More Purpose and More Energy – Observations from Sixers 123, Nets 110

Boban on the defensive end
Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For the 5th time this season, the Sixers followed up a two-game losing streak with a win.

In other words, they have not lost three in a row this year.

Nice bounce-back last night after disappointing performances in Orlando and Atlanta. The Sixers came out with much more purpose and much more energy, jumped out to a big lead, and never really allowed Brooklyn to get too close for comfort. Additionally, they knocked the Nets out of the 6th seed and helped position themselves for a better first round playoff matchup. It was a victory both on and off the floor.

That should pretty much do it for Brooklyn as a possible six seed, since they play their next three games against Milwaukee, Indy, and Boston. Imagine that. Imagine finishing up a ridiculous seven-game road trip (how is that even allowed by the scheduling people?) and having to play three of the top five Eastern Conference squads at home. And they gotta play the Bucks on the road, too.

You should be hoping for a Pistons or Heat matchup in the 3/6 game, because those teams just give the Sixers fewer defensive issues than Brooklyn does.

Speaking of which:

Spread pick and roll and guards that score

The Sixers did a much better job defending Brooklyn’s tired guards in this one. No 39-point games from Spencer Dinwiddie or D’Angelo Russell. That pair scored just 26 points on 10-28 combined shooting while hitting just 2-10 from the three-point line.

Brett Brown on defending those two:

“The three-point shot is always where I go to with a lot of things, how do you defend the three-point line? Right now, we are the No. 1 team in the NBA defending the three-point line. We’ve worked hard to do that. At times it comes with pain, on the pressure that you apply. You know, like you can get driven on and stuff happens after that. And so, I go to there, like if you look at their three-point attempts, which is a decent place for me to start. And then, they didn’t make many when they did shoot the few that they shot. I go there, especially with this team. They are well-coached. I think that they run a pick-and-roll as well as anybody in the NBA. They space you and they got, you know players that can put it to the floor and break you down 1-on-1; ISO situations or run a pick-and-roll. I thought we did a pretty good job guarding those two tonight.”

I thought there were a couple of occasions last night where the Sixers just showed more desire to fight through screens or at least try to be more disruptive by being physical with screeners.

Here’s the first one:

Nice job by Ben Simmons to climb over the top of that screen, then actually walk Ed Davis into Dinwiddie, who settles for a difficult step-back three-pointer and air ball.

This was the other one that jumped out to me:

Again that’s a nice job of getting over the screen, this time by Shake Milton, and Russell settles for a poor shot while asking for a foul. If there was any contact, it honestly might have been a rub off his own teammate. Davis played 13 minutes last night and starter Jarrett Allen played less than nine minutes, I think as a combination of going small and just needing a rest.

Here’s what Kenny Atkinson said about that:

On the size matchup of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson versus Boban Marjanovic and Joel Embiid…

“It’s a big disadvantage, but we felt like we’re going to counter their size with speed. I don’t think we can match up size for size, it’s a little different way of thinking. I thought that was a way we could get back in the game and I thought Rondae gave us great speed out there and you got to live with the other side, it’s not great but I felt like down 18, down 20, we had to do something different.”

Going back to Brett’s quote, I think this part is worth honing in on:

“At times it comes with pain, on the pressure that you apply. You know, like you can get driven on and stuff happens after that.”

What he’s saying is that when you go over screens with aggression, most shooters are going to drive on your big, since the three-pointer is taken away. In both cases above, their guards settled for tough shots, but typically what the Sixers do is funnel the ball handler towards Joel Embiid, who will “zone” the pick and roll by sitting right around the elbow.


That’s a good starting point. Most teams are willing to live with long two-point attempts if they deny a three-pointer, but I think Joel is athletic enough to start about a foot off the elbow to at least make ball-handlers think twice about taking that easy mid-range look. I feel like he’s been sagging a bit too far at times this season, which allows them to drive and kick to the weakside or even find a shooter stationed in the near corner, as teammates collapse to help defend. There’s a sweet spot in zoning a pick and roll and last night Joel did a nice job of sitting right in there.

Even Boban was setting similar starting positions last night:

Boban will always have to start further back, especially since he’s less mobile, but I thought he did a decent job of moving his feet last night and sliding around. It’s a big weakness in his game, but at times last night he was able to cut off lobs while moving backwards simply because he’s so damn tall.

Overall – good defense last night against a team that has historically given the Sixers issues with their space and pick and roll game. I highly doubt the Sixers see these guys in the playoffs.

The technical fouls

Three on the Sixers last night as the Scott Foster show rolled through the Wells Fargo Center.

However you feel about those foul calls (some were highly questionable), the bottom line is that the Sixers surrendered three free-throws via a lack of composure and discipline.

I asked Brett about that after the game:

Brown: I don’t like them. In fact, I really don’t like them. Do I think we can show more discipline in that area? Yes. If that’s your question. How can I tell you I love technicals? (laughs)

Crossing Broad: I guess the question is –

Brown: It bugs me.

Crossing Broad: …is it something where you’d sit those guys down and talk to them about it?

Brown: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t like them. It doesn’t reflect what we’re gonna need going forward. Imagine going back and looking at your teammates, losing game one of a series because we weren’t able to control our emotions. That’s on me, too. Every once in a while I’ll get a tech and I’m mindful of it. Sometimes I feel like I should get one. But with the players, of course, it’s not something that most times is any good.

The good thing is that technicals really have not been a lingering issue this season. Joel Embiid is the Sixers’ biggest offender, but he’s only tied for 16th in the NBA with nine techs this season. Jimmy Butler is next in line, and he’s tied for 46th in the league with five techs. Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons have four each, which places them outside of the top 50 entirely.

But you know how it works. It just takes one game of shitty officiating for the whole thing to unravel, and we get a situation like we got last night. They’ve just got to try to hold their composure better, even when some bogus stuff is going on. The refs even called a makeup technical against D’Angelo Russell, who was on the bench at the time. They were all over the place last night.

Other notes:

  • Philly native and UFC fighter Paul Felder was last night’s pregame bell ringer. Fight Night is tomorrow night at the Wells Fargo Center, Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza in a headlining bout.
  • Light applause for a Billy Lange “thank you” video on the jumbotron, must have been a lot of Temple and Nova fans in the house. The Sixers assistant coached his final game and is taking over for Phil Martelli at St. Joe’s.
  • Boban hit another three-pointer. There was a point last night where he and Embiid were 4-4 from deep. I was trying to think of a corny statistic, something like, “right now players 7’2″ or taller are shooting 100% from the three-point arc.”
  • Shake Milton is a pretty good cutter. He plays a smooth offensive game.
  • The offensive foul call on Embiid leading to his technical was the right call. Joel stiff-armed the defender with his left while finishing with his right.
  • Despite hitting those early threes, Joel settled in to more of a post game, finishing the night with 16 free throw attempts vs. four three-point shots. I thought for sure he’d continue to shoot from deep, since he was hot, he put together a really balanced offensive performance.
  • Boban was able to do a lot of interior damage against that smaller Nets looks last night. He finished 6-8 from the floor.
  • The Sixers won the turnover battle, +6 in that area.
  • JJ Redick was hitting early last night. It’s so much easier for this team to get that entire first unit in a rhythm when he’s nailing those early clock transitional attempts.
  • For the first time ever, we reached stage three of the Wendy’s Frosty Freezeout. All Sixers fans in attendance won a free medium frosty and medium fries because the Nets bricked two free throws on three separate second half occasions. There is no stage four, FYI.
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9 Responses

  1. Ya know it’s almost like the Sixers play well when it matters and take nights off against teams that have no impact on the playoff situation. Its like they’re trying not to get their guys hurt so they can enter the playoffs healthy.

    So tired of the lame “is this team playoff ready” takes after a clunker against orlando. They are more than ready and they know exactly what they’re doing.

    1. I get it, and that’s what I have been wishfully thinking…the Atlanta game fits the bill. but it is a bit telling after a game like that they follow it up with a stinker against Orlando. I know the Magic were the hungrier team (fighting for a sandwich) trying to get in the playoffs, but getting the starters run off the court in the 4th in a lost cause is unacceptable. Glad they did what needed to be done last night and hope they don’t feel they can take the rest of the regular season off…the last few games outside of the Bucks are all either teams fighting for an 8th seed or mutts they seem to not care about playing, which is evidently their Achilles heel right now.

      1. I think they absolutely should take the rest of the season off. We are officially a veteran team now… everybody who matters knows what is coming in the playoffs. I get there is some benefit to “swim through the wall” but games like this show they can play hard when they have to.

        Look at what happened to Nurkic this week. If that happens to Embiid we are DONE before we start. We need to win enough games to keep the 3 seed, period.

  2. Boban looks really good for a guy who acted like he was dead on the court just a month ago.

    What an attention seeking over-reacting coward.

    1. We get it guy, you’re a bitter Knicks fan. Sorry that our team completely dismantled itself and built itself into a juggernaut from the ground up while yours continues to shit the bed every year. Maybe start rooting for the nets instead, they at least win basketball games occasionally.

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