Laying the Smack Down – Observations from Sixers 116, Raptors 95

Joel Embiid in game three after the windmill
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

That was impressive.

I mean, holy mackerel. When Joel Embiid hit that windmill dunk in the 4th quarter I thought the roof was gonna fly off the Wells Fargo Center and land next to the Italian restaurant in the Navy Yard. I think that dunk reverberated throughout the building with such force that even the rat living in the ceiling heard it and scurried to a new location.

What a night for your team, your town, your 76ers, who pulled their starters around the five minute mark of the 4th quarter after staving off a Toronto run and building an insurmountable 20-point lead. They passed the ball well, they shot the ball well, they limited their turnovers, and they cranked the defense all the way up to 11, like a Spinal Tap guitar amplifier.

They won in pretty much every phase of this game, which Toronto head coach Nick Nurse admitted to the gathered scribes afterward:

“I think we got outplayed in just about every area we could get outplayed. In overall physicality, energy, cutting, rebounding, passing, all that kind of stuff. We got thoroughly outplayed and it’s been a while, it’s been a while since you’ve seen this team play this way.”

Yep. The Sixers made the Raptors look rather pedestrian on Thursday night, and outside of a 3rd quarter where Kawhi Leonard looked like Michael Jordan reincarnate, it was a rather comfortable ride from start to finish.

Namely, Brett Brown’s team performed extremely well in the following areas:

  • 52 points in the paint (+14 from game two)
  • 13 turnovers resulting in only 12 Toronto points (down from 20 and 24 respectively in game two)
  • 13 fast break points
  • 9 offensive rebounds leading to 15 second chance points
  • 20-23 free throw mark (87%)
  • 29 assists on 43 made shots
  • 10-23 from three (43.5%)
  • 43-84 from the floor (51.2%)

They were superb across the board and looked like a juggernaut on both ends of the floor.

Joel Embiid

33 points and 10 rebounds with 5 blocks in 28:09 of playing time. He just looked so much more like himself out there, feeding off the crowd and committing himself to the low post early in the game before opening up to the three point line and hitting three of four efforts from downtown.

I liked this quote from Joel regarding the mini-celebrations he was displaying after big plays:

“I think for everybody that knows me, I need it. When I have fun, my game just changes. I’m always told that if I don’t smile during the game that I’m either having a bad game or I’m not into it. I know that to get my game going, I have to have fun on the court. At the same time I got to make plays, but that part of the theatrics, it has to happen for me. The game is more fun that way. We have more fun as a team. You can see it lifts my teammates and we all do a good job.”

It’s true. You see it with Joel more than anybody, that symbiotic relationship with the crowd, and when he’s in a good head space he’s truly unstoppable, which leads to windmills and airplanes and assorted on-court revelry.

Joel was also asked after the game about his success against Marc Gasol, who did a great job defending him and limiting his effectiveness in the paint in Toronto. I thought this was a good way to answer the question:

“They’re a great defensive team. They double and triple team a lot so it’s team defense. I’m not really focused on him (Gasol). Great player and I have a lot of respect for him, but it’s a team game. If I’m open my teammates are going to find me, and if I’m open I’m going to find them. So I’m not really worried about them (Toronto), I’m worried about my team and how we coexist on the court, how we play together. We know we have to move the ball and take care of the ball and defensively we’ve got a couple of guys on the team who have the potential to be defensive player of the year. That’s what we’ve got to do. My job is just to get it moving.”

Joel shot 12-13 from the foul line and 9-18 from the floor while only turning the ball over three times, but I honestly felt his presence more on the defensive end, where he contested 9 looks, blocked 5 shots, and logged an individual defensive rating of 85.2.

Plays like this one really helped preserve the lead, keep the crowd rolling, and juice his team heading into the transition offensive possessions that followed:

Just crazy athleticism to turn on the ball handler side, recover, and then swat a 6’9″ roller with your outside hand while tracking backwards.

Brett Brown was asked for his reaction to Embiid’s performance and his focus was on the same area:

“For me it goes straight to the blocks. We could talk about a windmill dunk, you could talk about some finesse post moves and that. But I go to defense. That’s what interests me the most to date with this series. When we talk about whatever we’re going to talk about my mind goes straight there. He is our crown jewel defensively, and I suppose offensively too, but certainly defensively, and his rim protection and shot blocking ability tonight stood out as much as anything in an incredible performance.”

If Embiid continues to play like he did Thursday night, you know what the limit is for this team. There is no limit.

How ’bout that bench

Another win here. 19 points for James Ennis, Greg Monroe, and Mike Scott and just 11 for Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet.

It’s strange to think the Raptors’ bench was supposed to be a big advantage in this series, but that hasn’t been the case at all. They could really use OG Anunoby and they traded away Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and CJ Miles in the Gasol deal.

Brett Brown, when asked about his bench being “terrific” –

“I agree with you and we need it. To have the boost that you learn before the game to have Mike Scott come back and Greg, and James really has been uniquely special and required especially in the absence of Mike, where I’ve got to shove Tobias maybe more to a four and there are wing minutes to be had. So I think our bench has been good. I think they continue to come in and pass the ball, I like our 29 assists. 13 turnovers for us is actually not too bad. But I think that bench has come in and given us a spark and continued on with sort of the defensive efforts that we’re trying to put out.”

They’ve been really good. Ennis has been a maniac defensively. I know he’s not guarding the same guys as Embiid, but Ennis had the second-best individual defensive rating last night. He shot 4-6 from the floor, grabbed five rebounds, and always seems to wriggle free for an offensive board and putback bucket.

Monroe has been more mobile and serviceable than Boban, Jonah Bolden and Amir Johnson. He was a blown layup away from a 3-4 shooting night with three rebounds.

