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Should be a pretty straightforward Posidelphia take after that weekend, right? The Sixers hammered the Cavs by 47 on Saturday night, riding a Ben Simmons career-high to total annihilation. Then, 24 hours later, they dispatched Toronto in rather straightforward fashion before the contest became needlessly hairy at the end, like the wooly mammoth version of closing out a basketball game. Philly saw an 18-point 4th quarter lead turn into a six-point win as they struggled with Raptor pressure in the dying moments.
That’s why you see some Negadelphia takes out there, just by virtue of the fact that they came in for a landing that reminded me of the movie Airplane, a game where Joel Embiid again struggled offensively and found himself taken off the floor in crunch time when the Sixers needed ball handlers to deal with the press, get to the line, and ice the game from there.
“Some of the passing decisions were stuff that you have to get better with,” Brett Brown said after the game. “I’m not really too sure on how to address some of it. You just scratch your head and try and coach better and help them more. It is disappointing that way that ended because I thought, for the most part, that we played good basketball. The way that it ended you have a bit of a sour taste in your mouth, but then I’m reminded that it was a good weekend and we just beat the NBA champs. There are a lot of good things that came out of tonight, just the last part wasn’t one of them.”
That’s more or less the take, and if you wanna do the Negadelphia thing, that’s fine. We’re judging this team as a potential number-one seed and championship contender, so the bar is certainly raised in 2019. If Embiid’s late struggles are enough to sour a nice win, then you’re certainly entitled to feel that way. If, however, you’re drinking from a glass that’s half full, then you’re feeling nice about a 12-0 home record with Josh Richardson still on the shelf and some bench guys playing well in his absence.
What’s up with Joel?
In two games against the defending champs, Embiid is a combined 3-18 for 10 points with 11 turnovers. He hasn’t been himself after ripping off that three-game stretch following the first Toronto loss, the chunk of games where he went 40-44 from the foul line while pouring in 30 points on average.
Last night, seven field goal attempts was seventh-most on the team, and while he did throw six assists, he turned the ball over seven times, killing his A/TO ratio.
I went through his shots again and logged what he tried:
- elbow jumper against Marc Gasol (miss)
- deep post up against Serge Ibaka (make)
- drive and turnaround fadeaway against Ibaka (make)
- trailing three-pointer against Ibaka (miss)
- deep post up against Pascal Siakam (make)
- 17-foot jump shot against Gasol (miss)
- offensive rebound, short hook against Gasol (miss)
He only tried three shots against Gasol, one of which came off a Simmons miss, and went 0-3. Where he actually shined was in defending Toronto bigs, with Gasol and Ibaka shooting 2-7 against him on the evening. The Spanish veteran hasn’t been an offensive juggernaut this year, but keeping him to a donut is a nice feather in the cap, yeah?
Brown on that:
I think that his energy and his presence tonight was good. At the end, they pressed and he had some rough decisions. It’s unfortunate because for the large part of the game, he’s one of the main reasons we won. It won’t jump out to you on the stat sheet, but it’s Joel Embiid and his length. You can feel his presence really affected their rim work.
But the big story on Action News with Embiid is the turnovers, and I clipped all of them for you:
A lot of the same there, bad passes, bringing the ball down below his waist, not being aware of other players around him. It was a team effort in the fourth quarter, the bad basketball, and there were times you’d like Simmons to come back and demand the ball. You want Matisse Thybulle not running in the opposite direction. After that last turnover in the clip above, Embiid came off the floor and the Sixers went with Raul Neto for about 1:20 before Joel returned for a defensive possession.
Not sure what’s up with him, but the Sixers needs him locked in mentally and humming.
Tobias Harris, rounding into form
“Playing much better he is, Tobias Harris”
That’s what Yoda would say after watching the last four Harris games. The Sixers’ forward is averaging 25 points in December, up from 17.9 in November. He had a season-high 33 in Warshington and is now hitting at 32% from three and 80% from the line on the season, which is a lot better than where he began the year.
The biggest takeaway for me is that his field goal attempts are way up, from 14.6 in November to 20.8 in December. That’s the assertive Harris the Sixers have been looking for since they traded for him last season. If you go back to last year, he only tried 14.8 shots a game after coming over from LA, where he was up at 15.5. He was a little deferential post-trade but looks to have settled into a scorer’s role here.
Matisse Thybulle, the new Robert Covington
20 points on 6-9 shooting and 5-8 from three. Three steals, three assists, a blocked shot, and the typical pestering defense.
It was a career-high in points and three-point attempts, and that’s perfectly fine. If he can hit those catch and shoot looks from three, especially in the corners and/or below the break, then he’s gonna be a big contributor moving forward. All you need from the rookie is to play defense and hit some three pointers, and even just 20-some odd games into his career I see those Robert Covington traits that were highly valued by Brown and the front office.
Nice shot plot right here:
Give me one three-pointer per game, or give me death
I think Thomas Paine was the first to use this phrase, in his 1776 pamphlet titled Common Sense. Brett Brown said something of the sort when talking about Ben Simmons’ monster Saturday night, a night where he hit three shots outside the paint and knocked down the second three-pointer of his career.
One of the conspiracy theories going around is that Brett is too close to Ben and his family, and therefore isn’t hard enough on him when it comes to pushing him to reach that next level of performance. If you believe that theory, then this quote should make you feel better”
“This is what I want, you can pass this along to his agent and his family and his friends, and to him: I want a 3-point shot a game, minimum. The pull-up 2s, I’m fine with whatever is open, but I’m interested in the 3-point shot. And the mentality he has where he’s turning corners and taking that long step, that gather step, and bringing his shoulders to the rim and trying to dunk and finish tight, (that) will equal higher efficiency or getting fouled. That’s the world that interests me the most, those two things.”
Brown said he feels like Simmons’ “world will open up” when the three-pointer comes, which he thinks is in the 23-year-old’s wheelhouse. He also talked about getting Ben to take that extra final step in the paint to turn floaters into layups, which might not feel natural but falls well within the rules.
Said Ben on that:
“I came from a European style background of play. And that extra step kind of feels like a travel in some cases. And I think that I got to adjust to that and take the extra dribble getting to the rim.”
That said, here’s every shot Ben took on Saturday night.
For what it’s worth, Simmons did not attempt a three-pointer on Sunday night. He was 8-11 and did all his work in the paint.
Another warm welcome for the media this weekend:
What’s the deal?
Well, it’s usually a rat race of moving parts, i.e. various equipment, big garbage bins, and other assorted nonsense in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center, simply because of how much goes on inside the building. That’s why it sometimes looks a shit show in these areas, because it’s one arena hosting three different teams right now, plus the concerts and whatnot that are booked. Feels like a 25 year old building with 75 years of use. Workers just shove things into whatever corner is currently available.
- The Sixers are now 12-0 at home. Bears repeating. They are 12-0 at home.
- Mike Scott broke out of his three-point shooting slump with a 3-5 Saturday night and 2-4 Sunday night.
- Unfortunately for John Beilein, Kevin Pittsnogle ain’t walking through that door.
- Kyle Lowry does a lot of savvy veteran things, but Christ is he annoying to watch at times.
- The concourse was blocked off when I walked into the arena on Saturday night because they had to clear the elevators to stretcher somebody to an ambulance. It didn’t look good, so spare a thought for that person and their family.