When life gives you three-point looks, you must shoot them.
At least I think that’s how it goes.
To that end, the Sixers looked more like the Rockets last night, chucking the ball 44 times from deep and hitting 18 of ’em in a 14-point win against the Charlotte Hornets. Brett Brown’s team improved to 17-0 when holding opponents under 100 points, something they’ve been able to do just three times since mid-February. The Sixers’ defense looked more like the Sixers’ defense last night, something Brown attributed to the simple fact that his team was finally able to enjoy a two-day weekend for the first time in a long time:
“I mean just the admittance coming in today, we had an opportunity to give some guys off a little bit. I think in 21 days before our back-to-back, or inclusive of the back-to-back, in 21 days we had played 12 games and we were on the road for like 14 days, had two back-to-backs, now we’ve got four games in six days and so sandwiched in between you could talk to the guys and tell them, ‘When we come back, refresh, reload, this thing has to change defensively.’ I thought in the second period (Charlotted) had a massive number, 38 points. They had a 38-point entire second half. We were still sort of rusty offensively I thought, but the defense was pretty good tonight I thought.”
Joel Embiid finished with 25 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, and 9 turnovers. Ben Simmons put up his third triple-double in four games, with 15 assists and zero turnovers.
They were down at halftime but used a 32-14 third quarter to turn the tide, hitting 7 of 14 three point looks in a much-needed scoring surge.
Those 44 deep looks were the most the Sixers have tried in a normal game this season:
That’s a lot of three pointers, just two fewer than what they tried in the December OKC game, the national TV barn-burner that went to triple overtime. Houston is the only NBA team that averages more than 40 three-pointers per game, and that number, 42.1, is waaaaay out of ahead of the second-place team, Brooklyn, who shoot 35.1 three-pointers each time out.
And the Sixers hit at 40.9% last night, which was impressive. They’re a 36.7% three-point shooting team with a 17-9 mark when they hit at 40% or better. They hit that percentage despite poor shooting nights from Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova, who were propped up by Marco Belinelli and Robert Covington instead.
Take a bit of defense, add some three point shooting and 17 offensive rebounds, and you’ve got a winning formula against a non-playoff team on your home floor.
11 points, 12 rebounds, 15 assists, 0 turnovers. So that’s an assist to turnover ratio of… 15.
Ben was asked about the triple-double post game, and again sort of pushed back on the idea that he needs to polish up his scoring game:
“I think people get caught up in how many points I score every game. It’s not about that. It’s about the amount of points we are getting as a team and how many stops we get and how many points we allow the other team to get. People are always going to say I need to do certain things, but I know what I’m capable of and what I’m really good at.”
Nothing wrong with that. When four other guys are hitting in double figures, Ben doesn’t need to go for 20 points, he just needs to feed everybody else.
I think he obviously gets annoyed at the idea that he should be more of a shooter at this point in his career, which I understand. Again, I think that assertion simply comes from the fact that his ceiling is incredibly high. You’ve got a rookie dishing out triple-doubles night in and night out. Ben Simmons in his current state is a Rookie of the Year candidate and perennial All-Star. Ben Simmons with a jump shot is the next LeBron James. I think those questions about his shooting always bubble to the surface simply because we see a player with next-level talent and upside.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be giving him necessary plaudits along the way. I think we sometimes get blindsided by “what could be” and fail to mention what he’s doing right in this moment.
Nine triple doubles this year. Nine! For a rookie! Only Russell Westbrook (23) and LeBron James (16) have more in the entire NBA right now. And Ben is second all-time for triple-doubles by rooks, passing Magic Johnson to settle into position behind Oscar Robertson. Ben can’t catch up with Robertson’s 26 triple-doubles from the 1960/61 season, but it’s nice to be mentioned in the same breath as a hall of famer.
As for the 15 assists/0 turnovers mark, only one other rookie has ever done that:
Brevin Knight went for 14, 5, and 15 with 0 turnovers in a 1998 win against the Pistons. The only other player to do it this season is Dennis Schroder, who put up 13, 3, 15, and 0 TO in a January win against New Orleans.
Enjoy your 6’10” “point guard” dishing the ball to your 7’2″ “center” –
A monstrous stat line that I mentioned above, blemished only by nine turnovers.
Not sure how it happened, but last night’s post game with Brown turned into some kind of Q/A session about Joel’s productivity relative to the little amount of true practice time he’s had this season, be it a combination of load management or the Sixers’ clumpy schedule.
Again, I think it’s easy to roll your eyes and say, “ah yes, the Philly media,” but it didn’t seem to be that kind of discussion. I think it was more of, “wow, what actually is Joel’s ceiling here? what do you think he can do if he actually has a normal season that doesn’t involve load management and other stumbling blocks?”
Brett Brown on Joel’s turnovers:
“I think it’s very simple to me. When Joel has the opportunity to practice and go through shoot around and he’s playing basketball, there’s a feel to the sport that he inherits quite quickly. Look at what he does without really practicing much, or doing shoot arounds much. Like, I’m shocked to look down and see 25 and 19. Now the plus/minus reveals a little more about the more true side of the story, but physically we’re trying to do our best to deliver him to a playoff situation at the end of the year. It’s hard to say it any other way. That’s my best effort. I can say it’s post spacing. I can say he shouldn’t have dribbled in a crowd. But there’s a feel thing and a fluid thing that he’ll get quick – then look out. Right now, the feel side of it is difficult for it right now.”
Follow up question: Is that part of why he’s encourage to take so many three-pointers? To offset what happens with turnovers?
“I wish I could say it was. It isn’t. Even when he’s rolling I think he’s got the ability, especially in that four spot, if you look at where the larger majority of his three pointers come from in trail, that middle cylinder where it’s not Rocket-step, he catches it at 7’2″, you see what I see. It’s almost a tremendous conflict that he’s as skilled as he is. You have to pick your poison on where you want to place him. By and large it’s a good thing, but it’s not always ‘post Jo, post Jo, post Jo.’ I think the mixture makes him incredibly unique. But it’s not interconnected to, ‘he’s turning it over tonight, so it’s easy to shoot threes.’ It’s not that.”
Another follow up question: When you talk about practicing certain things, are you talking about spending time with ball handling and control?
“In general, just practicing. This season hasn’t been that for Joel Embiid. It’s the most unusual thing I’ve experienced, that he’s that capable and that talented, to be able to impact a game and be selected as a starter on the all-star team, with effectively not practicing with his team, you know? We’re really trying to preserve his health. My message to them, and I said it to you, is that during this period – and I’ve learned this over many years – is how do you maintain the health to deliver him to April? How do you maintain their spirit? Both are very interconnected. And how do you maintain the form of just playing good basketball? They’re all very intertwined. If you can arrive to a playoff ticking those three boxes, they’re healthy, they’re cocky, and their spirits are up, playing good basketball, I like our chances. I think we can go into the playoffs and be something a bit unique.”
So think about Joel’s choppy and staggered season, then think about this:
Per #Sixers Broadcast…
Joel Embiid now with back-to-back
20pt 19reb games.
He is the first Sixer to do that since Charles Barkley in 1991.
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) March 20, 2018
Couple other quick notes:
- Robert Covington is shooting the ball better recently – 56.8% in his last five games with a 48.5% mark from downtown
- Marco Belinelli went for 21 last night, his fourth-highest mark of the season and best scoring output in a Sixers uniform. He also dunked the ball for the first time in a long time.
- Dario Saric has been a bit off in the last two games, just 9 points and 5 points. He had previously gone 47 of 48 games hitting double figures.