Fans viciously booed Jerryd Bayless as Corey Brewer and Amir Johnson swung the ball around on the other end of the floor with the Sixers up 40. It’s not exactly how I pictured the Robert Covington and Dario Saric return game playing out.
Yet play out in that way it did, as Yoda would say. The Sixers were clubbing the Timberwolves so badly that fans needed something to entertain themselves, and booing Bayless was the entertainment.
149 is the most points scored by the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, ever. Sixers PR dug up the statistic and found that you’d have to go all the way back to 1990 to find the last time the team scored 149 in a game. Charles Barkley had 38 and 13 in a March 30th win against the Nuggets.
Also worth mentioning is that last night’s 21 made three-pointers ended up being a franchise record while 40 assists and a 59.8 field goal percentage were both season highs.
So yeah, they played pretty well, and it’s a great way to enter the toughest stretch of their schedule, a hellish murderer’s row of 11 playoff teams over the next 12 games. We’re gonna see if this team really has it or not, since the cupcake portion of the schedule is mercifully over.
Mixing and matching
The only new or interesting wrinkle from last night was a bit of a tweak in Brett Brown’s rotation. We saw Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid on the floor together while Ben Simmons and JJ Redick were on the bench.
That’s happened rarely this season. Brett typically prefers to play Simmons and Butler in lineups together while Embiid sits. Last night some of that re-jiggering resulted in different looks that included Wilson Chandler at small forward, where he played a large portion of his minutes with the Nuggets and Knicks.
We are at a stage where we need to find some level of being solid and some level of experiment. And I think that to pair Joel and to pair Jimmy is always been of interest, trying to break up a little bit the Joel and JJ thing and to move Wilson to a wing has always been of interest. And so in this middle third to try things, as things become a little bit up in the air, especially the last few games, we decided to just move full forward with that.
You see Wilson at a three and Jonah at a five and pairing Joel and Jimmy. Because I think when you look down deep, on my mind is always ‘what’s coming?’ What’s coming? It’s playoff basketball. Those two guys will be featured a lot. Last year it was Joel and JJ a lot and it will still happen. But at the end of the day I really think that those two, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler, will be featured in more prominent ways, maybe than any pairing.
Right. Good answer. Playoff basketball is star driven, half court basketball.
Here are a couple of offensive possessions from those Jimmy/Joel late 2nd quarter minutes, a lineup that also featured T.J. McConnell at point, Landry Shamet at shooting guard, and Mike Muscala at power forward:
Clip 1, they run Jimmy through some staggered screens, that sort of pseudo-Allen Iverson cut. There’s defensive confusion from Minnesota, resulting in a mismatch Joel, who tries an elbow jumper over Dario Saric.
Same thing in clip 2, except Butler gets the ball and hits a really tough turnaround jumper. Those Iverson cuts, which are more or less flares to the opposite wing, are a good way to get Jimmy some iso looks, though Joel is then sort of standing out on the perimeter.
Then in clip 3 it’s just Butler/Embiid two-man game, with Jimmy taking a rare catch and shoot three-pointer off a dribble hand-off.
That’s all good stuff. Experiment now. Figure it out. Mix and match. Of course they need to compile wins, so you don’t want to stray too far from your base, but Brett Brown’s goal in the next three months is to get his stars working together as smoothly as possible, and when you can do some of that tinkering during an easy win, it’s the most ideal situation you can find yourself in.
For what it’s worth, the Sixers current starting lineup is a +69 in 232 minutes on the floor together with a 112.7 offensive rating and 98.6 defensive rating. That’s a +14.1 net. For all of the talk about the base motion and team chemistry and whatever, that unit is performing extremely well on the offensive end of the floor. And for comparison, the five-man group of Redick, Embiid, Simmons, Saric, and Covington played 106 minutes this season while putting up a -0.4 net rating. Swap in Markelle Fultz for Redick and it’s a -1.4 net rating over 65 total minutes. So it’s just more confirmation that yes, the Sixers are better with Butler, but they’re also top-heavy with little depth beyond the starting five.
When you break it down into two-man groupings, Butler has spent 726 minutes on the floor with Ben Simmons but only 469 minutes with Joel Embiid. Both lineups have a +4.6 net rating. I think the reason for the disparity there is that Brett Brown, #1, likes to stagger Embiid and Simmons so that one of those guys is always on the court, but, #2, separating Jimmy and Joel outside of the starting five theoretically allows each one to get more touches and take more shots during other portions of the game.
In this case, as you saw last night, he put them together more often without Simmons and Redick on the floor, and that gives us a good chunk of data, a starting point to finding out whether these lineups can be viable moving forward.
A few good seconds with Wilson Chandler
Wilson Chandler doesn’t do much media. He’s a nice guy, but doesn’t usually have too much to say.
We got a rare podium appearance from him last night, and while the takeaway was Joel Embiid jokingly interrupting him, Chandler did answer a couple of questions:
Crossing Broad: How do you think you’ve been playing recently and how are you fitting into this system?
Chandler: It’s been a tough process for me but I think I’m starting to figure it out.
Crossing Broad: How so?
Chandler: Just playing off Jo and Ben, where to be aggressive and where to find shots.
Crossing Broad: Is it difficult or unique to be playing with four high-usage guys who like to have the ball and need to take shots?
Chandler: Yeah, just unique.
Maybe we can get him off to the side at some point in the near future. He’s a veteran guy, he’s played a lot of basketball and seen a lot of things. It would be good to pick his brain and get his take on how the offense is working, how the stars are clicking, and what he’s seeing on defense. He played well last night, putting up 14, 5, and 4 on 5-7 shooting while going 4-6 from behind the arc. That’s really all that needs to be asked of him at this point: play defense, grab some boards, be a glue guy on offense, etc. Brett played him a bit as a small forward last night, which is where you saw him log a ton of minutes in New York and Denver over the course of his career. You’d have to go back over several hundred games, but I’m pretty sure Chandler has played more small forward than power forward during his years in the NBA.
- Marc Zumoff was the pre-game bell ringer. Marc is currently in his 25th season as the play-by-play announcer
- Per Sixers PR via Basketball Reference: Philadelphia now has a league-best seven games this season with at least 50 rebounds and 30 assists. This was the first time an NBA team had 50-40 game in regulation this season. The last team to produce such a game was Atlanta on Nov. 15, 2017
- Also: The 40 assists, an NBA season-high in regulation, are the most Philadelphia has recorded in regulation since they had 45 on Dec. 7, 1988
- RE: Bayless, I ran a poll asking whether his booing was fair or not. The results are around 50/50 so far:
Poll: is the booing of Jerryd Bayless fair?
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) January 16, 2019
I do kind of wonder why Bayless was the target of fan ire. I think it’s two things. First, he’s a product of the unpopular Bryan Colangelo era. Second, his body language was sort of “meh” when he was here. I think the fans picked up on that. I know he was injured during his first year, then he didn’t play a lot in his second year, but he never said anything or did anything to really sell the fan base on his mentality or motivation. He always looked disinterested, in my opinion.
Here was the tribute video the Sixers showed for Covington (injured, didn’t play), Saric, and Bayless:
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) January 16, 2019
Dario started 4-4 last night and finished 5-9 for 11 points while adding 5 rebounds and 2 assists.