Boston just made a few more plays.
I mean, really, that was the difference in this game. They hit a few more shots down the stretch, they didn’t turn it over as many times as the Sixers, they finally won on the offensive glass, and they just executed better down the stretch.
It was an 85 to 82 shot disparity in favor of the Celtics, and while the Sixers made their looks at a higher percentage, they didn’t make ’em when it mattered.
Joel Embiid had a chance at the end. Dario Saric turned it over. JJ Redick missed an open three that would have extended the lead to five with 1:10 left on the clock. And when he did hit with a few seconds remaining, Philly could only throw a goofy Hail Mary down the court.
So it was a fitting end to a series where the Sixers just didn’t play their best. Nobody really did. Redick shot 5-13 last night. T.J. McConnell was good, but couldn’t replicate the game four magic. Dario Saric needed three games to wake up. Robert Covington was a total non-factor and the bench never really got going at all, did they? Ben Simmons was mostly ineffective and Embiid had really good stretches and really bad stretches.
Consider these two Tweets:
Joel Embiid went 0-8 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final minute this season, including going 0-2 in Game 5
His 8 such attempts are tied for the most by any player without a made FG under those circumstances.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2018
The 76ers had a +/- of -63 when Ben Simmons on the court this series, and +48 when he was on the bench.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2018
Both are wonderful cornerstone players who will bag a lot of wins in the future, but they looked like playoff rookies in this series. Simmons should come back next season with a better jump shot and Embiid will be fully healthy, sans mask.
Then there’s the coach, Brett Brown, who also did not have a great series. I think the McConnell addition in game four was too little, too late, considering the fact that he saw that spark in game two and decided to instead put Simmons back in the game in the fourth quarter. Timeout usage was not great (not just the second quarter game two debacle). He finally went to Justin Anderson in game four when they could have used him earlier in the series. And I would have liked to see some easier post entries for Joel Embiid and some more called plays, because when he did dial things up, the Sixers were pretty good mechanically.
For example, on the Redick missed three, that was a called play, not for JJ, but for a Simmons drive, and he found McConnell on the baseline for a kickout back to the arc.
So I know the reactionary thing is to say that Brad Stevens “outcoached” Brett Brown, but I almost kind of feel like Brown out-thought himself more than anything. The things he did correctly identify weren’t put into motion until too late. Redick guarding Tatum was fixed in game two. McConnell was inserted in game four. Anderson game five. If each of those is addressed one game sooner, or a few quarters sooner, then maybe we’re still playing basketball.
And I would have played Markelle Fultz in this series. Absolutely. He wouldn’t have looked any worse than Covington out there. If one guy can put up 0-6, 0-8, 1-7, and 2-5 in four of five games, then surely you can get something out of an athletic rookie who can actually create off the dribble. I don’t know if playing Fultz gives you more understanding of what you have in him going into the offseason, but gluing him to the bench certainly doesn’t answer the question. You now approach the most important summer of the last 25 years with nothing but question marks surrounding your #1 pick, a guy you traded assets to… the Boston Celtics to acquire.
I think that also killed the Sixers, the fact they just don’t have the athleticism that Boston does, definitely not on the perimeter. Redick, Marco Belinelli, and others struggled to get decent looks all series long, and they were liabilities on the other end of the floor, with Boston able to throw incredibly athletic wings at them, “crawl into them” as Brown would say. They wanted the Sixers’ shooters to put the ball on the floor and become ineffective dribblers, and you saw that throughout the series.
All of that adds up to this – it’s a shame. It really is, because it didn’t feel like a 4-1 series loss. I think the Sixers dug their own grave and took waaaay too long to climb out of it. That’s not to discredit Boston, who was just fantastic this series.
Windhorst, I thought, summed it up really well:
Boston is young and plays old. Philly is young and plays young.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 10, 2018
And Brad Stevens is a wonderful coach. Excellent ATO plays and an effective game plan to combat Ben Simmons – I think those were my two takeaways from the early games in the series. I think he “outcoaches” most others in the NBA, which is why I kind of roll my eyes at the “fire Brett Brown” narrative. I honestly think it’s less about Brett being a “bad coach” and more about Stevens being an amazing coach. Who out there really is better than Stevens? Is it NBCA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who just got swept by Cleveland? Is it Steve Kerr, who has more talent than anybody? D’Antoni? Pop? Spoelstra?
