Five wins in a row for your town, your team, your 76ers, who are having an excellent 10-day run.
Among the positives:
- They beat the Bucks in Milwaukee.
- They dispatched the Pacers to claim the season series and postseason tiebreaker.
- Joel Embiid is back and healthy.
- Jimmy Butler is hitting clutch 4th quarter shots.
- JJ Redick’s stroke is returning.
Make no mistake; all of that goodwill the club has built up over the past week and change goes straight to hell tonight if they lose again to the Celtics, which would drop them to 0-4 against Boston this season and shrink the three-game lead the Sixers currently have over Brad Stevens’ squad.
They desperately need this win. They need it for their own self confidence, to prove to themselves that they can beat good teams when it matters. They need to get that monkey off their back and ship the exorcised demon up to Boston along with that crappy Dropkick Murphys song, hopefully for good. If they don’t, it’s gonna be another torrent, another social media deluge of “Brett Brown can’t coach,” “Joel Embiid can’t figure out Al Horford,” and “Ben Simmons can’t shoot.” Sixers Twitter goes right back in the crapper with a loss tonight, and Phil Keidel then logs into Crossing Broad Slack chat to rip the coaching staff while Jeff and I waste our time arguing with him.
That’s what’s at stake.
More specifically, here’s what to look for and take into account tonight, after the jump:
The Sixers only shot 71% from the foul line in the three-point home loss from five weeks back. They’re a 77.5% free-throw shooting team, and Ben Simmons’ 2-7 mark on February 12th was a real killer. Jimmy Butler missed some key FTs at the end of the game as well, two of three at the 1:14 mark in the fourth quarter.
4-14 and 0-6 from three in his first Boston game. It was his 6th-worst shooting performance of the season, both as a Clipper and a Sixer, and he needs to give the Sixers something, anything tonight to get them over this hump.
Tobias has been shooting fine from inside the arc in recent games, but he’s just 6-22 from three going back to the Indiana tilt. Even hitting 2 to 3 three pointers tonight would be a big boost.
You know what Boston does. They’ll look for the mismatch and attack it over and over until you adjust. In the last game, you might remember Marcus Smart posting JJ Redick on several second half possessions, which forced the Sixers to scramble and rotate.
Said Brown about that:
There’s a physicality that you have to play with to beat them and you’re reminded of that. They do a really good job of going at mismatches, we could all see the difficulty at times that we had guarding some of the physicality of them trying to post us with different mismatches, those types of things. There’s a physicality that you learn from. They go at mismatches hard, they duck in, they’re physical with that philosophy.
Absolutely. The Sixers need to prevent these types of possessions from happening:
A lot of the postgame comments regarding these types of plays revolved around not necessarily Redick himself, but what teammates could do to help him. Butler and others pointed out that they are more than capable of putting more pressure on the ball and denying those entry passes to Smart.
Brett also said this:
I think you have to find some level of better ball pressure; you have to find some level of better resistance, sort of staggered steps, there’s some technique things that we can do better and I think most importantly that at times you can’t overreact. If tough twos for a while are the palatable shot and, admittedly, you can’t live like that, but periods of the game you can, then we have to be disciplined to do that. To start running around the gym and getting into scramble mode, isn’t in my interest, our interest either.
Embiid vs. Horford
Nobody defends Joel better than Al Horford.
He does a nice job of using low leverage to hold him in positions where he’s at tough scoring angles, and either too close to the rim to turn and face or too far to bully ball his way to the rack.
Gordon Hayward had a good quote on this last month:
Al’s a smart defender, so I think he’s able to use spacing and angles and really kind of knows when to gap him, when to get up to him. He’s also just a tough defender, like taking bumps, able to not get backed all the way down and then still being long enough to contest his jump shots. Embiid’s a monster, so for Al to play like that is really encouraging. We’ve seen him do it in the past too. That was a good job by Al.
Joel has to keep going at Horford. He can’t settle for eight three-pointers, as he did last game:
That’s too much on the perimeter, and even then Joel got Horford to five fouls by the end of the game. If he’s consistently down there in the low post putting pressure on the opposing five, then that turns the tide. You all remember how Joel finally started clicking in the fourth quarter of the last game and even felt like he was robbed on the no-call in the final 90 seconds of play.
Hayward shot 8-11 off the bench in the last game and 6-7 from three to lead the Celtics with 26 points.
He is OUT tonight due to concussion protocol.
Horford is listed as PROBABLE with left knee soreness. He played 33 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Nuggets.
Aron Baynes did not play in the last Philly game, but is available tonight. He’s been very quiet since returning to the lineup on March 3rd but typically plays well against the Sixers.
Simmons only took nine shots in the last game, but hit seven of those, so you’d like to see aggressive Ben out there.
He did, however, log just five assists vs. three turnovers and the Sixers only scored 12 fast break points against a season average of 15.7. Look for Boston to get back to defend Philly’s transition game while sending Horford to the offensive glass, where he inexplicably pulled down four boards last time out, leading to 11 second-chance points. The Sixers have to win in both of those auxiliary phases of the game.
DNP-CD last time out. He’s played well recently and gives the Sixers what they need off the bench against Boston. I’m interested to see how he does tonight in perimeter defense.
The final shot
It should go to Joel Embiid or Jimmy Butler tonight, right?
JJ Redick got off a decent enough look on Christmas night, off a ’12’ pick and roll, but I think with the way Butler and Embiid have been playing lately, I’d go with them over this staple play call:
Imagine if that had gone in?
We wouldn’t be talking about half the things we talk about.
Here’s what Embiid said on Christmas night about not getting enough of the ball late in the game:
Joel Embiid had this to say about what he thought went wrong against the Celtics. pic.twitter.com/LYKvpptdl6
— David Murphy (@ByDavidMurphy) December 26, 2018
Just 17 shots in that game, vs. 22 in Philly and 21 on opening night. Gotta feed Embiid tonight.
Christmas night in Boston:
- Boston bench – 26 points
- Sixers bench – 13 points
February 12th in Philly:
- Boston bench – 32 points
- Sixers bench – 22 points
Opening night in Boston:
- Boston bench – 45 points
- Sixers bench – 26 points
They need more beyond the starting group, no question about it.
That’s pretty much it for my observations. We’ll see if Brett says anything interesting pregame.