Brett Brown is a soldier.
He did 30 minutes of media on Wednesday, 20 minutes on Thursday afternoon, and 15 after Friday’s practice. That’s more than one hour of his time spent talking to us about the Sixers’ season finale and preparations for game one of the playoffs.
A lot of the questions are becoming repetitive, stuff like “how do you feel about being in the playoffs?” and “talk about the culture in your locker room…” and blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda.
There were a few interesting quotes that came out of an otherwise pedestrian practice, but before I bury the lede any further, I should mention that Joel Embiid is officially ruled out for tomorrow night.
He did, however, look good today, and stayed late to work on shooting and post moves, a lot of reps to get himself back into game shape before sliding into the starting lineup. I think we’re looking at a game three return, but it will be very interesting to see if they bring him back for game two should they slip up and drop game one.
Not like I would have any real intuition on the subject, but I thought Joel looked pretty smooth going through basic motions. I didn’t see him pulling or grabbing or fidgeting with the mask at all:
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) April 13, 2018
Whether or not that affects his vision or his focus when banging in the low post against Hassan Whiteside remains to be seen. I think the one issue that pops up is that perspiration can make wearing a mask more uncomfortable, so I’m really curious to see if it affects his game in any way, specifically his vision. If you’ve played sports at any level, you’ve probably got a routine, and you’re probably comfortable with specific attire and specific equipment. I wore a knee wrap for two games in high school and hated it, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to play 63 NBA games, then come back for the 64th with a big piece of plastic over your face.
Speaking of discomfort, JJ Redick says the tightness in his lower back is “improving.” He says he’s good to go for tomorrow and spoke a bit about the tactical matchup against the Heat:
“They played us hard and they were really physical with us, especially down in Miami.” Redick explained. “They run multiple actions on offense, so you really have to defend for the full shot clock. And they have a deep roster with a bunch of guys who play hard and play well together. It’s a huge challenge for us.”
Miami also does a lot of stuff to force defensive switching, be it pick and roll, dribble-hand off, or “multiple actions,” as Redick mentioned above. That’s going to be a key storyline in game one, amplified by the fact that Embiid isn’t going to be patrolling the low post as a safety measure if opponents get the ball into the paint.
“It’s a common practice,” Brett Brown said. “Milwaukee did it a little bit. Cleveland certainly did it. It’s true, what Miami did do. You go into it and you have perfect world matchups where, at no cost do you want Dario guarding Goran Dragic, you want to avoid that, as an example. Or, you know JJ guarding James Johnson, for instance. So you go into it with a Plan A and a Plan B on pick and roll and hand offs, and it’s delivered with a purpose. Sometimes you can’t promise that that’s going to happen and you want to avoid it more than you don’t, and then you go into Plan B mode. We feel like the delivery of the game plan with what we want to get done, and without getting into too much coach speak, I think we’ve got it. But I feel like none of us should be amazed if, from time to time, it happens. It’s the volume of times that it happens that we’re trying to avoid.”
Here’s a good example of that, with Amir Johnson getting pulled out to the perimeter, some confusion in a non-switch, and an open look:
That’s a very Miami play right there – let the shot clock roll, wait for the extra pass, and find the better look after the defensive miscue:
I mentioned this in the second part of my preview earlier today, but the Sixers really did not shoot the ball at an amazing percentage against Miami in the regular season series:
Field goal percentages against Miami this year:
Dario the only starter hitting above his season averages against the Heat
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) April 13, 2018
Dario Saric was Philadelphia’s most consistent performer against the Heat this year, and I asked Brown on Friday if Dario going 10-19 against Milwaukee the other night, coming off the elbow and tooth problem, gives him confidence going into the postseason.
“I think so,” Brown said. “And I purposefully – we’re up however many points – I played him at the start of the fourth period just to get him more minutes to get his wind up a little bit and throw him a bone, where he can play more basketball and take a few more shots. But he did come out of that game well. People can’t dismiss how the elbow affected his game for a little awhile, and then the rhythm, and the injury down in the Atlanta, to his mouth. So to give him more minutes and let him play the way he did, I do feel that (comfort). I think we’re going to need more; obviously they try to find JJ and make him dribble and try to find Cov and make him dribble. So we’re gonna need to help our other guys shoot at a higher percentage, and I hope continue to let Dario move forward like he did against Milwaukee.”
That’s what I’ve got for now. Let’s play the damn games.