I know it’s not Lue or Malone or Donovan or about 20 other NBA coaches.
Anyway, this has sort of been a rambling, stream of consciousness type of recap, but it’s the 96th one I’ve written this season and the Sixers are doing their end of season player availability at 10 this morning, so I’ve got to haul ass over to Camden shortly.
I think there’s a proper “look at the bright side” story coming tomorrow, but consider this for starters:
- the Sixers won 52 games when most projections were in the 35-45 range
- Joel Embiid played 63 games and went to the All-Star game
- the team finished the season on a 16 game winning streak
- they won a playoff series for the first time in a long time and got invaluable round two experience
- Ben Simmons established himself as a legitimate star moving forward
- the franchise has cap room and resources to use this summer
Think about it. The future looks great for this team. The most important man in Philly sports is now Bryan Colangelo, and I know that scares a lot of you, but let’s all reserve judgment until the end of the draft and free agency, and then we’ll reconvene from there.
Seriously, Sixers basketball is back, and while I wasn’t on the beat during the Process years, I was working in the CBS 3 sports department, editing highlights of Alexey Schved and Tony Wroten and Hollis Thompson. And I was doing 8 seasons on the Philadelphia Union beat, so I know what a shitty franchise looks like. This is not a shitty franchise. This franchise, by comparison, has a ceiling somewhere in the stratosphere.
Couple more things:
- McConnell, Redick, and Belinelli is not a back court you want defending against Tatum, Brown, and Rozier/Ojeleye. The Sixers got ripped when that grouping was out there.
- The Sixers were up 94-90 when Embiid came back in the game. He proceeded to take two horrible mid-range shots and a three pointer. Simmons drove to rim, out of control, twice in a row and missed.
- Free throws – 24 for 31, 77%. Again, they had a chance to help themselves here and didn’t.
- Who gives a FUCK about Drew Bledsoe?
- bballbreakdown explains the goofy play where Redick became annoyed with McConnell (of course T.J. didn’t whine and went and scored instead) –
McConnell initiates and isn’t wrong to open up to the strong side corner. Redick wanted to flare and is pissed TJ is there. TJ rightfully tells him to take a chill… pic.twitter.com/7rSM8IiGlC
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 10, 2018
- There was a brutal sequence at 66 to 56 where Embiid didn’t turn his head and Aron Baynes got an offensive rebound and kicked it out for a three. I originally had that written down as “the play that would cost them the game.” Credit to the Sixers for rallying.
- There was another play where Redick ran into Embiid and the Sixers ended up turning it over.
- No problem with Dario trying to post up a smaller guy in Marcus Smart on that dying-moments play in the fourth quarter
- Anderson did affect the game when he came in, fouling Smart and forcing a turnover to blow up a possession. The Sixers went on their run shortly after.
- Embiid’s face-up game was working early. I’m not sure how many he tried in the 3rd and 4th quarter, but he looked a little tired out there, and I think he just became exhausted in this series wrestling and grappling with Baynes and Horford on difficult low post possessions. He had a LOT of work to do after getting the ball 12 feet from the rim.
- The addition of Jaylen Brown to the starting lineup meant that Redick had to guard him. Between Rozier, Brown, and Tatum, you’re going to have a weak link somewhere. Most teams don’t have the horses to guard all three effectively. You pick what you’re willing to live with and die in another department.
- Uncontested field goals = 46.8% for the Sixers. They made enough of their open looks, just did poorly from three on the night (8-21)
- Belinelli didn’t even try a three pointer last night
- The Sixers turned 12 offensive rebounds into just 7 second chance points. Boston turned 13 into 15.
- McConnell played 38 minutes with a 9.5% usage rate. He needed more of the ball in his hands.
- Ben again tried 15 shots, which I think is a perfect number for him. Imagine 3-5 of those next year being effective 12 foot jumpers.
- Dario isn’t going to get more whistles if he complains to the refs after every non-call. He’s gotta fix that next year. It will benefit him in the long run.
- I’m pretty sure Al Horford just pushed Redick in the back on a low post mismatch, got the easy bucket in the second quarter.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got, gonna roll over to Camden for final player availability.