Executing When It Matters – Observations from Sixers 120, Nets 116

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t really have a clever opening paragraph because it’s the weekend and I’m totally fried. Later this afternoon, hoards of drunken white folks will descend on Philadelphia as they celebrate their Irish roots, or as the liberals would say, “appropriate” other cultures in tasteless fashion. We’ll leave it to Philly Mag to cover Saint Patrick’s Day.

As for the Sixers, they got the job done last night, the second night of a back-to-back against a surprisingly feisty Brooklyn squad that they just had trouble defending.

Brett Brown brought that up, unprompted, when asked for his takeaways from the four-point win:

“They really are difficult for us to guard. I think their style of play and the people that they have playing, we have struggled defending them. I give them a lot of credit. I think that our guys have been quite exceptional in the fourth period, sometimes you hate arriving at the fourth period the way that we did, but I thought we executed quite well offensively in the fourth period tonight.”

They did, and we’ll get to that shortly, but they “won” in other areas last night, hitting 44.4% from three-point range and going 22-26 from the foul line. They grabbed 13 offensive rebounds while successfully navigating early foul trouble and took care of the basketball, committing a season-low five turnovers. That went a long way in tilting the playing field on a night where Brooklyn limited mistakes while shooting 50% from three.

Brown on the turnovers:

“I think we’re just so mindful of trying to arrest that. We played a lot out of our motion, we avoided a lot of static sets and I think that moving people around and trying to make some passes simpler, we had a big turnover at the end with JJ trying to get Ben at the rim with about 1:30 left. I called a timeout, we tried to run a pick-and-roll play with those two guys but we just weren’t successful. I think just by being aware and conscious that we have to get better in that area.”

That Redick turnover was one of the few blemishes on a final period that feature some excellent playmaking and execution.

It was tied up 110-110 with 2:28 remaining last night, and the game finished with these 17 sequences:

  • Reddick misses a 3
  • DeMarre Carroll hits a 3
  • Sixers timeout
  • Reddick fouled, hits 1/2 free throws
  • Ben Simmons steal, Robert Covington finishes a layup
  • Caris LaVert drives for a layup
  • Redick turnover
  • Jarrett Allen miss at the rim
  • Covington hits a 3
  • defensive stop, out of bounds to Philly
  • Sixers timeout
  • Brooklyn fouls, T.J. McConnell hits 2/2 free throws
  • Spencer Dinwiddie misses 3
  • jump ball
  • Sixers foul
  • Dinwiddie hits 1/2 free throws
  • Brooklyn fouls, Joel Embiid hits 2/2 free throws

Sixers win.

Brown used his timeouts, swapped Justin Anderson and T.J. McConnell into the game, and the Sixers outscored Brooklyn 10-6 to finish it off.

They hit 2 of 3 shots and 4 of 5 free throws down the stretch while getting a defensive spark on the Simmons steal:

You see the sharing of responsibility in that list of events above. Covington scored two big baskets. Simmons got the steal. McConnell and Embiid hit their free throws. And even though Redick missed his shot and one of two free throws, he got the assist on the decisive Roco three-pointer:

Nothing fancy, just good ball movement after a couple of dribble-drives from Simmons and Dario Saric pulled the Nets, well, toward the Net. Redick drew two defenders and just found the open guy instead.

That’s really what it came down to, just making more plays when it really mattered.

For whatever reason, the Sixers just have trouble guarding the Nets. They’ve posted defensive ratings of 114, 123, and 96.5 in three games vs. Brooklyn this season, averaging out to 111.1, which is well below the season average of 103.3. But they’ve also turned it over very few times against this squad, finishing with 5, 8, and 9. The Sixers have only turned it over in the single digits six times this season, and half of those games were against Brooklyn, so go figure.

But we’re talking about the second night of a back-to-back here, a birthday game in which Embiid went for 24 and 19 while shooting just 6-23 from the field. It was the strength of a 100% free throw effort (11 for 11) that pushed him over the hump and helped the Sixers win their third straight back-to-back series. Any questions of Embiid’s 24-hour availability and effectiveness seem to be almost irrelevant at this point.

Jah and Nik

The Sixers gave former players Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas a shout on the jumbotron last night:

I’m not sure if that was necessary, but a nice gesture I guess? The crowd booed.

Stauskas didn’t play last night, but Jah had a nice game, going for 10 points on 5-8 shooting and adding three rebounds. He was a +4 in 13 minutes.

Embiid helped him out a bit, too, by insisting on going directly at him in the paint.

I get it.

Joel wants to body him up and be the bigger guy and send a message, but that’s just making it easy for Jah. Okafor struggles when pulled out of the paint and forced to use his feet in space, something that Embiid has an obvious advantage in. Not like it’s a huge deal at the end of the day, but the Sixers did waste some possessions because Joel seemed like he wanted to punk Jah instead of making the smart play.

Cookie Dough jawn

You can now buy cups of cookie dough at the Wells Fargo Center (and Citizens Bank Park when the Phils start up again). Last night, media members were given some free samples at halftime:


These taste exactly how you’d think they taste. It’s cookie dough in a cup, with an incredibly generous helping of chocolate chips. They don’t skimp on that.

It’s straight-up sugar, but it’s definitely tasty, and I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

Happy weekend.

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