Assorted Ailments – Observations from Sixers 116, Pistons 102

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

That was a pretty straightforward win.

There was a weird portion of the game where Detroit pulled within three, and I was sitting there thinking to myself, “surely they’re not going to blow this while playing at home with Joel Embiid while Blake Griffin sits.” That would be absurd considering that they went out and beat the Pistons on the road three days prior without Joel Embiid while Blake Griffin played. It would have been like entering the “upside down” from Stranger Things, or Seinfeld’s “bizarro world” or just the Twilight Zone in general.

But it didn’t happen, and even after Jimmy Butler left the game with a groin strain, the Sixers found a way to blow it open in the fourth for a comfortable, 14-point win.

Brett Brown did not have an update on Butler, but I imagine we’ll get one after practice this afternoon around 1:15 p.m.

Holding yourself to a high standard

Most of my focus last night was watching Joel Embiid’s offensive positioning and body language, to see where his starting points were and if he seemed to be annoyed with his role. This was, after all, the first game he played since the Keith Pompey article came out last week, featuring some quotes that suggested that he was unhappy with his play and the way he was being deployed on the floor.

I didn’t see much to suggest that anything was truly different, and of course Butler’s injury departure cut short the amount of time they played together, so there weren’t a ton of great examples to look at last night. Ben Simmons was also ultra-aggressive in the first quarter, so he did a lot of early-shot clock driving and didn’t flow into the base offense on too many occasions.

This was one example, and while it was kind of sloppy, it works for this exercise:

They sort of botch that, but you see how they swing it into a DHO with Redick, and then Joel peels down to the post with 10 seconds on the shot clock.

That’s how they get him most of his post touches, running that two-man game with JJ and then sliding down on the ball side. In this sequence he passes out of the double team for Butler, who gets a clean three-point look, so they actually turn a wonky possession into a decent shot.

This is how the base motion offense really is supposed to look:

Embiid is the trailing big, so they run that “A to B” motion with him and T.J. McConnell before swinging into a DHO with Redick. JJ kicks the ball back out, Joel takes it to the post, throws it out, and gets it back.

The whole point is that Joel starts most of the Sixers’ possessions on the perimeter, no matter if it’s the base offense or various horns and clear-out sets. He still gets post touches though because he inevitably winds up down there off the DHO with Redick in the two-man game.

I’m not entirely sure what his frustration is with the Butler thing, but certainly if you dial up specific looks for Jimmy or just call a simple pick and roll or iso or something like that, of course you’re not going to be involved. And in the Toronto game, when Joel was being run ragged, I honestly would blame that on Simmons to continuing to push a ridiculous and frenetic pace into the fourth quarter. When you are inbounding the ball as the trailing big, you’re just going to be exhausted hauling ass up and down the floor.

Speaking of ass, Joel opened his media availability by explaining that he had recently experienced a migraine and diarrhea. Brett Brown also confirmed that he wasn’t sure he would have Jo available to play until “late,” which I assume would be a short time before the game.

Embiid then elaborated on the quotes he gave in the Pompey story:

That was just me frustrated with the way I was playing. I know everybody took it out of context. But I love everybody and I love my teammates and I love the coaching staff and I think everybody that knows me knows that. (It’s) me being frustrated because I hold myself to a really high standard. I played a role in whatever was said, but I had a conversation with coach. It starts with me but there’s a lot of adjustments that we can all make. It’s just the frustration of playing… I’ve never really been in that situation; usually if I’m in a slump it’s two or three days but it’s been going on for like ten games. Also it’s because I hold myself to a certain standard. But it’s the past, we moved on and everything is great.

Joel had 24 points and 8 rebounds with 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks last night. He only shot 6 for 16 but hit 11 of 14 free throws and finished with the world’s quietest +30, so go figure. If Butler is out for a few games, this issue won’t be much of anything moving forward, but we’ll see what happens once the starting five is back together.

Ring that bell brotha

Furkan Korkmaz rang it.

He finished with a career-high 18 points last night on 7-12 shooting off the bench. He also grabbed seven rebounds and played some decent defense on the other side of the floor.

