I have closed down Twitter and logged off of Crossing Broad Slack chat. I have turned off the television and radio and fed the dog and watered the flowers. I took a walk around the block and said hello to the stray cats that frequent this corner of Fishtown.
I am at peace.
I have successfully insulated myself from the white noise of frothy knee-jerk reaction and I can now focus on last night’s game with a clear conscience.
The Sixers were feeble defensively last night. They looked rusty. Effort and execution wasn’t there and they couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo offensively. You would think Brad Stevens would be happy with his team’s performance after limiting the opponent to 42.2% shooting and a 5-26 mark from three point range.
But… nope, he really wasn’t, and he spoke about it post-game:
Celtics' Brad Stevens shakes his head disapprovingly when asked about defense in Game 1 win: "I didn't think it was as good as any of the last three Milwaukee games. We have to clean up quite a bit." pic.twitter.com/tRcgYGsoKC
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 1, 2018
“They exposed us in a lot of areas.”
“They run great stuff.”
“It’s hard to guard all of those guys and all of those actions.”
Hmm… genuine words there, or just lip service after a lopsided win?
I think he’s being truthful here, and it would seem to be backed up by the film and the numbers.
For starters, the Sixers shot 83 field goals last night. 57.8% of those looks (48) were uncontested and they only hit 19 of them. 19 for 48 on uncontested field goals gives you a 39.6% percentage there. That’s pretty woeful, and it’s very similar to what we saw in game two against Miami, when the Sixers shot 16 for 53 in the same category for a 30.2 UFG% in a bad home loss.
They missed open shots. That is a fact. Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Ersan Ilyasova combined to go 2-15 in this department, exemplified by this play here, which is normally bread and butter:
Defensive rebound, Simmons pushes the pace, draws a crowd, kicks it out to a wide-open Covington, who misses. That’s a shot he hits probably 3 or 4 out of 5 times.
Look at the attention Simmons draws in transition. He’s got a Mighty Ducks flying V of shooters trailing him:
Good push, good read, missed shot.
They executed similarly well on this play here, using Embiid’s post presence to go inside/out and find the open man:
Saric misses the wide-open three.
But you see how Embiid recognizes the double team and gets the ball to Covington, who correctly makes the extra pass to feed the open man.
They just need to hit those looks. Simple as that. The Sixers won on the offensive glass and actually did okay handling the ball. They only turned it over 12 times last night, which is well below their league-worst regular season average of 16.5.
Ben Simmons had 7 of those 12 turnovers, mostly because he looked rusty and indecisive in the first quarter.
He still finished with 18 points on 6-11 shooting with 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
One thing Boston did in defending Simmons was to sort of meet him at the foul line or his entry point to the paint, usually bringing a second guy over to wall him off.
Four screen grabs to show this:
The first three plays resulted in two turnovers and a charge (also technically a turnover). On the fourth, he was able to get to the rim and dump the ball off for an Ilyasova layup.
Other times, Ben did show some patience instead of attacking the paint. You see trailers in a couple of those stills (Belinelli and Embiid), and on this play here he just slowed things up, allowed his shooter to get into position, and handed him the ball:
That’s the Sixers’ transition offense that we’re used to seeing.
On non-open looks, Boston was able to use their length and athleticism to be disruptive on the perimeter. They just do a really nice job of going over screens and not allowing easy stuff off of lateral movement and dribble hand-offs.
JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli started to catch on to that a bit and improvised some counters, first with Redick turning this Jayson Tatum overplay into a fake DHO and reestablishing his original position:
Really nice stuff there, and it makes Tatum think twice now about trying to blow up that DHO when he’s guarding Redick on the perimeter.
Belinelli had a play or two last night where he tried to tunnel his way towards the rim in an effort to undermine the overplay. You saw Brett Brown actually start to explore that with some dual curls when Redick and Belinelli were on the floor together:
Marco got a layup off of that play above.
In another look, they showed “horns,” using Belinelli as one of the elbow screeners and running Simmons off of him. Belinelli finds himself on the inside of his defender and actually detaches here, but bumps into Simmons near the rim and doesn’t get off a clean look:
It’s really not a bad idea. If Marcus Morris is gonna stand between you and your own rim, then attack his rim, yea? Belinelli just turns into Simmons as Simmons tries to post up Tatum after getting the switch off of Morris (a 30 pound and one inch difference).
So keep all of that in mind when thinking about game one. The effort and hustle will improve and they will have 48 hours to rework the defensive game plan. Offensively, however, you do see some positive things on film, and if they hit their open shots while building on some of the small successes from last night, then you can come up with a blue print for the rest of the series.
Feel the positivity. Go outside, sit on the park bench, and get some sun. Today is a new day.