Today’s media availability was kind of weird because it feels like we’re in some sort of playoff limbo. Is it a playoff purgatory? An April abeyance? Fan fervor has to simmer on the back burner for at least a few more days.
We don’t know who the Sixers are playing yet in round two, so you can’t really ask specific questions about the Celtics or Bucks. But the Miami series is now 48 hours old, so going back to that feels slightly off-base, too.
It resulted in a Thursday hodge-podge of random questions about random topics, so instead of doing full quotes newspaper-style, let’s do some bullet point takeaways instead:
- no worry about getting rusty between rounds one and two – “that’s not on my mind”
- the team got a good sweat in during a practice session lasting a little under two hours – “we did a tiny few things on offense and a tiny few things on defense that are helpful whether it’s Boston or Milwaukee”
- I asked if Brett if he might reset the rotation going into a new series and revisit, for example, the Markelle Fultz and T.J. McConnell backup PG situation. Or – does the personnel side of things sort of carry over from round one into round two? – “It’s tough to say when you don’t know who you’re playing. I will say that all things are on the table… Obviously there’s a rhythm beat to what we’re doing. We just won a playoff series 4 to 1. Thinking we have to do too much different, I don’t think that’s true, but as a series unfolds, you find different things, like we did with Justin and T.J. last series.”
- 2nd round is not the same as the 1st series – “more physical, dramatic, fundamental, have to be more on point with the scouting report. everything gets amped up.”
- No issue with the extra rest between games, need to just stay focused on basketball and stay ready despite the break
- I asked Dario about Erik Spoelstra’s comments that the Heat struggled to keep up with Philadelphia’s smaller looks, with Saric and Ilyasova on the court together in a shooter-heavy lineup – “Maybe that was one positive thing. We tried to spread the court. But when Joel came back, obviously he can do everything, you know? We have two guys at an All-Star level and guys around them who can really play and really score. I know for Miami it was hard to guard both of them and guard two of us at the same time. When you have good chemistry and you understand each other on offense, of course it’s easier. If I was another coach, I don’t know how you’d play against us. That’s a really hard question to answer. But I think Miami showed up, they’re a good organization and played that style but I think we had just a little more quality in those games.”
- Doesn’t think it will get more physical than the Miami series, need to protect the ball, share the ball, and play defense
- Preparing for both Boston and Milwaukee, gonna be ready for both teams, plenty of scouting material
- Doesn’t matter what team they match up better against – “as long as you play your game and stick to your concept, you’re gonna be fine.”
- Hopes to be able to wear a mask without the goggles but thinks that he might have to wear the current mask (with eye protection) throughout the playoffs.
- Watching the Boston/Milwaukee game at home with Justin Anderson and Markelle Fultz tonight
The most interesting quotes probably came from Ersan Ilyasova, who actually did have an answer for the question about which opponent he’d rather face in the second round.
“Obviously if Milwaukee comes out, we have home court advantage,” he said. “That’s a good thing to have. If it’s Boston we have to play the first game over there. At the end of the day, whatever comes up, it’s going to be up to us. With the way we’ve been playing, we just have focus on ourselves and if we keep doing the things we did before, then it’s going to be in our favor.”
I asked Ilyasova the same thing I asked Saric, regarding Erik Spoelstra’s comments that Miami had trouble with Philly’s smaller look.
Do they feel like they had a lot of success with that look in the first series?
“Yea, we do,” said Ilyasova. “The thing is, this is the playoffs, and when you play against the same team for that many games, you have to bring something kind of new to the table, make adjustments. I think this is kind of a thing for us to go to, to go small and just open up the floor. Ben (Simmons) can obviously push the floor when he sees it open up. It creates more space for him and he gets those driving layup opportunities, or the dunk (at the end of game four).”
Ilyasova and Saric were excellent on the glass against Miami, something especially positive when playing without Embiid in games one and two. The pair finished with 9.2 and 6.8 rebounds per game, respectively. Saric led the Sixers with 3 offensive boards per game and Ilyasova added 2.4 himself.
In game four, Ersan had two fantastic offense rebounds, first against a Miami lineup featuring Kelly Olynyk playing power forward and Bam Adebayo at center:
Tip the ball to yourself off the glass and get a foul call? That’s high-IQ stuff there.
Later, in the fourth, he got another offensive board with Miami trying to run a small perimeter lineup against the Sixers’ four-shooter look:
Even if Josh Richardson doesn’t fall asleep there, he’s no match for a stretch-four or stretch-five at the rim.
Brett Brown didn’t have a very specific answer when asked about rebounding success, simply saying that his Euro pair are “committed rebounders” who follow the rules set forth by the coaching staff.
Ilyasova had a bit more to say about it.
“I mean especially on this team, when you have a lot of perimeter shooters, they always open up, and it’s just about finding the right place and the right time,” the veteran explained. “Sometimes you just kind of follow the ball and see where it’s going to bounce and be in the right spot. And I think it’s more effort, too, just put the extra effort forth and get up and get those rebounds. Because when you look at the game, sometimes it can be the difference between a one or two point differential because you’re getting an extra possession. That’s how you end up winning the game sometimes.”
It’s true, especially considering the Sixers’ turnover issues this year. When you can offset 17 turnovers with 10 offensive rebounds, you’re partially neutralizing a -17 in lost possessions with a +10 in second chance opportunities. That’s one area where they’ve really been able to paint over the ball handling trouble, and it was a big reason for their success against Miami.