right, this wouldn’t have been an issue if the team had played better defense for the first half of the fourth quarter. The Sixers built a big lead when Bradley Beal left the game in the first quarter after being elbowed in the face and having to go to the locker room.
Brown also conceded that the stop and start nature of the fouling might have disrupted his team’s defensive rhythm, but didn’t want to use that as an excuse for the drop-off in performance after 2 1/2 quarters of stellar D.
1) Two-man games
When the Wizards stopped fouling, the Sixers closed out the game with similar looks on three straight plays. It was a two-man pick and roll game with JJ Redick and Dario Saric, and Saric scored 6 points in the final 1:42 to seal the deal. He added two rebounds and turned it over once while also being T’d up for slamming the ball on the ground after making a tough layup at the rim.
And play 2:
Same thing, right?
With the game being junked up into oblivion, the Sixers came out of the Hack-a-Ben situation and found success with that design. Simmons and Joel Embiid did not attempt a shot in the final two minutes and didn’t have to.
2) Rebounding the basketball
The Sixers set a season-high with 64 rebounds in the win– 21 were on the offensive glass. Washington finished with 35 boards.
Embiid finished with 14 and Amir Johnson added 6 off the bench. The pair are now tied for 10th in the NBA with 18.4 rebounds per 48 minutes. Simmons is the only “point guard” in the top 50.
It was a career high for Ben, who snagged 18 in the win:
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) November 30, 2017
3) Swingin’ through
Like clockwork, Embiid always seems to get favorable calls on that post-up swing-through at least once per game. It happened twice last night, first in the second quarter:
I’ll save the second example for another post.
But you see how well he sells that contact. In this case, he draws the double team, Tim Frazier reaches, and Joel goes right up into him for the foul call. Embiid is excellent at timing that action, knowing that as soon as the defender’s arms go horizontal, he’s going to get that whistle every single time.
That’s high-IQ stuff.
4) The commish
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was in the house last night.
He did an interview with NBCSP during the first quarter and talked about the Sixers’ improvement:
“I have to say, they have a great organization in place. I think Bryan Colangelo is doing an excellent job, two time executive of the year. He’s doing all of the things that are necessary for building a team. A great analytics staff. He’s stealing people from the league office staff, but that’s a separate issue I’ll have to talk to him about. (laughs) Scott O’Neil on the business side, Chris Heck, I’m really pleased with what they’re doing. Josh Harris, David Blitzer, I mean it’s everything you could ask for from a league office standpoint. It’s taken awhile here and there’s been a lot of patience from the folks in the market but we’re seeing the results now and it’s really exciting team.”
Alaa Abdelnaby asked Silver if he was “trusting the process” –
Silver: “I’m not going with that expression. (laughs) I go with great young players who are showing a lot of promise…”
Silver went on to praise the character of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. We know he’s not a Sam Hinkie fan and doesn’t wanna go down the “process” road. I don’t blame him. The league commissioner can’t endorse one of his teams purposefully tanking. Whatever. He was different on the Washington broadcast:
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) November 30, 2017
Anyhow, one thing I’ve noticed, and I promise I’m not trying to be an asshole here, but whenever I see Silver he reminds me a bit of the warlock from Game of Thrones, season two: