Game Five: What to Watch For

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers can finish the job at home tonight, and it’ll probably be more interesting than Andre Iguodala hitting a pair of free throws against the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls.

I’m intrigued to see how Miami comes out after losing both games at home. Do we see utter lethargy and despair? I don’t know. Maybe those guys are thinking, “hey, listen, we won the last game in Philly, so let’s give it a go.”

What I do know is that your 76ers should be frothing at the mouth to finish off the Heat and turn attention to the Boston/Milwaukee matchup, a 2-2 series with neither team looking like a world beater thus far.

What to watch for tonight:

4th Quarter Execution

Playoff basketball often comes down to late game half court possessions. We finally got that in game four and the Sixers executed on the two sets they ran with less than one minute on the clock.

I shared these on Sunday morning but didn’t get into too much detail, so I wanted to revisit them, beginning with the dunk that Ben Simmons hammered home:

This is the “horns” set that the Sixers use frequently.

Basically you run a mid-court triangle with your ball handler at the tip and two guys on the elbow. You put the other two players in the corners, which makes it look like the University of Texas logo, right? –

You also hear this referred to as an “A” set, because if you connect the five dots on the floor, it looks like… well… the letter A, just upside down:

Anyway, the Sixers got James Johnson on a back screen here, with Josh Richardson failing to switch and giving Simmons a clear path to the hoop.

One of the strengths of the Sixers’ horns look is that they can surround Simmons with four shooters. In that set above, Dario Saric and Robert Covington can hit from the corners while Joel Embiid and JJ Redick can pop from the elbow for kick outs as well. When you watch the play above, you see Miami’s rim protector, Hassan Whiteside, nowhere near the rim because he’s out at the elbow trying to keep tabs on Embiid:

That’s bread and butter Sixers right there. Simmons sees a lane and drives, but he’s capable of kicking out to four shooters, including his 7’2″ center, who is pulling the rim protector far away from the rim.

That was the first play.

On the second play, they went to another staple, just a simple “25” look which is action between the shooting guard and center.

They again took advantage of Richardson, this time making him chase JJ Redick into a beefy Embiid screen:

Wonderful screen from Embiid, who knocks Richardson to the ground. Again Whiteside finds himself stranded, pulled away from the rim and unable to close out Redick on the perimeter.

Look at the spacing on this sequence:

They don’t have a single player standing inside the two-point area. Covington is playing as a four, Marco Belinelli as a three, and Embiid is standing in the corner.

Redick catches on the wing, brings Joel into the play, and they dribble hand-off into a nasty pick that frees Redick for the open look. Whiteside is cooked.

So those were two well-executed plays by the Sixers, and good calls by Brett Brown. They got Miami on a blown defensive assignment on the first one, then exploited Richardson and Whiteside on the second one. It should make Erik Spoelstra think about taking Whiteside off the floor if this situation pops up again to go with Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo instead.

Points in the paint

Ironically enough, Hassan Whiteside did have his best performance of the series in game four.

He finished with 13 points on 6-9 shooting and 13 rebounds in a series-high 26 minutes. He was a +6 despite turning it over four times.

The Sixers had really been limiting points in the paint during this series, but gave up 56 on Saturday and 21 from fast break opportunities. You saw that change in the fourth quarter when Embiid collected himself and ripped off three blocks, asserting his authority at the rim and really clamping down on the defensive end.

Keep on eye on whether or not Spoelstra gives Whiteside 20+ minutes again tonight, or whether he goes back to Olynyk in a smaller look. He can also give Adebayo another physical run at Embiid and try to emulate what Miami did so well for three quarters the other night.


Breaking news: they can’t cough it up 26 times again.

I’ve talked a lot about how the Sixers usually make up for lost possessions via turnovers with offensive rebounding and a fast pace of play, but just to try a different type of exercise, let’s go back and look at how they respond AFTER atrocious turnover games.

There were 12 games this year where the Sixers turned it over 20 times or more:

They actually went 6-6 in those games, so go figure, 7-6 now if you include game four.

Here, then, is how they handled the ball in each game after the 12 above:

  • March 6th: 14 turnovers (at Charlotte)
  • December 15th: 19 turnovers (vs. OKC)
  • January 24th: 14 turnovers (vs. Chicago)
  • December 23rd: 22 turnovers (at Toronto)
  • March 1st: 9 turnovers (at Cleveland)
  • November 9th: 17 turnovers (at Sacramento)
  • January 20th: 16 turnovers (vs. Milwaukee)
  • December 25th: 15 turnovers (at Knicks)
  • March 15th: 14 turnovers (at Knicks)
  • January 18th: 22 turnovers (at Boston)
  • January 3rd: 13 turnovers (vs. Spurs)
  • October 25th: 14 turnovers (vs. Houston)

The Sixers finished the regular season ranked dead last with 16.5 turnovers per game. You can see above that they got their TOs below that average 8 times out of 12 following those horrendous 20+ games. Only twice did they follow up a 20+ turnover game with another 20+ turnover game, and that was against Boston and Toronto, the two best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Similar to bouncing back from losses, the pattern seems to suggest that they usually get the turnovers under control after a bad game. Considering the fact that they coughed it up just 14, 10, and 10 times in games one through three, it seems like 26 is just a massive outlier. Plus, you’ve got Embiid trying to adjust to the mask and get comfortable on the offensive end, so you can mention that as a significant footnote below the game four box score.

That’s about it. Let’s play basketball.





20 Responses

    1. You must be one of those jealous, 40 year old, simple-minded Flyers fans who hate it when the Sixers get more attention than your one and done Flyers.

    1. A smelly, rotting corpse finishes better at the rim than Robert Covington.

  1. The Cuz will be sitting courtside tonight right next to Kevin Hart. Watch for him.

  2. Scorpion and Sub-Zero end the series tonight and move on to the next round… Finish Them!

    1. Bro, floor seats are going for 5 grand right now. No way the Cuz can afford that.

        1. I’m surprised that you have time to type with your constant jerking off to
          ‘the cuz’ going on all day.

      1. yeah go ahead and pay 5Gs for a 1st round playoff seat.
        Maybe you can give Kevin Hart a handjob if your nice.

    1. No doubt. The Cuz is fucking awesome. Plus, he’s 10 inches and he shoots huge thick ropes.

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