We’ve Seen This Movie Before – Observations from Suns 114, Sixers 109

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers weren’t gonna go 82-0, but last night’s game was winnable.

With Joel Embiid wrapping up his suspension, Al Horford, Tobias Harris, and surprise starter Furkan Korkmaz all held up their end of the bargain at Talking Stick Resort Arena, which is a terrible name for a sports complex. Philly just didn’t get anything offensively from the combination of Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson, who paired up to shoot 5-19 from the field while committing eight turnovers. Add in 60% team free throw shooting and some 4th quarter Devin Booker shot making, put all of it in a blender, and you get a sour tasting, five-point loss smoothie.

Let’s talk about it.

Ben Simmons

We’ve seen this movie before.

Aron Baynes sags off Simmons, invites him to shoot, and Ben does one of these things:

  1. tries to drive anyway
  2. picks up his dribble and kicks the ball out
  3. stands off-ball while shooters run the offense instead

Isn’t this what Ben worked on all summer? Didn’t I see the videos of him busting his ass in the gym, shooting jump shots in an effort to round out his game and address his only weakness? We even saw him take and make a three pointer against the Guangzhou Loong Lions.

It doesn’t mean he has to turn into Reggie Miller overnight; he just needs to be able to keep his defender honest with the occasional jump shot, which would change the dynamic of plays like this one:

Not even sure what’s supposed to be going on there, maybe a miscommunication with Horford and Korkmaz, but it results in Ben just sort of wading into a crowd, then getting Furkan on a catch-and-shoot look with Ricky Rubio clogging the lane. Regardless, Ben had zero interest in shooting that three or trying to pull up from eight feet. It doesn’t even cross his mind at all, and that’s the inherent problem.

One thing they did okay last night was use him as a screener for Tobias Harris, which helped Tobias get going in a way that worked for him out in Los Angeles.

This is just a wrinkle on a Spain pick and roll, with a second screener popping to the three point line:

That’s designed to get you a three point option, because Ben isn’t going to do it in a typical two-man set, which is why Tobias was settling for those jumpers last night.

Here’s a good example of that, a Harris/Simmons pick and roll where Ben doesn’t provide much of an option as a non-three point shooter:

Ben needs to pop there for a wide-open three-pointer, otherwise Dario Saric knows to just sit back and zone Harris, which results in an awkward, tough mid-range jumper that Tobias somehow gets to fall. Simmons isn’t really a threat here because the Suns know he’s not going to pop and shoot, or even roll into that elbow jumper.

So yeah, same old from Ben Simmons, who was 2-8 for six points last night and only had two foul shots. They need more from him when Embiid is out.

Josh Richardson

Didn’t get a lot of clean looks last night when guarded by Devin Booker and Jevon Carter, then missed a pair of open three point shots when he did wriggle free.

He was 4-5 from mid-range foul-line distance jumpers, two or three of which were tough turnaround efforts that were high-difficult shots anyway. Here’s his chart from last night:

It was the first time he failed to reach double-digit points this year, which is something he did nine times last year. So it happens, just not very frequently. Shooting 3-11 with four turnovers is a Richardson aberration.

Other notes:

  • 32 points for Al Horford last night. He’s a stud; shoots the ball well, rebounds, makes smart plays. You’d love to see his influence rub off on Simmons and Embiid this season.
  • only 4:50 of playing time for Matisse Thybulle, who committed four fouls, missed his only three point attempt, and went 0-2 from the foul line
  • Booker went 10-12 in the second half. Shooters get hot, ya know?
  • the perimeter defense wasn’t fantastic
  • The Sixers should be getting to the line more than 20 times per game.
  • 32 points in the paint is 27 fewer than Philly has been averaging this season.
  • They lost the rebounding battle I think for the first time this year.
  • 20 turnovers is slop

Happy Tuesday.

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8 Responses

  1. The Sixers will go as far as both Embiid and Simmons will take them. In order for those two guys to carry the load, Simmons must incorporate jump shot attempts and Embiid must be healthy. I am more confident in the latter because there appears to be a load management plan in place that the player and management has agreed upon. However, as we saw in this post, no matter how the offense is structured or how much lag the defense provides – Simmons reluctance to shoot creates a flawed offense.

    Simmons either improves as the season progresses or the Sixers’ season may end in the playoffs similar to last two seasons.

  2. I’ve seen worse road losses in games without Embiid, so can’t hoot and holler too much. At least they had a chance at the end. Now take one of the two against Utah or Denver and lets call the roadtrip a success.

  3. Richardson needs to turn the trash talking down a notch. I get that he has an edge they need and it is how he fires himself up, but it is clear that it also gave Booker an extra gear. Same thing happened with Trae Young. You can have that edge without injecting extra motivation into a talented opponent. In both cases, he fired them up so much that he could no longer cover them and Simmons had to guard them in the 4th quarter.

  4. I think the first line of this story would have been sufficient. I know all the haters will analyze every possession of every game for 82 games, but guess what, none of that matters. There are always games that come up during road trips that good teams will lose. It happens, oh I don’t know, every year? Some games, you just don’t have the legs. The Sixers are not the Warriors, they weren’t going to go 73-9 (or whatever ridiculous number they put up) so take the L and move on.

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