They just didn’t shoot the ball well.
Three for 28 from the three-point line isn’t going to get it done, not against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Sixers lost by 22 on Monday night, snapping a three-game win streak in disappointing fashion. This game had some hype after a wildly successful Thanksgiving week, but Brett Brown’s team didn’t have the juice in what some people viewed as a “measuring stick” type of matchup. There’s still a gap in quality between the Cavs, the Warriors, and everybody else.
The Sixers did cut the lead to three points in the third quarter, but Cleveland answered right back with a 14 to 5 run in 2:53 to close out the period and the game.
Ben Simmons, cleared to play after missing Saturday’s win with elbow inflammation, finished with a season-low 10 points. His defense was off and he looked like a rookie for the first time in his young career. JJ Redick, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington finished 9-36 for just 21 points on the evening.
Cleveland’s bench added 57 points in the win.
Said Brett Brown:
“They’re good for a reason. They started off the year and probably felt bored, then all of a sudden they have some team meetings and remember who they are and read their resumes and win seven in a row, now eight in a row. And we felt all of that. We felt all of that. I give them a bunch of credit. For us to be able to play Golden State a few times and Houston a few times, and now Cleveland, that’s royalty. That’s NBA elite. Tonight we did not play our best basketball at all.”
The Sixers are ahead of schedule, but it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll or win an NBA championship.
1) Inside and outside
Joel Embiid finished with 11 rebounds and 30 points on 11-24 shooting. He scored 16 in an 11-minute third quarter, which brought the Sixers within striking distance.
It’s not surprising that Joel would reach the 30 point plateau, considering the fact that Cleveland really doesn’t play a true center and instead runs out Kevin Love as a stretch five. And while that benefited the Sixers offensively, it creates a difficult assignment for Embiid defensively, because Love’s shooting ability pulls Jo away from the rim and towards the perimeter where he’s much less effective.
You see Love lurking near the three-point line, then he slides backdoor around Embiid for the reverse layup. Joel just isn’t built to defend plays like that, where all five opponents are fanned out on the perimeter.
Here’s another example:
In a play like this one, you see Embiid and Covington successfully defend a pick and roll, then Embiid leaves the paint to address Love at the three-point line.
If Embiid doesn’t step out there, Love has an open look. But he does, and James is 1v1 with Covington in the paint. Brown touched on that post game:
“They’re a very unconventional team in a bunch of ways, especially in the way they start, with Kevin Love at a 5 and lots of variety and versatility with big wings. They make you stay up late at night wondering how you’re going to guard different pick and roll situations. I said to the room earlier that you’re always trying to string a line through simplicity so that the players are not hearing calculus on the different ways of guarding this pick and roll and that pick and roll. You want to find something that has symmetry and sound reasoning in how you’re going to guard a pick and roll. I felt like we did do that, but I didn’t think we did it with much pressure. The point of Kevin Love pulling Joel out is true. That’s a difficult assignment for Jo.”
2) Foul issues and a lack of rhythm
A tough game for Robert Covington, who had lost a childhood friend earlier that day.
He was whistled for two early fouls and had to come off the floor about halfway through the first quarter, not to re-enter until midway through the second. That probably hurt his rhythm and resulted in him chucking up a couple of hurried shots, one that hit the side of the backboard from the corner. There were two instances in which he fired up another three after missing his first, in an effort to just get that first one to fall.
He finished 0-9 from the behind the arc and 1-2 inside of it:
Covington is now 6-28 from three-point range in his last four games.
3) Passing out of the post
Brown described another tactical wrinkle that he felt contributed to the loss:
“I thought where they hurt us the most was playing out of the post and passing out of the post. You see the teams that go to the post to pass more than going to the post to score. Golden State is one of them. They drop it down into these big wings, Jeff Green, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Kevin Love, and then there’s a lot of action around that with Korver being used as one of the primary backside screen setters. Because he’s so elite of a shooter you worry to become disconnected and he frees up people then comes and gets it. I think that action hurt us the most, to me.”
Case in point here, where Channing Frye gets the ball in the paint and kicks it back out before he even turns to face the basket:
You see Embiid trying to get out there to close down Korver, since he’s mismatched after a prior switch.
As far as the backside screen, Korver set his best one this play:
It gets messy on the perimeter with a lot of movement and a lot of stuff going on in general. The Sixers got swallowed up in that a bunch of times Monday night and gave up easy buckets as a result.
4) Primetime viewing
If you flipped over after the Sixers game, you saw the Flyers blow another late lead and lose in overtime.
There was some griping beforehand about the Sixers playing on the channel formerly known as TCN, while the Flyers got the better slot, but it is what it is. The Flyers are owned by Comcast and the Sixers aren’t, so the Flyers get the preferred slot. I know not everybody gets NBCSP+ but there are ways to figure it out if you try hard enough.
That said, when one personality is picking Ben Simmons as her player to watch, and the other is picking Andrew MacDonald as his, then you know these teams aren’t exactly on the same trajectory right now.
Big night on NBC Sports Philadelphia and NBC Sports Philadelphia+.
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 27, 2017