You shouldn’t have to go down by 17 points in the third quarter before deciding to play defense and actually show some effort.
Maybe it’s strange to go Negadelphia after a win, but if we’re holding the Sixers to a higher standard in 2019 then they really should not have difficulty dealing with the New York Knicks at home on two days of rest. You shouldn’t have to be booed on your home court before waking up and showing the requisite effort for a NBA team with championship aspirations.
I asked Brett Brown about it after the game, and didn’t get much out of him in an exchange that went like this:
Crossing Broad: Brett, is it disappointing that you have to face a 17-point deficit before your guys turn up the intensity and start playing?
Brown: Of course it is.
Crossing Broad: Why do you think it came down to that?
Brown: I don’t know.
That’s the entire exchange.
I think we all know that it’s difficult to get hyped for the New York Knicks on a Wednesday night in November, but the Sixers have enough raw talent and athleticism to run lesser teams off the floor. They have work to do on the offensive end, but when they dial up the intensity and start playing defense, they are as good as anybody. You saw it last night when Brett’s team turned the amplifiers up to 11 and erased a 17-2 New York run with a big run of their own before successfully closing it out in the fourth.
Ratcheting up the pressure
The Sixers looked lethargic and deferential in the third quarter until Ben Simmons said “enough of this shit” (figuratively speaking) and started balling out on the defensive end.
Maybe you’ve heard the term “compete level” before, which is really just a way to describe an uptick in intensity that can’t necessarily be quantified using data, and in Ben’s case, I think that phrase perfectly described the back-end of his third quarter performance, which carried into the fourth.
There were some sequences in that time frame where he was ultra-aggressive offensively and extra-stout defensively, and I clipped a short one-minute video here where you can see three of those possessions strung together:
First you’ve got a high/low with Joel Embiid, then some patience to wait and throw down the reverse dunk. On the defensive end he gets right in Frank Ntilikina’s grill and forces the turnover. Then coming back down to the offensive side, he gets a switch off a nice Embiid screen and drives right at Mitchell Robinson, gets the foul, and shoots the free throws.
It’s just how I am as a player. I hate losing, hearing our fans boo. That annoys me also, that fuels the fire. For me, I’m all about winning. However, I’ve got to get it done. I’m going to get it done.
He got it done with plays like the ones above, just upping the intensity level on defensive and showing uber-assertiveness offensively.
And to Brett Brown’s credit, he came out in the fourth quarter with Trey Burke and Simmons on the floor together for the first time, leaving the struggling Al Horford and Furkan Korkmaz on the bench. Mike Scott featured more prominently as well, and he was money, hitting 3-4 from downtown in that quarter and helping the Sixers to the finish line.
Brett on Scott:
He’s sort of a silent assassin. He doesn’t say much. He keeps what he has inside a lot and he internalizes a lot of things, but he is tough. He really is built for this city. There is a physicality, an edge, that he has and to see him be rewarded for the work he puts in, making some timely threes. I’m very fond of him and I respect him. To see him come out and do what he did; I’m proud of him. He deserves it.
Scott and James Ennis shot 6-9 from three off the bench last night, which really gave the Sixers a nice shot in the arm.
The three pointer heard around the world
Ben Simmons stepped confidently into a corner three in the first quarter, which we did the facetious post about last night.
When he hit that above-the-break three against Guangzhou, Ben really brushed off the significance of the shot as he typically does. Brown also talked about how he felt like the three-pointer was overblown, so reporters asked about it again last night and here’s what Brett had to say:
If we are all honest, that is the first legitimate three that he has taken. He looked great. He’s 23 years old. He’s gone from a college four-man, to an NBA point guard, to an NBA All-Star and was rewarded with a significant contract. His progression has been pretty good, so this is a small step, but a step, towards the other pieces of his growth. What I liked most about him tonight, though, was his leadership with the ball. Talking, encouraging, getting Joel the ball. He’s growing as a point guard and that’s what I liked the most tonight.
The reason why the three-pointer is a big deal is because Ben with shooting ability warrants defenders actually guarding him on the perimeter. Philly was working a Korkmaz/Horford pick and roll on the play while Ben’s man, Robinson, was just clogging up the paint instead:
If Furkan is able to drive the slot there, he’s just running into Ben’s defender, right? It’s always been about Simmons being able to help his teammates by pulling defenders off of them and forcing them to guard him on the perimeter instead.
Saying it again, for the 500th time:
Ben Simmons with a jump shot has a perennial MVP-candidate’s ceiling. It’s not a stretch to say that. It’s not a hot take. He is elite when it comes to passing, defending, and floor running, and if you add shooting to that already robust floor, we are talking about a guy who can quite possibly emulate the trajectory of Giannis or LeBron James’ career arcs. It’s not saying he’s going to be those guys, 2.0, but their skill sets were similar at this point in their careers. Ben’s ceiling really is very high, and that’s why people are always up his ass about the shot, because they know what kind of player he can be if he fleshes out that part of his game. It always comes from a place of positivity, no matter how negative the discussions sound.
Marcus Morris pulled down Joel Embiid from behind during a second quarter scuffle in which both guys were given technical fouls. Morris was also hit with a flagrant one for this:
Morris threw down Embiid and he wasn't having it 👀 pic.twitter.com/SNPPvBLWm6
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 21, 2019
Not sure about the double technicals, but maybe the officials feel like Embiid said something or at least started towards Morris before Ben Simmons got in there to pull him away. Simmons did not, however, put the opponent in a rear naked choke hold this time.
More maturity there from Embiid, I think, when it came to then turning away and not making this into something more. Brown noted that in his post game press conference.
Morris explained that the kerfluffle was the product of Embiid flopping and flailing around, saying this after the game:
He’s too big to be flopping. Just flopping and grabbing. I’m not the one who’s going to take that, and he knows that. You know what I’m about.
These guys have have some issues in the past. Nothing big, but you probably remember this:
Either way, Embiid not getting involved in that kind of shit keeps him on the floor and helps avoid meaningless two-game suspensions.
- The Sixers did a nice jumbotron tribute for the late Bill Lyon. Unfortunately they spelled his name incorrectly, twice, first showing a graphic that said “Bill Lions” before pulling it down and displaying one that said “Bill Lyons.”
- Doctor J got a shout out on the jumbotron but didn’t realize he was on there, and was spotted kissing a woman. Good for him.
- Later in the game, a very attractive woman (different person) was shown on the jumbotron several times. She looked to be really enjoying herself.
- Horford and Korkmaz shot 4-16 from the floor.
- Might be time for Furkan to take a back seat so guys like Matisse Thybulle and a healthy Shake Milton can play more.
- No minutes for Raul Neto or Kyle O’Quinn.
- Joel Embiid says he will play both Friday night (Spurs) and Saturday night (Jimmy Butler’s return)
- The Sixers got to the line 26 times, which is much better, but only hit 18 of those looks (69.2%)
- only 10 turnovers, which is so much more manageable
- Ennis really has had some nice games off the bench this year. His penchant for hitting the offensive glass and making hustle plays really gives the Sixers an adrenaline boost when the starters look sluggish.
- This team still has a LOT of work to do in the half court. Only watch the first eight minutes of the third quarter if you hate yourself.