It began with the Sixers scoring 47 first quarter points and ended with David West taunting the Wells Fargo Center crowd after knocking down an 18-foot jumper.
We visited opposite ends of the spectrum on Saturday night. A “tale of two halves,” right? It’s the oldest of sporting cliches but I just have to use it here.
The Sixers lead 74 to 52 at halftime with Golden State shooting 11.1% from three and Steph Curry putting up a putrid -27. That double-digit gap quickly disappeared when the Warriors responded with their own 47-point quarter, outscoring the Sixers by 32 to start the second half. The air quickly went out of the building as the sellout crowd realized the inevitability of the result.
So what exactly happened there?
“I thought we weren’t moving the ball, and started turning the ball over too much. We didn’t make shots, and they stepped up hard and made a lot of shots, but that was just bad defense. We were just not in a rhythm.”
And Brett Brown:
“I felt like we were getting tired. I felt in the second half we were getting tired, I played Ben Simmons all 12 of the second period minutes, and in the first eight minutes of the third. We were having eight guys play and I think they’re very good. I felt like the team had something to do with it. They showed why they had so much firepower in the team that I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
More or less.
Golden State started hitting. The Sixers stopped moving. The energy changed. It was similar to last week’s loss in Oakland, only the margins were smaller. You saw the best basketball team in the world assert itself when it mattered most, and that’s why they’re world champions.
There was talk on social media of Brett Brown’s decision to leave Ben Simmons on the bench for the end of the third quarter last night. Brown pretty much explained that in his opening quote last night, admitting that they only had eight guys in the rotation and needed to rest Simmons at some point. In hindsight, maybe you do it when the team is leading comfortably in the second quarter, but we can sit here and nitpick all day long. When the Sixers win, it’s because of the players. When they lose, it’s always Brown’s fault.
Am I doing this right?
There just isn’t enough depth on a banged-up bench to allow the rotation that other teams have.
That said, the Sixers were up 87-77 when Simmons left the game in the third. Golden State went on a 22 to 2 run to finish out the quarter with a 99-89 lead, which pretty much put the nail in the coffin.
Getting to his spots
Ben Simmons is a 6’11” point guard who can’t shoot. He air-balled two mid-range looks last night and still finished with 23 points on 11-15 shooting. He added 8 rebounds, 12 assists, and lost the ball only once.
Brown spoke pre-game about the Warriors trying to guard Simmons by sagging a bit and inviting the shot, but Simmons was able to drive to the rim and get to his spots with ease in the first half.
This is a great example, with Simmons attacking Draymond Green off the left wing pick and roll:
Green fights underneath the screen and matches Simmons stride for the stride, but Ben decides to drive anyway for the hoop and harm. Most guards are kicking it out at this point:
On this play, Draymond and Zaza Pachulia get cross-matched in transition. Simmons drives inside for the easy flush:
— NBA (@NBA) November 19, 2017
Nothing fancy there, but look at how early he recognizes the mix-up and starts his cut to the basket. He’s 25 feet from the rim:
It’s like a kick or punt returner who can juke a defender at distance. You realize the opponent is off-balance and make a simple, early cut.
In the second half, Simmons saw a lot of more of Kevin Durant in defense and finished 0-1 in the third quarter. He was 4-5 in the fourth when the game was pretty much out of reach. So Golden State adjusted in combination with the Sixers cooling off a bit.
Durant had a few relevant quotes on defense and guarding Simmons:
On what happened in the first quarter and what happened in the third quarter…
We made some mental errors man, the first quarter we didn’t talk in transition and we cross-matched a lot. So when we missed a shot, the communication was bad so they were getting threes and layups and dunks; so we corrected that. The communication was on a different level coming in to that third quarter and it helps when you make shots as well.
On the switch to guarding Ben Simmons…
We’ve got so many different guys that can guard different positions. I knew my length would bother him a little bit, he’s still a great player going downhill so I just tried to keep my body in front of him and he tried to get other guys involved and be a passer so when he’s going downhill he’s a problem. And so I just tried to keep staying in front of him, and tried to make him shoot over the top of me.
On Ben Simmons…
Oh man, he’s something I’ve never seen before as far as really playing point guard at that height and that speed and that strength. You can tell he’s an Aussie too because he doesn’t mind getting into some scuffles or showing his little feisty side so that’s going to be well for the Sixers down the line and then you got Joel who’s playing well and all of the amazing pieces they have here, locking in Covington was huge for them. They going to be a load coming up this year, next year, year after that, they gonna be pretty good man so you’re seeing a team now that you should start following, start paying attention to.
I guess “Old Saint Thicc” thought he was being clever with this tweet, when he was actually prophetic:
I don't understand why Durant isn't on the bench clamoring to guard Simmons because he's probably the only one who can… But instead he'll just tweet from a burner account after the game
— Old Saint Thicc 🎅🏼 (@arizz0) November 19, 2017
No Justin Anderson, no Jerryd Bayless, no Nik Stauskas, no Markelle Fultz.
The Sixers got 19 bench points out of Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot last night. Amir Johnson didn’t play.
Brett Brown spoke pregame about the injury situation providing more minutes for TLC, and that turned out to be true, with the Frenchman getting 24 last night. His season high is 25.
TLC finished with 11 points on 5-12 shooting while going 1-5 from three.
In quarters one through three Luwawu-Cabarrot finished 2 for 8. He was 3-3 in the mostly meaningless fourth quarter. So that’s another game where his contributions didn’t mean much contextually.
Again they just get very little off the bench. Golden State ran out 8 bench players for 27 points last night. Philadelphia ran out 8 players total.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Furkan Korkmaz get some time on Monday if the injury situation is the same.
There was a little kid behind press row who kept yelling, “Embiid sucks.” He couldn’t have been older than 6 or 7 and he and his dad were decked out in matching Steph Curry jerseys.
I’d say 15% of the WFC crowd was wearing Golden State gear. Can’t believe all of those fans traveled from Oakland for this contest. What a loyal fanbase.
It’s like the Cowboy cockroaches in Philly, but probably worse, because it’s not like you can accuse Dallas fans of being frontrunners these days. The Dubs however, are another story, since these folks jumped on board in 2014 or 2015.
Interestingly enough, most of the Curry jerseys were worn by women. There were six women right around the media area wearing Steph jerseys, so that’s something I didn’t really expect.
I have to say, I think “BleedGreen” from Waltham has a point here:
Warrior and Cav's fans are soooooo dumb. I swear they don't know basketball and 90% of their fan base became fans within the last 4 yrs lol
— BleedGreen ☘️ (@CelticsFanBlog4) November 17, 2017
I don’t think they showed it on TV, but League Pass viewers got to see probably the most exciting moment of the evening. It was a fan hitting a series of shots to win the entire arena a free Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit.
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) November 19, 2017
Free chicken biscuits man, what a world.
Unfortunately you’re gonna have to wait until tomorrow to cash in, because Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday.