Of course it came down to a couple of bad turnovers.
Of course it did!
And it’s a real shame, too, because a team that achieved so much this year (read: overachieved) showed some of its worst habits when it mattered most.
That should pretty much do it for the Sixers’ season, barring an improbable miracle of a turnaround. It would be nice to see this team go down swinging, because the bitterness of being swept – and being eliminated on your home court – probably leaves a disgusting taste that lingers for a loooooong summer, no matter how many times you go to the mouthwash.
You’ll need more than Listerine after last night’s debacle. The Sixers blew chances to win in regulation and overtime, turning it over twice on critical inbound plays with the game on the line.
I think they’re trying to get the ball to Joel Embiid there for a dribble hand-off and open look for Redick at the top of the arc, but Ben Simmons runs into Embiid while running off the first screen.
Ugly stuff, but Brett Brown pushed back on the notion that his players didn’t know what to do there:
“There’s no confusion. It’s a play we’ve run 8 times a game for 88 games. It’s no confusion, it was just Celtics bent JJ over, defensively did a good job and we threw it away. It wasn’t confusion.”
Here’s what Redick had to say about that play:
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) May 6, 2018
Redick was spared by Marco Belinelli, who hit a turnaround, off balance, fade away 22-footer with time expiring to erase that mistake and send the game to overtime. The Sixers’ confetti guy jumped the gun, thinking the game was over, and the colored pieces of paper came falling to the floor, causing a brief delay while the dunk squad, the floor managers, and basically anybody available was tasked with cleaning up the playing surface.
From there, the Sixers scored the first five points of overtime, so I guess Redick has a point. They did execute in some instances down the stretch and responded well to start the 5th period, having apparently wiped their hands clean of the regulation mess.
But, again, when it mattered most, you got stuff like this:
If those were the two biggest mistakes, then the third fell on Ben Simmons.
There were about 20 seconds on the clock as the Sixers led by a point in overtime. Joel Embiid missed a jumper and Simmons grabbed the offensive rebound, but decided to go back up with a shot attempt instead of kicking the ball out to burn down some clock:
Brown was asked if he felt like there would more value in running that ball back out and killing clock:
“There would be, but I respect, it’s a smart question that (Ben) should ask. If it was a point-blank dunk you probably would take that. He didn’t do that, it’s true he makes that shot all the time in practice. If we had it again we’d probably take it out, have him chase you and foul, and chew up some clock. On so many levels, this being one of them, it’s the thing I see and feel the most that our young guys at times, look young. We’re going to have to find places in this experience and learn from it. That’s a great example of one of them.”
A quick glance at my timeline during that sequence seemed to suggest a common theme as to what Simmons should have done with the ball:
Here’s what Ben said about the play:
— Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) May 6, 2018
I mean, I get what he’s saying. If they add two points, then they’re up three and Boston needs a three to tie. But you’re already up one, and the shot clock is unplugged, so the Celtics are forced to foul to extend the game. Do you trust the Sixers, a 75% free throw shooting team, to kill off the game from the foul line in the playoffs? Simmons himself is a 66% shooter this postseason, so does he have a better chance at making that put back shot or hitting his free throws?
Pulling the ball out for clock purposes is always the right thing to do, but I can sort of see it from a different angle as well.
As for Brett Brown, it’s hard for me to make a comprehensive judgment on his performance until this series is over. I’m interested in seeing how the Sixers come out in game four (and maybe five), then we can examine the series as a whole and determine how the coach adjusted and look more closely at his play calls and decisions.
Whatever you think of Brown, I think it’s obvious that Brad Stevens is a fantastic coach, one of the NBA’s best. But he’s also a guy who has been here before at both levels. He coached in two NCAA tournament finals. This is his 7th NBA playoff series (he lost his first two). He has boatloads of meaningful experience compared to Brown, who went on deep playoff runs as an assistant and coached a tanking team for the last four years.
For what it’s worth, he didn’t want to blame the results on youth, nor did Embiid:
“The last thing I want to do is lean on youth, I don’t want to do that. I give credit to the Boston Celtics, they played in the Eastern Conference championship last year, with a handful of the players they have. We are navigating through this, this isn’t an entirely a youthful thing at all. Nobody write that. This is some of the match-ups that have hurt us, I respect their positional defensive athleticism, and switchable people. That’s the story, I definitely do not think it’s the youth. I do think when the lights go out, like I will think in many ways, Joel is going to learn a lot, Ben Simmons is going to learn a lot. It’s painful admitting that now, but there is some truth to that now. There is a lot of truth to that.”
“I don’t like blaming it on youth, we made mistakes, it doesn’t matter how old we are, it doesn’t matter that we’ve never been in this position. You have to give them a lot of credit, that they showed up when it was the time to show up. You have to give them a lot of credit, I hate to say it was youth.”
It’s nice that they aren’t putting the blame on youth, but let’s be realistic here:
- 21 year old Ben Simmons has never been here before.
- 24 year old Joel Embiid has never been here before.
- 24 year old Dario Saric has never been here before.
- 27 year old Robert Covington has never been here before.
- Brett Brown has never been here before (in a capacity where he’s calling the shots)
That’s four starters and your coach. So while it might not be youth, you can OBVIOUSLY say the lack of experience is there.
Now, I know the easiest thing to do is counter with, “well what about 19 year old Jayson Tatum?” He looks GREAT. Kid is a star and was ready to play from day one. I don’t have a comeback for that.
But who else is raw on this Celtics team? Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown? They played in the Eastern Conference finals 11 months ago. Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris have been here 100 times before. Where is the youth and total inexperience outside of Tatum? It’s not there. I don’t know where this angle is coming from. Sure, they’ve got some young players, but compared to the Sixers they are grizzled vets.
Anyway, this is was Brett Brown’s final quote, and it’s a good one about expectation vs. reality:
“The city is passionate and they want to win. And when you win 17 games in a row, then win 4-1 against a good Miami team, there are expectations, and rightfully so. What we’ve all learned, is that when you get into matchups, they can contradict and challenge recent form. The regular season is very different from the playoffs. We understand that. Fact is, the Boston Celtics do expose some of our weaknesses. They can defend positionally quite well all by themselves. The abundance of three point shots we’re used to getting in the regular season and vs. Miami doesn’t happen as frequently. Joel has two elite defense players in Aron Baynes and Al Horford, as an example, that he’s just gotta figure out. I understand the city. I get it. Then I put on my basketball hat and say, sometimes we get into a bad matchup. We have to perform better, no doubt about that. I’m not leaning on the youth. I’m the coach, I’ll take responsibility for all of this. But there are portions of what I just said that I know to be true.”
“…the Boston Celtics do expose some of our weaknesses.”
If anything, the positive here is that Brad Stevens has really highlighted the issues with this Sixers squad. There’s a treasure trove of data to digest as Bryan Colangelo and Brett Brown head into the offseason looking to build a championship contender. Now you know exactly what the problems are and where you need to go to address those problems.
I know people don’t want to read about “learning experiences” or whatever, but the Sixers are getting that right now, and you can’t understate the value this kind of butt-whipping provides.
I think Sixers fans just need to take a deep breath and think about what this team did this year:
- 52 wins
- second round of the playoffs
- the establishment of two legitimate superstar players
- forward steps from guys like Dario Saric
- more games from Embiid than anyone predicted
They already overachieved. This is icing on the cake, icing that tastes like crap but only serves to benefit in the long haul.
He was better than his 0 field goal performance in game two, obviously. He hit a pair of shot jump shots and looked a little more decisive out there.
The one issue was that he kept getting mismatches and just didn’t attack those mismatches. I’m not sure why. He finally did it in overtime, when he got Shane Larkin on a PNR switch and took him right to the rack:
Simmons finished with 16, 8, and 8, shooting 8-14 on the evening and turning the ball over four times. He missed a wide open dunk that would have brought the house down and had the situation with the offensive rebound and put back at the end of regulation that I mentioned above.
He did spend some time on the floor with T.J. McConnell in this game, something you saw the Sixers do frequently in the regular season. I’ll take a look at that passage of play and wrap that into the Brett Brown story when the series concludes, because I’m already at 2,000 words for this recap.
I obviously didn’t watch the national broadcast since I was at the arena, but I feel confident in saying that Doris Burke did a better job than Kevin McHale.
- Watch Boston completely ignore the offensive glass to get back in transition. That’s one of the reasons why the Sixers’ rebound numbers are so high. The Celtics are willingly forfeiting second chance opportunities to negate the Sixers’ quick movement up the floor.
- The Sixers showed the same defensive matchups as they did in game two.
- Dario Saric sat for a big chunk of the 4th quarter before coming back in during overtime. He again struggled, finishing with 11 points on 4-11 shooting.
- The entire squad shot just 39.2% on the evening.
- Again they did well on the offensive glass but didn’t capitalize on that number, putting up just 8 second chance points despite grabbing 13 boards off of missed shots.
- The Sixers’ perimeter defense was pretty good, just 10-38 on three point attempts from Boston for a diddly poo 26.3%
- The Sixers were 44% on uncontested field goals, 22 for 50, so they hit enough of their open looks
- Robert Covington didn’t hit a single field goal for the second time this series. He followed up game two’s 8-15 effort with an 0-8 this time. He looked visibly frustrated and hung his head after missing one attempt in the second half.
- Brad Stevens just called phenomenal stuff all game long. I’ll end the story with the game-winning play, a total clear out that got Covington switched on to Horford for a little lob and finish (he was also fouled and didn’t get the call) –
Here’s the game-winning play drawn up by Brad Stevens. The house just clears out like nothing. pic.twitter.com/dX7rxpcLKL
— LeRob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) May 5, 2018
Enjoy your Sunday!