That was one of the worst Philadelphia playoff performances I’ve ever witnessed, and I watched Andy Reid’s Eagles back in the day. I watched Peter Nowak’s Union and countless Phillies and Flyers duds.
You’re not gonna win many games when you shoot 40.7% from the floor, 12% from three (3-25), and 69% from the foul line (29-42). And I think the further disappointment is that they did fine in most auxiliary areas. They pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and only turned the ball over 13 times. They shot 16 more free throws than the Nets and only two fewer field goals. They got Jarrett Allen in foul trouble and forced Brooklyn to play Ed Davis for 25 minutes and Jared Dudley for 28 minutes, well above their season averages.
They opened with some solid pick and roll defense, as D’Angelo Russell put up a number of low-percentage mid-range looks en route to 0-5 start. Then Brooklyn went on a big run to end the 1st quarter and they Sixers just couldn’t pull it together from there. They got cooked by the Nets’ guards in space and the offense looked completely discombobulated. JJ Redick fouled out. Tobias Harris only took seven shots. I’m honestly stunned that this game was as close at it was, because it felt like the Sixers were just getting run off the court at times.
Right away he earned two fouls on Allen and four on the Nets within four minutes of play. It’s clear he can get to the line against this team and stress their front court situation, so it’s just a bummer that he is not 100% healthy right now. He competed defensively and did an admirable job protecting the rim, finishing with 22 and 15 on the offensive end but logging a -17 in 24 minutes of play. He went 0-5 from the three point line and stopped shooting from the arc at the 10:00 minute mark in the second quarter.
Brooklyn gave him the elbow on Sunday, and he was able to knock down one shot by walking right into the space. The second time, he did this:
Joel is good enough to draw fouls against Allen or Davis almost at will in this series. The Sixers can feast at the line.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this series is so much different if Embiid is at 100% health. Brooklyn just does not have the horses to guard him and his defensive mobility allows him to contest shots that other Philly bigs simply cannot.
Really disappointing performance and really disappointing post game comments about the fan booing.
If Ben’s not gonna shoot, he’s not gonna shoot, and whatever, we’ve been down that road a million times before. It affects the way teams defend the Sixers and it affects spacing on the offensive end. It stresses Embiid and other bigs and keeps them on the perimeter when teams wall off Ben and prevent him from getting to the rim, clogging up the paint at the same time.
But the biggest downer from him on Saturday was the lack of aggression and the predictability of every single possession, when he’s pushing the pace into a team that has numbers back and a proper seal at the paint. Brooklyn put on a masterclass in transition defense, allowing just 4 fast break points last night against a Sixers season average of 15 per game (17 at home).
This is playoff basketball. Ben just isn’t gonna get the easy buckets he gets against Charlotte, New York, and Chicago. When teams stuff the lane appropriately and/or sag, you get rough possessions like this, where Ben is trying to feed a cutting JJ Redick instead:
One of the reasons Treveon Graham is able to make that play is because he’s sagging at the elbow, disrespecting Ben’s shooting ability. The sag puts him in the backdoor passing lane, where he can get his left hand up and deflect. And Dinwiddie’s willingness to go over that screen and push JJ off the three-point line showed really high-level effort and execution.
Defensively? Ben was pretty good. D’Angelo Russell only shot 2-9 in his matchups against Simmons. LeVert was 2-4 when he had Ben on him. They really need Simmons’ athleticism on the defensive end, because Brooklyn just has so many weapons to throw at you on the perimeter.
I just felt like there were a few times where Ben was a bit sleepy on the defensive glass, not totally alert. Stuff like this:
I’m not sure who is responsible for LeVert there, that confusion at the top with who’s guarding him and who’s guarding Dudley. Could be a blown JJ assignment. But even when Ben sees that, he drops down and puts little pressure on Davis, basically just standing there and allowing him to tip that ball out for the offensive rebound. Davis is surrounded by a 7’2″ guy, a 6’9″ guy, and a 6’10” guy and no one puts a body on him.
Totally invisible, just 2-7 from the floor and zero trips to the foul line.
