If the Sixers lose by 13 on the road, but the game doesn’t end until after midnight, and they’re missing three starters…. then does it really count?

Unfortunately it does, so chalk up road defeat number 23 on the season.

They weren’t supposed to win that game, not without Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Josh Richardson, and this one  unfolded the same way the Clippers game unfolded on Sunday. Brett Brown’s team came out with good energy and enthusiasm, playing small and shooting threes and getting up and down the floor with pace. Eventually LA’s stars took over, and Anthony Davis ended up crushing Philly to the tune of 37 points and 13 rebounds. The Sixers conceded a whopping 62 points in the paint without the rim protection of Embiid and perimeter mettle of Simmons and Richardson.

They did cut the lead to nine points in the fourth quarter, then came up with a baseline jumper air ball out of a timeout, committed an offensive foul on the following possession, and then turned the ball over for a LeBron James dunk on their next trip down the floor. That pretty much closed the deal.

So it is what it is. It would be a waste of time to spend too long on this recap, but I want to touch on two basketball concepts and then a few notes:

Playing small

Norvel Pelle played about four minutes of backup center and Kyle O’Quinn was a DNP-CD, with Brown deciding to play small and space out the floor instead. You saw a lot of five-out offensive sets, predictably resulting in 40 three point attempts, 16 of which went in (40%).

Mike Scott was the fake five last night, which provided us with some pretty spread sets like this one:

You really can’t space the floor any better with that lineup out there, which was Raul Neto, Matisse Thybulle, Glenn Robinson III, Scott, and I think that’s Alec Burks up in the weak side corner. You’re running a spread ’15’ pick and roll/brush cut with Neto and Scott, LA blows the defensive communication, and then Raul is looking at this when he rounds the corner:

You get Danny Green and the second big collapsing, Neto picks the right kickout pass, and the Sixers hit a wide open three. It really can’t work any better than that.

Playing five-out with a small roster leads to fun things like this, but it’s a huge liability on the defensive end, which I’ll explain next.

Mixing in zone

There was a good chunk of 2-3 zone shown throughout the evening, to help the Sixers try to hide their interior weaknesses with Embiid unavailable to patrol the paint.

It kept them competitive throughout the game, but it’s really tough sledding because LA is a great passing team and did a good job finding the gaps in these sets.

Here are a couple clips of Dwight Howard buckets against the Sixer zone:

That first clip looks like 1-3-1 zone, but it could be a blown 2-3. This took place after a timeout with Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton showing a bit of three-quarter court pressure. Not sure if this was the plan, or if they scrambled to find their spots, but GRIII ends up trying to front Howard while Scott addresses Davis at the nail. LeBron sees what’s going on and takes the return pass from the wing before just lobbing over the top for the dunk.

The second clip is just LeBron being LeBron, a short little dribble into the zone, then he pulls up and sells the corner outlet pass, which gets Tobias Harris to move off his spot. That leaves a seam for Howard to backdoor his way to the rim along the baseline:

LeBron has always been very good at that. He’s kind of like an NFL quarterback in the way he can “look off” a defender, same way Tom Brady might move a safety to get one of his receivers open.

You understand why the Sixers would play small and show zone in this game, but LA is as difficult a matchup as they come, and the Lakers did a nice job showing patience and picking this apart.

Other notes

  • I read a lot of complaints on Twitter about Brett’s management of the late second quarter, when LA was starting their big run. I’d agree with people who say he has to try to stop the bleeding there. Call a timeout, dial up a set or two, do anything you can to try to kill off that momentum. LA went on a 42-10 run that started at that point and carried into the third quarter.
  • Pelle missed two WIDE OPEN layups in a row. I think he was so open on that blown LA sequence that he was caught off guard.
  • GRIII made his first three pointer as a Sixer. The long national nightmare is over. He had 25 points and played his best game since the trade.
  • Avery Bradley pretty much locked up Shake Milton, holding him to 12 points and fucking up a nice betting night I had going on.
  • Nice touch by the Sixers staff wearing the Kobe Bryant shoes in tribute.
  • Brett really does not trust KOQ.
  • Al Horford again just looked slow, old, injured, or maybe a combination of all of those things. Sixers staff was working on him throughout the game. Talk about a throwaway season for him. That contract looks like the biggest albatross of all time. It’s like an 400 pound albatross fell out of the sky and landed on him.

This was the Horford clip that made the rounds last night:

Enjoy your Wednesday. We’ve made it to Hump Daaaaaay, as the Camel in the Geico commercials would say.