JJ Redick was asked on Monday afternoon how a close-out game differs from any other game in a playoff series.
He started by explaining that both teams begin by throwing jabs, then stopped to ask a rhetorical question:
“Why are boxing analogies so perfect for every other sport?” Redick laughed. “I don’t know why. But no, you’re throwing jabs and feeling each other out. Then later on in the series you have to deliver a crushing blow; you have to finish them. A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters and warriors on their team. Every game in this series has been tough, and there’s no expectation that game five will be any different.”
That’s what the Sixers will try to do on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center – deliver the crushing blow. They ripped off a game four win despite turning the ball over 26 times and struggling through three quarters before turning up the intensity and executing brilliantly in the fourth quarter.
Redick was asked if he views game four in a positive lens or whether he feels like the team has a lot of things to improve on in game five.
“I think you’d be doing your opponent a disservice if you didn’t acknowledge how difficult it is to win a playoff game,” he said. So I think we can always take positives from any playoff win, especially against a team that is together and playing hard. But we I think realize that having that many turnovers in a playoff game is a recipe for disaster. I think we have to be a lot better there.”
Brett Brown added that he feels like his team has more room to grow than any other team in the playoffs.
It’s not an incorrect notion. You’ve got a 21-year-old rookie point guard running the show alongside a second year center and second year power forward who have never been here before. And your starting three-man, the longest tenured player on the team, hasn’t come close to sniffing the postseason since 2014.
So that’s four of your five starters who are experiencing the baptism by fire.
“I look at that as a really exciting opportunity,” Brown said before practice. “You sort of go through college and here we are in grad school, if you will, and we have a chance to learn a lot more. And we need to. I said it after (game 4) and I’ll say it again now; we were very fortunate to win that game. The discipline that we did not show offensively and defensively in the first three periods, especially as I go back and watch it, it can’t happen. But to our guys’ credit, there was a toughness in the group. They flipped the switch and played tremendous defense and executed down the stretch offensively. That enabled us to have a strong fourth period. But this closing out the series, you know, the evolution of learning what the playoffs bring, they’re gonna learn more about themselves in the next few weeks than what any coach can tell you.”
Brown was asked the same thing as Redick – is it ultimately a positive if your team won the game despite not playing well for three of the four quarters? There will likely be more turnover issues in future playoff games.
“That’s true, and this is my point, so that I’m not coach curmudgeon; the fact is, since 1986, no team in three decades plus two years won a game having that volume of turnovers,” Brown replied. “That’s a little bit risky, you know? Had we not done a good job of offensive rebounding, the ledger wouldn’t have been balanced. You don’t know what I know on defensive breakdowns and mistakes, and you don’t know what I know about offensive breakdowns and mistakes or shot selection, then all of a sudden we bunker in and we show a side that I am just incredibly fond of and respect, that fourth period mentality. So, for one period, I loved what I saw. You can’t make that up and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s a spirit in our group and a toughness in our group and you saw it in the fourth period. We look at both sides of it. We were extremely fortunate and we can’t repeat that. It’s always good to get out of an ugly game with a win. And I do see it, there’s way more positive in all of this, especially since we won, than anything. I look forward to fixing some of the things that we saw in the first three periods.”
So how do you fix the turnovers?
Brett has been asked that question about 37 times this season and has responded consistently for the 37th time, committing to his style of play and seeing no reason to deviate.
“You can walk it up the floor and have your two best players play really slow, and play conservative, and we’re not doing it,” he shrugged. “We’re not going to do that. It starts with me and our two best players who will receive the most attention. We’ll continue to help them. Then Dario and Ersan, putting balls on the floor in a crowd, we’ll continue to try to help them. Some of our players side stepping or back stepping up a corner instead of side stepping down a corner and stepping out of bounds. We’ll try to help them.
“But it’s the slippery slope we live; we wanna play fast, we wanna play free, we wanna share the ball. By the way it’s the playoffs and defensive mentalities ramp up, and at times you’re going to be in a predicament. But it’s more that in my mind than anything.”
Specifically then, how to help Joel Embiid with that issue? He coughed it up eight times in game four.
In a second follow-up question, Brown was asked if he felt like the protective mask played a role in Joel’s struggles on the offensive end of the floor, or whether it was too much dribbling or even a combination of both.
“I’m going to go to the goggles and I’m going to go to the fact that he hasn’t played basketball in a while,” Brown explained. “He hasn’t played in the playoffs ever. He’s just coming back. The difference between Joel Embiid offensively and Joel Embiid defensively is not night and day. He is unbelievable at the rim. In the fourth period, he was spectacular at the rim. That’s energy, it’s activity, it’s just a committed, physical and aggressive player. Those qualities don’t equal a poised offensive player. It’s not his fault. Playing basketball, regaining his balance, just his core balance and all of those things, that will happen over time. It’s part of the complete belief, when I look at our team versus other teams, that I think we can continue to improve. I really see tremendous improvement possibilities with our team and certainly with Joel playing more basketball.”
Brett Brown on the keys to closing out a series. He watched film of previous 3-1 series over the weekend. pic.twitter.com/J0XmS30Rdy
— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) April 23, 2018
Let us Pray
Embiid showed up at a Delco church on Sunday night. Assistant Billy Lange was also there.
“I’m Catholic, so I pray a lot,” Embiid said Monday. “I believe in God and I pray all the time. I just felt like it was Sunday, and that’s a time to go to church for every Catholic and Christian. I felt like I wanted to go to church and needed to go to church, so I went. Everybody was excited. I’m always excited to just go and socialize and be with (people in the community) and have fun.”
Jo was asked about his mask and what kind of difficulties it presents. Does it affect peripheral vision?
“I don’t know, it’s just weird,” he said. “My teammates, Amir (Johnson) was actually trying it and Markelle (Fultz) was trying it after practice and they kind of saw my pain when I have to wear it. But that can’t be an excuse, I’m going to have to get used to it. It’s the only way I can be on the court, so I’ve just got to do it.
“I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it. You’ve just got to keep playing. Some days it’s going to work out well and other days it’s not. Like I said, there’s a lot of things that that don’t involve shooting that I can do on the court. I’ve just got to keep my focus and help my teammates win the game.”
There’s still work to be done in this series, but Embiid was asked straight up if he’s been watching the other NBA playoff games.
“Shit, it’s been pretty tight,” he said. “I’ve been watching all of the games. It’s been pretty tight, every team. I watched the Boston game yesterday. Draymond (Green) texted me after the first game when we blew out Miami out and he basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in game two. They came back and won that game. Every coach makes adjustments and one game is going to be different than the other and I feel like that’s the same thing that’s been going on in other series and with us, too. They came back and won that game, then we won the next two, and tomorrow is going to be different. They’re going to come in and play with the same energy and be physical. We’ve been responding well and we’ve got to be the physical team tomorrow and set the tone.”
It was a beefy media presence at the training center today. I got the crap seat in the scrum and had to position myself behind the glass:
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) April 23, 2018