Brett Brown on Harris’ performance:
I mean I’m always putting it on me to help him. You know, ‘how do you help your players?’ I’ll stick with that. You know, I got to find ways to help him. He cares, at times, too much. You know. You learn quickly in the NBA playoffs that the first kind of open look you got, is going probably going to be your best look. The game will tell you to shoot, and at times, I feel like he’s trying to maybe press a little too much or go someplace else, when you know, he can shoot more than seven times. Is that what it ended up? You know, I will own that. I got to find ways to help Tobias.
There was a sequence where he got himself 1v1 with 6’5″ Graham in the second half, an easy mismatch for a 6’9″ guy like Tobias. I thought he might be able to back him down to the paint or elbow and shoot over him, as we’ve seen Tobias do in the past, but he instead swung the ball to a wide-open T.J. McConnell:
Those sequences are killers, because LeVert is sagging at least 10 feet off of McConnell and stuffing the paint. Even if Harris is able to back down his guy on that play, he’s just walking right into the second defender. T.J. is not the world’s worst three-pointer shooter if he has acres of space to do it, and on this play they gave it to him. Just a really brutal offensive possession right there.
A man’s performance, unfortunately wasted.
He had a good post game quote, basically explaining what we’re all thinking:
On if they need to step up their physicality…
No. No, I just think we’ve got to guard better. I think, you know, you’ve got to man up and guard one-on-one. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to in this series. The one after that, the one after that, and the one after that. You know, whoever it may be, myself included, you’ve got to man up and you’ve got to stand in front of your man and try to get a stop.
“You’ve got to man up and you’ve got to stand in front of your man and try to get a stop.”
A total liability on defense, he also finished 2-7 from the floor. They’ve got to get him some early looks in game two and get him going, because the Sixers offense is just so much more rhythmic when Redick gets off to good starts. Like we talked about against Milwaukee, if Brooklyn is going to sag off Embiid or Simmons and invite the shot, bring the ball back, run JJ to the other side of the floor, and DHO into space. It only takes him one look to get going.
Rotation and minutes
Boban was serviceable on the offensive end, going 5-7 from the floor in 15 minutes while hitting 3 of 4 free throws. The problem is that he’s just a rough defensive matchup for a smaller team that can drag him out to the perimeter and simply blow right by him, as Dinwiddie did for the easy dunk on that one possession.
There was also a lot of Jonathon Simmons talk during the game, and the thing I don’t understand is why Simmons is being featured in the playoff rotation when he only played 64 minutes in April and 80 minutes in March. I know he’s just a placeholder wing until James Ennis comes back, but the (post-Ennis injury) distribution of minutes for Simmons and Zhaire Smith down the stretch doesn’t make sense to me.
Mike Scott put up a 1-8 afternoon in 32 minutes off the bench while McConnell at least put forth some effort, despite his limitations and liabilities. Jonah Bolden played 5:07 with his knee issue, which is another concern, because his mobility makes him the best Embiid backup option against a guard-heavy Nets team.
Brooklyn’s bench outscored the Sixers’ bench 59 to 26.
- The refs were whatever. Couple of bad calls against both teams.
- Again, turnovers were fine. They came in below their season average. Joel had 3 and Ben had 3. JJ’s 3 were the biggest disappointment.
- Dinwiddie is the bigger issue than D’Angelo Russell, like we talked about while previewing this series. His ability to come off the bench and get better matchups (and avoid Ben Simmons) gives him easier paths to scoring.
- There’s no way Ed Davis should be a +28 with a 12/16 double-double. You got Allen in foul trouble then allowed Davis to play the game of his life.
- Dudley made a couple of savvy veteran plays out there. Feels like he’s been in the league for 20 years.
- Brooklyn only missed two free throws, shooting 24-26 for a 92.3% mark. The Sixers lost by 9 and missed 13 free throws.
- Russell does turn the ball over. Brooklyn can be invited to the rim and then baited to throw low-percentage kick-out passes. Harris committed a few of those yesterday.
- Brett is going to have to micro-manage Ben Simmons in the offensive half, because Ben was trying to play regular season basketball in the postseason yesterday. Slow it down, run your sets, identify pick and roll mismatches. There was a sequence where Brett called for a Butler/Boban pick and roll two times in a row yesterday, and the first PNR resulted in Jimmy getting his first bucket while the second got Allen his third foul. You have to slow it down a bit and manage the game, especially if Brooklyn is snuffing you out in transition. It’s one thing to talk about the defensive issues, which we’ve known about all year long, but the Sixers offense was outrageously out of sync yesterday.