I asked Furkan how he felt and what was working for him last night:

Of course the feeling is really good you know? Sometimes you are playing good – really good – but the team (is losing). I feel like I played good and then we won the game. Things are changing really quickly here. After the trade I started to find more opportunities here, so I’m talking to the coaching staff and some of the players on the team about how I can be ready every time. I was ready today. I think every time I just go out there and play.

That was sort of a softball question to set up the next one, because I don’t like asking the asshole question right off the bat when a player has a good game. It’s usually more fair to throw something generic at a guy and let him answer it how he wants to, then if you have something that’s a little more “pointed,” you do that next. In this case, I wanted to ask him how he felt about his contract option not being picked up and whether or not he feels like he has something to prove when he hits the floor:

I mean, like I said, things are changing really quickly here in the NBA. Right now that’s the decision from the organization and from the coaching staff and the front office. I can’t make any comment about it. I just need to keep working and keep being professional. When the opportunity comes, when the time comes, I just need to show the people that yes, I can play.

A diplomatic answer. Not sure what else he can really say there.

To his credit, he’s taken the opportunity and really rolled with it. Furkan has been given double-digit minutes in four of his last six games, and he’s reached double-digit points in three of those four outings.

There’s never been a doubt that he can shoot the ball, but defensively he’s improving and he looks more comfortable playing the NBA game.

Brown on Furk:

He’s not intimidated by NBA basketball. He’s not intimidated by the moment. I don’t know how much you paid attention to Turkey in the qualification series, but, I have said this a lot, he was one of the better guards in that tournament. He’s got a bounce, he has an inner belief, there is a swagger that he has when he is going to make a play. He may miss a lot of shots, he may make a lot of shots, but there really isn’t any sort of trepidation, there is not a back down in Furkan. I thought he played the game well and he played it with a lot of confidence.

Looks like the decision not to pick up his contract option was slightly premature. We’ll have to see how that plays out.

Other notes:

  • Zack Steffen was the Sixers’ bell ringer. He’s the American goalkeeper who is headed to Manchester City this winter. I don’t think many people in the arena knew who he was.
  • The free throw shooting was pretty poor on both ends of the floor last night. Ben Simmons finished 2-9.
  • Ben was aggressive early and also when he came back in at the 8 minute mark of the fourth quarter. Detroit just didn’t have an answer for him on some of those bulldozer drives to the rack.
  • I swear that Ben is using that snatch dribble more this year. He threw it again on that pass to JJ Redick towards the end of the game, but when I asked Simmons about it, he didn’t have much to say, just explaining that it’s something that comes naturally to him and he really doesn’t think about using it. It’s hard to get much of anything out of Ben when it comes to quotes. He’s better I think after practice because before and after games he’s just bashed over the head with a million questions about the same topics.
  • The Sixers’ bench scored 52 points last night, or 54 if you want to add Amir Johnson’s late dunk. But the four-man rotation of Korkmaz, McConnell, Landry Shamet, and Mike Muscala really did a nice job covering for Butler’s injury and a quiet night from Redick, who was 3-12 on the evening.
  • Somebody once told me that I look like Furkan Korkmaz. Do I look like him?
  • Shake Milton has assumed Robert Covington’s role of the hype man during the Wendy’s “Frosty Freeze Out.” It was “next man up,” according to T.J. McConnell. 

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5 Responses

  1. I don’t want to get too bitchy about a win here, but the fact that the Pistons had it to 3 was concerning. Detroit sans Blake is one of the easiest games on the schedule. I know teams make runs but these are the games where I’m fine if they play 50/50 basketball in the first half, but the Sixers should be owning the 3rd quarter, pulling out to the 20 point lead to convince Detroit they have no shot, and Ben and Joel should be on the bench for a vast majority of the 4th quarter. A wins a win, but I came away from that one a bit cold.

    Also, with Croatian Jordan moving on and inevitably leading the surging Wolves to the Western finals, I am now on Furkan watch. Solid game, looking confident. FU mode Furkan is the best Furkan.

  2. Oh, and TJ’s obliviousness as he was stripped from behind while causally bringing the ball up gave me a migraine and diarrhea. Praying for healed Fultz intensifies.

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