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Kind of a strange game at the Wells Fargo Center last night.
The crowd was restless early, almost suspicious of what was happening on the floor. There was quiet moaning and groaning as the Sixers traded shots with the Nets while the refs seemed to call every soft foul in the history of NBA basketball. You felt like there wasn’t a lot of “juice” in the building as Brett Brown’s team couldn’t seem to close a gap that continued to yo-yo from two points, to four, up to six or seven at times, then back down. Losing a third straight game, this one in front of the home crowd, would have a been a midseason backbreaker.
Then Furkan Korkmaz hit a pair of consecutive three pointers to give the Sixers the lead and inject some life in the crowd, sparking a fourth quarter defensive effort and execution level that was better than anything we’ve seen from this team since the Christmas Day win. Philly turned their final four offensive possessions into nine points while getting three stops on the defensive end, allowing them to pull away for a double-digit win after 3.5 close quarters of basketball.
In the clutch
This was the 27th “clutch” game the Sixers have played this season, the second most league-wide.
NBA Stats defines clutch as the last five minutes of a game in which the point differential is five or less. So in 27 of the Sixers’ 42 games, they’ve found themselves in a five point game while coming down the home stretch.
It’s really incredible to think about how many tight games they’ve been in, games that they’ve turned into a 16-11 record. That’s a .590 winning percentage in the clutch, and while they certainly could have been better in a number of those close losses, their possessions in the final 2:30 of last night’s game all turned out positively.
- offense: Josh Richardson/Ben Simmons pick and roll, ball finds Tobias Harris for a late shot clock three (make)
- defense: Nets shot clock violation
- offense: foul drawn, Richardson hits 2/2 free throws
- defense: Specer Dinwiddie drive and layup (make)
- offense: Tobias Harris elbow jumper (make)
- defense: contested Nets layup (miss)
- offense: Harris/Simmons pick and roll, Harris floater (make)
- defense: Dinwiddie three pointer (miss)
- offense: Nets foul, game over
That’s a 9-2 run over the course of two minutes and eight combined possessions, as Harris had seven points shooting three of the Sixers’ final four shots. He had a monstrous night overall, leading the team with 34 points on 14-20 shooting, and spoke after the game about the experience of playing in these tight ones:
I think you hit it on the head when you talk about the experience aspect of it, that we’re gaining. I think as a team we’re finding out what’s gonna work for us late game. That’s playoff basketball. A lot of those games are close, right down to the last five minutes, when it comes down to execution and who can get the best shot off, who can get the best look. I thought tonight we just did a really good job of getting open looks and getting shots that we know we can make. We’ll continue to grow. Obviously, we don’t want that many close games, but it is good for experience.
Brett Brown dropped a similar quote about two months ago, admitting that he enjoyed these games in a somewhat masochistic way, simply for the fact that you learn a lot of about your team and build late-game experience while compiling usable film. It’s a sentiment he reiterated Wednesday night:
If you knew my personal routine when it comes to watching close games, you’d think that I’m definitely ill. It interests me more than anything, and to be able to see yourself and not use examples always from around the league, those close games we sort of break down around the league, there’s nothing like that for people to learn. You learn best by viewing yourself, where we’ve done good things and bad things. I didn’t realize (we played so many close games), but it doesn’t surprise me. I think that it’s way more of a positive than it is a negative. I have many friends in this league who have been in a lot of close games that have maybe won more than we can brag about. But I believe it accrues, it adds up and it helps us better understand how to close stuff out when it matters most, I hope.
So what was working for the Sixers down the stretch?
I thought they spaced the floor really well, starting with a spread pick and roll on the Harris three-pointer. That PNR didn’t come off, but they were able to keep the play alive and move the ball back to the perimeter for the contested shot. On the next two looks, they went first to Richardson and second to Harris on a short flare and double stagger:
Put a couple of shooters in the weak side corner, set the stagger above the three-point line. They just did a really nice job spacing on these sets, which left Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen sitting on the elbow waiting for Simmons and Al Horford rolls that never really came. Good ball handling by Richardson and Harris on these plays.
Threes – how many is too many?
The Sixers went 6-33 from three-point range in the Monday loss to Indiana.
Last night they hit a more palatable 11-30 from deep, and that’s more of the number you’re looking for, that 29-32 median range for three-point looks they’ve posted over the course of 42 games.
Before the game, I asked Brett Brown if he still wanted his team to shoot more three pointers, going back to the quote he dropped last week before the Oklahoma City game:
I think when you sort of dissect it and do your homework like we all do, and I know you do, too – like if you look at the last six games, it is barren. It’s a drought, for sure. I’m told the previous 29 games we were the #1 team in the NBA shooting threes. Now you can do that math, I think I’m right, repeating what I just said. So to overreact to something like that, I’m not going to do that. I want our guys finding the rim. Of course people are right on your doorstep and if there are chances to penetrate, we’ll take that too. When I go back and look at it, it is a very tiny few (instances) that you think, the close out was that close that you could have up-faked and drove it, or scraped or swept and drove it. I don’t see it like that. So that’s a long answer to say, yep, we will double down.
Not sure where Brett got that #1 stat. If you go back and look through the first 29 games, which takes you to the December 19th loss to Miami, they were actually 10th overall, at 36.2%. They did, however, only take the 26th most threes per game, so to his point, there was certainly justification for them to attempt more threes considering the disparity between total tries and actual field goal percentage.
Brett is right, though when he talks about the “barren” recent stretch. There were games where they shot 18%, 20%, and 24% from three. Prior to that, they put up 47%, 40%, and 42% in the three-game win streak. They are an incredibly wonky team in the fact that they have a lot of statistical outlier games when it comes to deep shooting, so I think that’s more of the point he was trying to make. They really were missing a lot of good, wide open looks in previous games.
I still think this team needs to try to get to the foul line more, but if they keep their three-point attempts per game in that 29-32 range, I think that’s justifiable. It’s when they get into the 33-36 range and continue to miss open looks and lay bricks that it becomes an issue.
Relocating the finger
Joel Embiid was courtside pregame with a big wrap on his hand. It looked like a soft splint covering the surgically repaired ligament in his finger:
Ironically, DeAndre Jordan left this game with a dislocated finger. This happened literally under the same basket on the same low block where Embiid dislocated his finger. Twilight Zone.
- Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz rang the bell.
- Anybody seen Taurean Prince and DeMarre Carroll in the same room?
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got some apathetic boos when he was introduced.
- Raul Neto got the early backup point guard minutes. Didn’t get the final possession of the third quarter, that iso take. Brett said after the game he didn’t want Neto to “rot” on the bench, which is why he got a chance over Trey Burke.
- Matisse Thybulle had a really nice sequence midway through the second quarter with the rear contest on Kyrie Irving, followed by a corner catch and shoot three at the other end. That’s why we call them “3 and D” players.
- Spencer Dinwiddie has never committed a foul, according to Spencer Dinwiddie.
- Neither team could shoot free throws last night. 18-30 from Brooklyn (60%) and 16-25 for Philly (64%)