With the Sixers clearly looking ahead to Boston, it’s no surprise they weren’t exactly locked in last night.
But they won a tricky road game without their best player, which is mission accomplished in a trap-like game sandwiched between contests with the 1st-place Milwaukee Bucks and arch-nemesis Celtics.
That considered, you’d have to say last night was a glass-half-full type of success, and it completes a 4-0 season sweep of the Charlotte Hornets, a team that the Sixers have not lost to since November 2nd, 2016. Philly is 10-0 since, taking all four games this season by margins of 4 points, 3 points, 2 points, and 1 point, with two of those wins coming in overtime.
Speaking of close games, the Sixers are pretty damn good in this department. For all of the talk about “closing” and learning how to finish, Brett Brown’s team is 28-12 in games decided by five or fewer points. NBA.com says that’s #1 in the league, a winning percentage of 70. Number two in the league is Denver at 67.5% (27-13) and San Antonio is third at 64.7% (22-12).
Of course, you would probably have to do further research to see how many times those teams won games of five points or fewer when holding larger leads earlier in the fourth quarter (i.e. did they “blow a lead”), but ultimately the point remains sound – the Sixers are finding ways to win close ones. And honestly, they need experience playing in these types of games, because that’s what playoff basketball is. It’s about executing in the half court and finding ways to manage close contests, which the Sixers are finding ways to do in recent weeks.
JJ Redick’s almost triple-double game
27 points, a career-high 10 rebounds, and 8 assists for JJ in his return to North Carolina.
He was cooking early last night, which is big on any night as the Sixers look to get into an offensive rhythm, but his 21 first-half points really set the tone and opened things up for his teammates elsewhere.
JJ finished 7-14 from three, which is only the fifth time this season he’s shot above 40% in that department when attempting double-digit efforts.
More than anything, he’s snapping out of the funk that plagued him earlier his month. JJ is now 22-40 from three over his last five games, hitting 55% of his three-point attempts since putting up a 1-9 clunker in the Houston loss.
Another thing that happens when JJ is hitting is that it opens up other actions from the dribble hand-off. Last night Ben Simmons, who finished with a team-high 28 points, carved up Charlotte on multiple occasions with the DHO fake:
Ben had himself a night, shooting 11-12 from the floor (91.7%) and hitting 6 of 10 free throws, which is right around his season average.
Jimmy as a closer
23 points on 8-19 shooting last night with a 6-6 mark from the foul line.
Jimmy Butler has really grown into this closer role over the past few games, hasn’t he? He can get that mid-range step back jumper off against pretty much any defender, and his ability take control of a game after sometimes being a bystander for 3.5 prior quarters I think is really impressive.
Over the last three fourth quarters, in the Hornets game, Bucks game, and Kings game, Butler is 5-8 in the final four minutes of those games. He was 2-4 last night, 2-3 on Sunday, and 1-1 Friday, handling the ball in pick and roll and isolation sets as the Sixers slow things down in the half court.
This was a humongous shot last night:
Good sign for the playoffs, Butler as a closer, and it masques Ben Simmons’ weakness as a non-shooting point guard when Jimmy takes over this role to help put games to bed.
- 21 points on 18 shots for Kemba Walker last night, who found himself in foul trouble early on.
- Boban only played 10:29 as the Sixers went small in the second half and rolled with Amir Johnson for mobility.
- I also assume the that’s why T.J. McConnell was on the floor for the final defensive play, as the Sixers looked to prevent a game-winning three-point shot. Jeremy Lamb missed a gimme over the smaller T.J., so Philly got probably away with one there. Mike Scott had fouled out earlier, or I think he would have been out there instead. Other defensive options were Johnson, Jonah Bolden, Redick, and Jonathon Simmons, who had played 0 minutes at that point.
- RE: the final play, the other thing to consider is that if Lamb’s shot had gone done, the Sixers had one timeout remaining and 3.5 seconds on the clock. They would have had time to draw something up and get a shot off.
- I don’t think James Ennis fouled Lamb on the second to last sequence, the three-point shot. Iffy call there.
- Tobias Harris might have pushed off on his clutch offensive rebound before the Ennis three.
- Just 7 turnovers last night for the Sixers.
- Bolden is still committing too many fouls.
- Ennis was the only bench player to score. He had 14 points.
Boston tonight. The Sixers really, really need a win over the Celtics to create some good vibes going into the postseason.