You can’t end the season with a home-floor sweep. You just can’t allow it.
For that reason alone, I think the Sixers get the job done tonight, showing a bit of pride and self-worth before going down in game five at the Garden. And if they crash and burn instead, save this article and send it to the “Old Takes Exposed” guy on Twitter, if that’s your thing.
Look for this stuff tonight:
Ben Simmons was better in game three. He shot some jumpers, got some buckets at the rack, and handled the ball with more alertness I think.
One thing he didn’t do was exploit mismatches when he got them.
Even as a non-shooter, Simmons can still be effective getting switches on pick and roll plays, simply for the fact that he’s athletic enough to drive on most sagging defenders. Here they got an ideal matchup against Aron Baynes and Semi Ojeleye with Al Horford guarding off the ball and guarding Dario Saric:
That’s the assertive Simmons we’ve seen more often than not this season.
What you don’t want to see is this, when Ben gets the ideal switch – this time on 5’11” Shane Larkin – and picks up his dribble on the perimeter for some reason:
You see Ben realize the mismatch after he dishes it off, and he takes Larkin down low to post him up, but runs into Embiid while trying to establish position. If he recognizes that right off the bat, he’s got the easiest mismatch and basket drive on the face of mother Earth.
Case in point, overtime, when they went back to the PNR and got Larkin in the same fashion where Simmons drove on Baynes in the first clip I showed you:
Similar, right? This time they get the switch with Redick as the screener, who doesn’t go left or right but ends up putting a flat pick on Marcus Morris, which forces the Boston switch.
Simmons takes it to the rack with the nice spin move and layup.
Jo in the post
One thing I’d like to see the Sixers do is find easier ways to get Joel Embiid the ball in the post, so that he isn’t grappling with Baynes and Horford and catching the ball 16 feet out.
Embiid said he simply missed some hook shots in game three – and he did – but also explained that Boston does different things defensively down low – sometimes they double, sometimes they dig, and sometimes they’ll just body him 1v1. And when Embiid says “dig,” that’s basically a perimeter player who darts towards the ball to force a pass out of the post, sort of like a feigned double-team to make the offensive player second guess himself.
Brett Brown had more to say on Sunday about how they’re getting the ball into the post:
“I mean, it’s a real challenge that I think goes something like this: when we go back and sort of look at our called plays, where you sort of force feed Joel – there really weren’t many. There were four, maybe five when we looked at it. When he gets the ball in just that sort of flow, the ball finds him. He’s a big guy and gets the ball. He needs the ball. He’s more effective when he turns and faces. Ironically, he’s more of a face-up guy at this stage. I think the post-up has been not a high percentage play, especially with Al (Horford) and Aron (Baynes) sort of riding him and not really coming down to double. So I’m hoping to not reduce touches, perhaps play more out of turn and face stuff.”
Turn and face is fine for Embiid, I guess, since his biggest post issue seems to be losing the ball when trying to back down a player from a higher starting point. He also sometimes struggles with recognizing that late double team, though when he does see it coming he’s usually a very good passer out of the post.
But you saw a lot of instances this year where the Sixers would play T.J. McConnell and Simmons together and would find ways to get Ben easier catches in the post, usually running him off that little baseline screen that allows him to receive the ball on the move from one block to the other.
For Joel, it’s a lot of clear out, lob, and wrestle, and I think he’s just expending a ton of energy on plays like this:
Joel Embiid is probably the best post player in the NBA but he definitely needs to be better at giving up the ballt after he gets stuck. Too often he just chucks up a bad shot when he can simply pass out #Sixers pic.twitter.com/k3I7Knb1wK
— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) May 5, 2018
The other guys
Say what you will about Embiid and Simmons, but Robert Covington and Dario Saric have been really disappointing.
After three straight 20-point games to begin the Miami series, Saric has failed to reach 15 in his last five. He’s shooting just 37.1% in the Boston series and 28.6% from three:
I expected more from a guy who has been really consistent and underrated this year.
As far as Covington, we know he goes ice cold at times, but it’s inexplicable that he’s failed to make a field goal in two of three semifinal games. He’s shooting 27.6% in this series and has hit just 4 of 16 three point attempts:
JJ Redick has been fine, outside of that ludicrous turnover and an average game three shooting performance (6-15). His field goal percentage and PPG are both up in the postseason and he’s hitting from three at a 41.7% clip in the Boston series, which is much better than his 35.1% during the Miami games.
Thirteen offensive rebounds should turn into waaaaay more than eight second chance points. Simmons’ overtime put back attempt was the worst example of that.
The Sixers are still getting more opportunities at the foul line (20 Boston fouls in game three), but they aren’t helping themselves, shooting just below their 75% season average and failing to make up ground here. If they go better than 13-18 (72.2%) in game three, it’s a different ball game. And Boston had a bad FT shooting night to boot, hitting just 9 of 14 attempts.
Covington finished with a 119 defensive rating, second-worst on the team outside of Amir Johnson, who played only 3 minutes.
According to matchup stats at NBA.com, it looks like the Celtics shot 11-14 when Covington was guarding them, with about 30% of those matchups coming against Tatum:
There is… work to be done.
See ya tonight, bright and early for a wonderful 6 p.m. start time.