And Scott returned to play 14 minutes and hit 2 of 3 shots, though his real contribution was what Brown mentioned above, the ability to set the lineup more similar to the Brooklyn series instead of having to crunch the rotation and rely on minutes from young guys like Bolden and Furkan Korkmaz.

Elbow to the crotch region

Ben Simmons got away with an elbow to Kyle Lowry’s lower private parts area. We have words for this area that I cannot repeat on this website, since Crossing Broad is a tasteful website. We don’t use the words “t****” or “g******” to describe the perineal area of human beings.

Watch it again:

Some people were trying to tell me that Ben was “bracing himself” because Lowry was going to fall on his face, like when Yokozuna used jump off the second rope and rub his butt on another wrastler. But when you watch it a bunch of times, Lowry clearly balances himself and is staying upright. He’s not gonna fall backwards here:

Ben threw the elbow.

Here’s what Lowry said about it afterward:

“It was an elbow. Refs didn’t call it. It was nothing. He said he didn’t mean to do it. I’m not gonna dwell on something that wasn’t called. It is what it is. It’s not a big deal.”

There ya go. Not a big deal.

Rotational chess

I’d like to watch the game again to get a better look at how each coach is tweaking their rotations. Again Brett went away from his regular season ice hockey line change and left multiple starters in longer in the 1st quarter to combat Nurse’s tendency to play extended first quarter minutes with his top unit.

Brett also adjusted his coverages early, putting Joel Embiid back on Marc Gasol to begin the game, which was a tweak to the adjustment he made in game two with Joel taking Pascal Siakam. That was another wrinkle that I think threw the Raptors off a bit, since they were expecting the latter to continue for game three.

Then, at the end of the third quarter, when the Raptors cut the lead to eight on the strength of Kawhi’s outrageous shooting, Nurse gave Leonard a needed rest and went with this unit to start the 4th:

  1. VanVleet
  2. Lowry
  3. Powell
  4. Siakam
  5. Gasol

The Sixers had out there:

  1. Butler
  2. Redick
  3. Ennis
  4. Harris
  5. Embiid

That’s 4 Sixer starters vs. 3 Raptor starters. Philly went on an 11-point run, Leonard came back in at the 9:37 mark, and Nurse called timeout only when the Sixer lead hit 18 points. The game was pretty much over at that point.

So that’s two good 4th quarters in two consecutive games from Brett, who has started Embiid, spelled him for a quick break after rebuilding a lead, and then brought him back in to close things out.

The onus is on Nurse now to figure out what to do here, because when Kawhi is off the floor Toronto is a different team. Brett just has more top-end talent to throw at him, which allows Philly to stay on the front foot going into the fourth quarter instead of having to put guys on the bench in a momentum-killing fashion.

Other notes:

  • Not a huge fan of Crazy Train right before the opening tip. It’s maybe my least favorite song on Blizzard of Ozz.
  • People didn’t seem super excited with the bell-ringing trio of JVR, Carson Wentz, and Rhys Hoskins. I’d phone Arya Stark and see if she’s available for Sunday. Or maybe
  • It feels like Mike Scott gets called for at least one of those fouls every game, one where he’s moving his feet against a dribble drive and inevitably draws a whistle, whether it’s even actually a foul or not.
  • Greg Monroe’s quick hands steal on Leonard was something to behold. On the very next possession, Kawhi hit a ridiculously tough fade over him. Two solid defensive possessions right there from Monroe.
  • Worst flop of the game goes to Kawhi, right before halftime with Embiid on him.
  • The Sixers ran that baseline screen, Redick for Embiid, a few times last night. The first one resulted in JJ getting elbowed in the face by Ibaka and the second was also whistled dead for a foul. Feels like they always get a stoppage on those plays or end up at the foul line.
  • ESPN, in their skyline shot of Philadelphia, used b-roll that was at least two years old. They went to the archives for this footage that featured the still-under-construction Comcast tower:

Happy Friday.

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20 Responses

  1. Is Brett Brown actually out coaching another NBA coach in the playoffs?

  2. it helps when your all star center actually plays like an all star. WTF, my best big man was Michael Cage.

  3. Boo effing Hoo Johnny…before I took over they traded Barkley to Phoenix.

  4. “Crazy Train” is one of the greatest metal songs of all time. No need to be an idiotic contrarian.

    And it is far from the

    1. It is a great, completely overplayed song. However, as great as it is Randy has among the worst guitar tones in metal history. Not contrarian.

  5. Well wasn’t that fun? LOL! Buckle up folks. we’re in for a wild ride!

    – Kate

    1. I needed that . Thanks Kate and have a good weekend .
      I’ll be over at parx Saturday betting the Kentucky derby lol

  6. Who is in line for a wrong handed hand job from Kate just saying.

  7. Betting the Sixers get overconfident and choke in Game 4. They’re still immature and their bench sucks. Kawhi goes for 50+, Redick shoots Sixers out of game going 2 for 15, Greg Monroe gets the ball stuck between rim and backboard trying a layup. Ennis fouls out in 5 minutes. Simmons disappears and goes 6-7-5 and Fire Brett Brown calls come back.

  8. They have more talent than the Raptors. I was afraid of these jack offs from the North. I’m not anymore.

  9. Butler looks like a keeper. He is growing on me.
    Embiid stepped up against strong competition. Still drives me nuts but can dominate.
    Simmons – not sure he will ever grow a sack.
    Redick – eh

    Nice win. The team is starting to mature (on the court).

    1. I was waiting all regular season for Alpha Male Jimmy Butler to show up …looks like he just needed the spotlight. Love his demeanor on the court ..

  10. Croatian Jordan died for this.

    Cue Winston Wolf to calmly inform everyone what we should and should not be doing right now.

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