Jimmy Butler at the Point – Observations from Sixers 121, Lakers 105

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Easy win against a short-handed Lakers squad.*

No LeBron James, no Kyle Kuzma, no real chance for Los Angeles against a Sixers squad playing with all three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler for the first time since last Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City.

Philly jumped all over the Lakers early, putting Luke Walton’s turnover-prone team through the transition grinder en route to a 39-point 1st quarter. They went on cruise control from there and staved off a couple of LA runs for a 16-point road win. The Sixers are now 33-18 on the season and 4-2 through their current 12-game hellish stretch.

Philly turned 21 Laker turnovers into 34 points. Los Angeles posted a 20.4 turnover percentage, which was the second-worst number a team has mustered against the Sixers this season, behind Atlanta’s 21.6% from a few weeks ago. The Sixers turned those Atlanta cough-ups into 35 points and still lost the game, so go figure.

This time they took advantage of the early miscues, ran the floor, threw playground lobs, and got to a point where they were comfortably ahead and able to experiment a bit with the lineup.

Pick and roll and pop

Are you one of those people who hates Brett Brown’s motion offense? Would you like to see more pick and roll?

Last night was your night.

Brown used Jimmy Butler at point guard for stretches of the game, showing a couple of different lineups with Butler handling the ball. It started at the end of the 1st quarter with a grouping that looked like this:

  1. Butler
  2. JJ Redick
  3. Corey Brewer
  4. Wilson Chandler
  5. Joel Embiid

And then Brett switched it up to put this on the floor:

  1. Butler
  2. Redick
  3. Chandler
  4. Mike Muscala
  5. Embiid

So two different looks there, one using Chandler as a power forward and one where the Sixers went bigger with Muscala as a stretch four, allowing Chandler to move down to small forward instead.

There was a chunk of possessions in the third quarter where they went back to this lineup and ran something like three straight pick and rolls with Butler and Embiid, which I clipped below. Sorry for the quality; I had to pull them off the TV in order to show the full possession:

Two fouls earned and a ridiculous turnaround fade for Embiid. They spread the floor really well on these sequences and Joel just found more space popping to the arc with JaVale McGee sitting in that elbow-high zone.

Shortly after, Brown brought Simmons back in to play him at the four with Butler continuing to handle the ball. They ran two straight plays where they dumped it down to Ben on the wing, foul-line extended, and let him run pick and roll with Embiid in a different area of the floor:

Soft flare to the wing, Embiid screen, open path to the rim.

Los Angeles defended it a lot better the second time around:

That’s still a decent post look for Embiid, but LA took away Simmons’ ability to drive this time around.

It’s positive stuff there, and a blueprint for what some pick and roll and isolation might look like in the playoffs if they continue to develop it. I think the Sixers are best when moving up and down the floor and slinging the ball around, but postseason basketball is about executing in the half court and allowing stars to be stars, so if they can add this wrinkle to the offense, it should really help when they inevitably meet up with the Raptors, Bucks, or Celtics.

One thing I think Brett needs to stay away from, especially if he’s going to let Butler and Landry Shamet handle the ball a bit, is the Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell lineup. There are just too many spacing and shooting issues when T.J. and Ben are on the floor together. The Sixers are a -57 with those two on the court together and a -5.3 in net rating. They just need to stay away from that look altogether.

Players only

The TNT broadcast was predictably horrendous.

I appreciate the “players only” thing and think it’s a decent idea on paper. Some of these broadcasts are entertaining and some are terrible, but in theory you’re getting more insight from people who actually played the game, right?

The problem, especially with a three-man booth of Kevin McHale, Greg Anthony, and Jim Jackson, is that they don’t have a veteran play-by-play guy to set the tone and sort of guide them through the broadcast. It sounded like three dudes just talking over each other the entire time. The halftime discussion, which brought in Baron Davis and Shaq and Candace Parker and somebody else in the studio who I can’t remember – that basically just turned into a cluster$%#! of seven people trying to talk at the same time. It wasn’t even listenable.

Add in the fact that Jackson couldn’t pronounce “Shamet” properly, and it just sounded like amateur hour out there, like a bunch of buddies watching the game on their couch and eating Taco Bell.

Imagine if there was a basketball game that was for “media only.” Would you watch it? Probably not. Same thing for allowing seven players to do a broadcast without any kind of pro guidance, tempo, or flow.

Other notes:

  • Nice night for Mike Muscala, who scored 17 points on 6-13 shooting. He answered a posterization with a stone-cold three at the other end, then got a big put-back bucket to stem a 7-0 Lakers run. He grabbed 7 rebounds while also taking an elbow to the chest from Josh Hart and tangling down low on multiple possessions.
  • Butler scored 20 points on 9 shots and only missed twice. He was 5-6 from the foul line with 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 6 assists, and 1 turnover. Talk about efficiency. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
  • Embiid’s back is apparently fine.
  • Wilson Chandler took 7 three pointers last night and hit three of them. He gets a lot of open looks and he’s shooting 4 percentage points above his career high, hitting at 38.9% right now. Only once has he finished a season with a better three-point number, so if he keeps knocking them down at a decent clip, it’ll really help the team moving forward.
  • Corey Brewer came back down to Earth with a 0-6 shooting night. He still brings the energy defensively every night.
  • Furkan Korkmaz played 1 minute. He’s pretty much out of the rotation right now when everybody else is available.
  • Big fan of Amir Johnson’s “passing the blunt” routine with Jimmy Butler:

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7 Responses

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