The New York Knicks could not shoot, pass, or rebound last night, but otherwise they played a good game.

The 76ers, on the other hand, built up a big lead and kept that big lead, never really letting the visitors get even close to arm’s length through the entirety of the second half.

It was a comprehensive win and probably the first true blowout of the season, with the Sixers coming off of two days’ rest for the first time since November 7th while the Knicks were on the second night of a road back-to-back.

We were sitting there waiting for the New York run that never came, and that’s because Brett Brown says his team did a nice job of taking care of the ball and disallowing second chance opportunities:

I think we did a pretty good job with rebounding, defensively. I think we did a pretty good job with turnovers; there was that stretch in the third that we got sloppy, I think we had three possessions and three turnovers in a row. Usually when leads swing and things quickly evaporate, to me, the connection of the dots is that, it’s turnovers and probably making some threes at the other end of transition. Easy baskets after the turnovers and do they punish sort of if you don’t have a first shot defense like you need to and they get put backs. I thought we did those two things and therefore could easily maintain the lead.

Even if the Knicks did get some decent looks from three, they couldn’t hit anything. New York was 8.7% from deep about midway through the third quarter and finished the game 6-29 in that department while hitting at just 34.8% from the field.

That’s pretty bad.

Philly only allowed nine second chance points while turning the ball over 16 times and shooting 54% from the floor, which is the recipe for an ass kicking against a tired team on your home floor.

The two-man game

JJ Redick and Joel Embiid showed flashes of brilliance last year as they worked together in frequent elbow sets with a high-dosage of dribble hand-off and simple option basketball.

They were clicking last night to the tune of 50 combined points with Embiid racking up 7 assists and Redick shooting 71.4% from the field.

As someone who watches a lot of college football, seeing Joel and JJ operate is like witnessing the world’s most effective RPO. It’s like watching a Chip Kelly team reach the pinnacle of execution:

It’s just so hard to defend. Redick moves off the ball so quickly and you’re chasing him right into an Embiid screen. If the big steps up, Redick just slips it inside instead. There’s a ton of space at the elbow with three other players cleared out to the other side of the floor.

Something else I found interesting was that Redick and Landry Shamet spent a good ten minutes after practice on Tuesday working on reverse layups.

Yes, reverse layups.

“They’re rarely going to ever get that opportunity in a game,” I thought to myself, but sure enough it happened last night:

That spacing is really something else, isn’t it? Enes Kanter is a good 22 feet from the rim because he’s being dragged out by Embiid. Redick curls off of Jimmy Butler this time and because there’s no interior help, he just takes it himself.

Redick was asked about it:

Just trying to read things. (Assistant coach) Billy Lange and I were talking about this (Tuesday), so much attention is given to my three-point shooting and defenses play on that and it tends to open things up. In the two-man game with Jo, that’s why it’s so hard to guard, because if they step up with the big, then Jo is open on that backside, which happened twice tonight. Sometimes it could be a pocket pass, sometimes it could be that late feed. If he never really steps up, then I can sort of get all the way to the cup. And then there are other times, I’m thinking of a few times where I’m coming off the other side late in games, that was at Memphis or here against New Orleans, and that’s just making reads. If that help defender doesn’t come, then you can just sort of use that float game.

I’m a big fan of the Redick float game.

He mentions in that quote that Embiid was open on the backside twice last night, and here’s what he means:

Yep. See how long it takes the help to get there? And Redick is passing out of a shooting motion, so he just holds and executes to perfection.

It’s just so easy for these guys to get buckets running that two-man game.

Mike Moose-scala

I don’t have much else to talk about in a blowout win, so let me spend some time on a topic that I don’t think other people are going to spend much time on.

If you’re like me, you feel the Sixers probably need a backup big in the trade or buyout market. Amir Johnson has given the team some tough minutes over the past season and a quarter, but I don’t know if you can carry him into the playoffs on 12 to 14 a night.

Brown has tried some different things in recent weeks, using Mike Muscala at the five and also trying Ben Simmons there. Muscala again played some center last night and he had a couple of matchups against Kanter on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, obviously Mike gives you what Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova gave you in those small ball 2018 looks, which is the ability to stretch the floor:

Kanter is again dragged out to the perimeter and just sort of flailing around out there.

That’s certainly no issue then, using Muscala to space the floor as a stretch five.

I just wonder if he’s “thick” enough defensively to battle with starting quality Eastern Conference bigs. Can he give you serious minutes against the likes of Aron Baynes and Jonas Valanciunas and other playoff-team fives?


Knicks bounce, sure, but Kanter does get pretty good position on Muscala there and gets the offensive board before turning it over. Mike is listed around 239 pounds while Kanter is around 260. Baynes is something like 250. Muscala is going to be giving up 10+ pounds to most of the bigs he guards as a five.

He did get Kanter on an offensive foul during this stretch, so it was a mixed bag in terms of how he did defensively at the five.

Muscala on that:

He’s a beast, on the offensive glass especially, and posting up. He’s very physical. I was able to draw that one offensive foul against him. He’s a heck of a player, and that was a focus tonight. Collectively, we did a really good job keeping him off the glass. He still got a lot of rebounds, but I think Ben coming in and helping the bigs, helping me, just making it a team effort helps.

Simmons does help with rebounding when he plays power forward, for sure. And when he gets those boards he can start in transition right away.

Here’s Brett Brown on Muscala defending Kanter:

Kanter’s a load no matter who’s guarding him. He is a bull as a post player. I thought that Mike did a good job, a serviceable job moving his feet, I think he took one charge. I thought he did a decent job on the boards. (Kanter) historically has been difficult for us, and I suppose a lot of coaches would say that, but I thought Mike did okay on him.

Here’s the matchup data for Muscala from last night:

15 possessions against Kanter and 13 against Knox. Mitchell Robinson was in the mix, too, though he didn’t take a single shot against Muscala. They didn’t do much of anything against him, all three guys.

It’s a start. If they can get something out of Moose as a stretch five and maybe look for a power forward in the trade or buyout market, I think that’s more viable going into the playoffs than carrying a 31 year old Amir Johnson into the home stretch.

Other notes:

  • Ben Simmons shot 5-9 last night and did have a missed jump shot attempt, which was a difficult turn around from what appeared to be 7 to 8 feet out
  • Landry Shamet tried a reverse dunk in this game and the ball slipped out of his hands, but it would have been something
  • Joel Embiid put a ridiculous spin move on Trey Burke and threw down a vicious dunk. It’s kind of crazy seeing a 7 foot center put a 6 foot guard in the spin cycle from 15 feet out.
  • Jimmy Butler had 7 points on 3-7 shooting and had an incredibly quiet game. They didn’t even need him out there.
  • Furkan Korkmaz tried 10 shots last, some of which took place in garbage time, but he got a four-point play out of a transition corner three and I still think he’s got a bit of game in him.
  • 8, 6, and 4 for Wilson Chandler last night on 3-6 shooting with a couple of three balls. He’s becoming a solid glue guy on that starting unit.
  • From the Sixers’ PR staff: The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the New York Knicks, 117-91, for their fifth straight win against New York, dating back to Dec. 25, 2017. This is the 76ers’ longest winning streak against the Knicks since they won six consecutive contests from Feb. 20, 2008-Oct. 31, 2009 

I’ll leave you with this: