The only thing better than free basketball is more free basketball.
And the only thing better than more free basketball is even more free basketball.
That’s what we got last night – an instant classic with two teams just slugging it out over three overtime periods. The late finish made up for the late arrival, with some fans sitting in more than two hours of snowy traffic to get to the Wells Fargo Center. Fishtown to South Philly was 45 minutes at 5 p.m., so I can’t imagine what y’all went through.
It’s hard to know where to start with that game. I guess it would be the 11-0 run in regulation to force the first overtime, sparked by a Joel Embiid encounter with Carmelo Anthony that simultaneously energized the crowd and galvanized his team. That carried over into the first two overtime periods, where both squads continually hit big shots and got some massive stops to keep the game going. It looked like the Sixers might close it out at 102-97 with 1:21 remaining in the first OT, but OKC answered back with two straight buckets to send it to a second extra period.
In the third overtime, then, what was the difference? I don’t think there really was much of a difference. Oklahoma City made one or two more plays than the Sixers and scraped through for a two-point win. It came down to a huge finish at the rim from Andre Roberson and timely block by Patrick Patterson, two guys who I did not think would be making monstrous plays down the stretch.
But that’s it. It really is. The Sixers did well enough against Russell Westbrook, who missed 23 shots while still logging a triple-double. Anthony didn’t hit a shot in the fourth quarter. Paul George got his points. Steven Adams was held in check offensively but did his damage on the glass. The team scraped back from a poor start to get to overtime in the first place.
And no, Robert Covington didn’t shoot the ball well. Ben Simmons seemed a little tentative offensively. Brett Brown’s early-game rotations were confusing, with lineups featuring three non-shooters on the floor at the same time.
But I don’t have any issue with the late game sets Brown ran. No issue with Simmons dishing it for a wide open Dario Saric at the end of the first OT. No issue with trying to get JJ Redick a three-point look at the end of the third overtime.
And Joel Embiid stayed in the game because he wanted to.
“He felt good about playing and we listened to him as a staff,” said Brown. “We thought that was going to work and maybe in the light of day, we could’ve given him a minute here or there.”
You know, I don’t think they could have done that. I think his back would have started tightening up if he had gone to the bench for a bit before returning. Leaving him out on the floor keeps him loose and lets him play right through it. The body can’t seize up until you shut it down for the night. Let the adrenaline do its thing.
Either way, Embiid logged a career-high 49 minutes and almost certainly will not play on Monday night. He might not play on Tuesday either.The Sixers fall back to .500 with a pair of games against Chicago and Sacramento looming, then it’s a home-and-home with the Raptors before Christmas is upon us.
Advancing the ball, or not
At the end of the second overtime period, Oklahoma City missed a shot that Saric was able to rebound. The Sixers called timeout, but there was some confusion on the play, as they had to take the ball out in their half of the floor and were not allowed to advance it.
Here’s the clip:
Brett Brown on what the refs told him:
“Well it was two explanations. First they asked us what side of the floor we wanted to advance it to and we told them. And we drew up a play to try to score and walked down and they said, no, you can’t advance it, it goes full court. When you look at the tape, you can see Joel and myself calling timeout with 1.2 seconds. They said Dario dribbled. Yet there was still 1.2 seconds. The dots don’t connect.”
Brown is right; you can see here Embiid clearly is calling for timeout before Saric puts the ball on the ground:
They should have had an opportunity to fire off one final play there, but instead settled for a low-percentage heave.
Good and bad from Ben
There was a lot of talk about defending the Thunder going into this game, but Ben Simmons was excellent on that end of the floor all game long. Particularly, he played some next-level D against Russell Westbrook at the end of the fourth quarter, when the Sixers strung together a bunch of stops to draw even at 94-94. His defense has been much better than I thought it would be at this point in the year.
The thing that bothers me is that he only took 10 field goal attempts in a 51 minute showing. That’s one attempt per every five minutes, which just isn’t enough from him. He only took 8 the other night in a game that also went to overtime.
That preceded four games where he shot the ball 16, 13, 14, and 18 times. So I don’t know why he’s not shooting as much. I hope he’s not spooked from going to the foul line. It’s not like he was deferring to Embiid all night long; his shooting attempts were way down over entirety of the game.
I’m not sure why we’re seeing this:
In the third quarter, on the possession after Embiid went down holding his back, Steven Adams grabbed two consecutive offensive rebounds on the other end of the floor.
While he didn’t do much point-wise, that’s where Adams killed the Sixers, finishing with 7 on the offensive glass to match all 10 Philly players.
Lemme phrase that another way:
Steven Adams had as many offensive rebounds as the Sixers.
Overally, the total rebound numbers were fine, but there were just a number of moments where the Thunder center was able to squirm his way into position and attack the glass, even when surrounded by two or three Sixers. The tape of the first three quarters isn’t going to look great.
More Richaun Holmes
Richaun Holmes, who started and played 33 minutes in Tuesday night’s win, only got 10 last night. He was left on the bench entirely until 1:30 in the second quarter, as Brown preferred Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker off the pine.
It’s obvious to me, and probably everybody else, that Holmes is just the better choice than Johnson at this point. I know Brett Brown feels like Amir plays better defense and brings that veteran presence to the second unit, but he’s just not effective out there. Holmes is a high-energy, active player who makes things happen, and if he really is shit defensively, then he wouldn’t have warranted a start on Tuesday, Minnesota height or Covington injury aside. I really think Holmes’ defensive limitations are overblown:
And I think Brown realized that Johnson didn’t have it in this game, because Holmes and Booker were the first off the bench in the second half while Amir continued to sit. At this point in time, it just makes more sense to go to Richaun as the first big off the bench, or try him at power forward and continue to experiment with different second unit groupings.
I sometimes think that Brett completely forgets that Holmes is even available to play.
Carmelo Anthony came out firing last night, then sort of cooled off late.
One thing he did – and always has done – is that little forearm shrug to create space for himself:
You see Johnson gesturing to the official after that play to no avail.
Anthony used the forearm again on the first play of the second overtime. He’s just so good at walking that line between offensive foul and effective distancing.
Ben Simmons has shown similar things this year, but he does it closer to the rim and usually combines the forearm with that behind-the-back dribble to separate himself before trying a floater. If Ben is going to get himself going offensively again, I honestly think studying how Carmelo uses that push would really help him continue to build on his ability to push to the paint, separate, then go up with the ball.
Two other random things –
First, a shout out to Matt Cord:
— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) December 16, 2017
And did anyone else see Embiid accidentally hit Steven Adams in the balls while trying to sell contact at the end of the first quarter? Imagine taking that kind of shot to the “groin” area.