Yeah, the Sixers could have lost that game, but they didn’t. They won.
So, no, I wouldn’t worry about Brett Brown’s coaching performance in the final game of a four-game west coast road swing, on the second night of a back-to-back, without the services of Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler. Jonah Bolden’s early foul trouble threw an already paper-thin rotation out whack, resulting in the necessity of 40 combined bench minutes for T.J. McConnell and Demetrius Jackson.
You live with that.
You live with three wins in four games on the road swing, and you live with the bad loss to Portland, because it happens to every team. The Sixers are coming home with a record of 25-14 and will be favored to win their next six games, a stretch that begins Saturday at home against Dallas and features a murderer’s row of Washington twice, New York, Atlanta, and Minnesota.
Joel’s big night
He tied a season-high with 42 points to go along with 18 rebounds last night.
He did it while shooting just one three-pointer, which I think is probably the biggest takeaway for me. Joel also attempted a ridiculous 16 free throws in the first half alone, then only got to the line three times in the second half, so that was part of the reason why Phoenix mounted that comeback.
Check out Jo’s shot chart:
Can’t ask for much more than that. He didn’t shoot his mid-range shot particularly well, but he feasted around the rim and knocked down 17 of those 19 free throws. That’s an 89% mark from the foul line and his 7th best number from the stripe this season. It’s just so easy for him to get to the line when he’s dialed in and banging down low.
A couple of notes about his performance:
- He needed 39 minutes to score 42 points two months ago against Charlotte. He reached 42 playing just 36 minutes last night, so he was more efficient in Phoenix.
- 23 field goal attempts was his fourth-most this year.
- It was the 17th time he’s shot above 50% from the floor. He has three games where he’s shot 50% flat, so he’s been at or above that mark in 20 of his 37 games.
- The Sixers are 7-1 in games where Joel shoots two or fewer three pointers. I’m not sure if there’s a recurring theme in any of those matchups, but it might be worth looking into to see if there’s a correlation.
- The Sixers are 7-2 in nine games where Joel shoots 14 or more foul shots.
- Joel’s season-high in steals is 3. He’s done it twice: at Phoenix and home to Phoenix.
- 4 turnovers is right around a season average, but you don’t mind that number when Joel’s usage is as high as it was last night.
Interestingly enough, the one three-pointer Joel did attempt was a really well-executed design. Sometimes they run this little baseline back screen to get a post-up on the other side of the paint, and Embiid instead optioned off of it, going high and using an elbow screen from Bolden to free himself of Richaun Holmes:
Nicely done. Good body there from Bolden without getting whistled.
29 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and a nice night playing some power forward minutes.
Say whatever you want about Ben’s lack of progress in shooting the basketball, but his off-ball improvement this season has been noticeable. He really is doing a nice job of getting into good post positions, where he can finish around the rim or just use his brilliant passing ability to facility from the blocks instead of the perimeter.
Great pass here:
Mikal Bridges snoozing there. Don’t tell Kyle.
And here he takes advantage of an obvious size mismatch over De’Anthony Melton:
I know you might be thinking, “well, this is what Embiid should be doing,” and that’s fair. Posting Ben keeps Joel on the perimeter, but there are plenty of possessions where the Sixers can use Ben’s improved block play to their advantage, especially in situations when Jo is off the floor and T.J. is in the game and running the point.
Would it be more important to Ben to develop his jump shot? Probably, but he’s been good down low this year, so his overall growth certainly has not stagnated in year two, it’s just occurring in an area that most of us didn’t expect.
- 54 free throws is a season-high for the Sixers. The previous high was 51 in the November 3rd Detroit home win.
- Jonah Bolden: should have been a big night for him in the starting lineup, but he only played 15 minutes because he got himself into early foul trouble.
- Phoenix is a wretched defensive team.
- Mike Muscala was 0-1 and accrued five fouls in 23 minutes of play. They need more out of him in every department.
- Good night for JJ Redick, who was 7-12 and 5-8 from deep. A short-handed team needed contributions from Joel, Ben, and JJ, and those three guys got the job done last night.