Stupid Scheduling and the Dunker Spot – Observations from Sixers 113, Spurs 111 (OT)

Photo Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been more than a week since we did a Sixers recap on the site.

The honest truth is that it was a combination of regular season burnout and NFL Draft priorities, so the Sixers went temporarily into cryostasis while the Eagles took a turn in the spotlight.

Why the fatigue? Well, they lost a bunch of games in a row with a squad that wasn’t healthy, and we had the comical Joel Embiid late scratch in Milwaukee, which made that game worthless. The first Milwaukee game was also worthless because it was on the second night of a back-to-back without Ben Simmons. Both games should have been playoff barometers and wound up being meaningless instead.

And then when they did get everybody back on the floor, they demolished a tanking OKC team (big joke) before obliterating Atlanta in consecutive matchups. We went from a really bothersome valley to a peak resembling Mount Fuji. The rollercoaster ride resulted in basketball motion sickness and required over-the-counter Dramamine.

Doc Rivers’ team won again Sunday night, this time only by two points, so they’re slipping! Like the late DMX. They got a break with Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, and Jakob Poeltl all missing out for San Antonio but needed overtime to beat the Spurs. Now they fly to Chicago for a ROAD BACK-TO-BACK and then gotta’ turn around for a Wednesday game back in Texas, this time against Houston.

I don’t know what the NBA schedule makers are smoking, but it’s potent. It’s like they all put blindfolds on and then took turns throwing darts at a United States map.

Here’s an exclusive photo showing the NBA schedule makers at work:

(from Bird Box)

“It’s just the worst scheduling of the year,” said Doc Rivers after the game. “We are 45 minutes from Houston, and we’re gonna fly to Chicago, and play Chicago. Then fly back to Houston and play Houston. It makes no sense but it is what it is. I’m sure every team has had one or two of these during the year. We’re just gonna have to buck up and win the game anyway.”

Putting this nonsense aside, the Sixers remain in first place in the Eastern Conference with a half game lead over Brooklyn and the tiebreaker. That’s the big takeaway here.

They did not execute very well at the end of the fourth quarter, settling for a turnaround Joel Embiid jump shot at the end of regulation, made possible only by a clutch block from a Matisse Thybulle rear contest. That one seemed highly questionable based on the fact that he drew 6’5″ Keldon Johnson and didn’t try to get himself closer to the basket against a smaller guy.

At the end of regulation, another Embiid iso possession, this time against 6’11” Gorgui Dieng, and another tough, turnaround jumper:

The ultimate irony here is that Ben Simmons made this play from his “dunker spot” position, aka weakside underneath the rim.

We’ve talked a lot about his half court positioning on these late game sets, and that’s really the best spot to put him. Maybe the only spot. It requires his defender to stay put, and that person can’t help off of him to double. If that player does later get sucked in, rotating to help at the basket, then Ben is in position to attack the rebound, which is exactly what happened in this game.

Here’s how the spacing works in these sets:

Put one shooter in each corner, and the third goes to the opposite side break line. Simmons stands under the rim, weakside.

Interestingly enough, Tobias Harris collapses here, too, and his man, Johnson, loses him. He bumps into Rudy Gay and sort of seals him off, which gives Simmons this free look at the rebound:

That’s the dunker spot in a nutshell. Attack the weak side and see what happens.

Doc Rivers on the spark that a buzzer beater can provide:

“I think today was more relief because we knew we put ourselves in the position we were in. Give San Antonio credit; Pop had those guys playing hard, moving the ball and attacking. But our guys know they didn’t play right and they got away with one. It was more of a relief tonight, than a celebration.”

Yeah, it just seemed a little flat, didn’t it? They saw the Spurs’ pregame injury report and thought they might cruise. Doc dialed up some basic isolation sets for Embiid, who settled for some tough shots at the buzzer. It seemed like the coach and all of the players were on autopilot in the second half and did the bare minimum to get by, like a 12th grader passing his classes with a 59.6%. Round that bad boy up to a D- and put AP Calculus in the rear view mirror.

“Sleepy Seth”

There is a Crossing Broad staffer who does not like Seth Curry, and refers to him in a derogatory fashion as “Sleepy Seth.” I believe this is because the individual wants Curry to shoot more, or pull the trigger coming off screens, or just be more assertive in general.

This individual got what he wanted last night, because Curry was 8-10 from the floor and 6-6 from three and looked fantastic doing it.

All six makes:

All good stuff. That last one is fantastic, just come off the screen and fire. I don’t know how many times he’s taken an extra dribble in similar situations this season, but when he thinks less and just pulls up, it’s so deadly. Automatic. Bang bang.

Doc on his son-in-law:

“We moved the ball on those (shots). I’ve always said when Seth plays well, or Furk, or one of those (shooters), it usually means the ball is moving. I really thought we were in and out with that. There were times when we moved the ball great. But there were other times when we got a big lead and the ball starts sticking. He went a long stretch without getting the ball. It’ll be great to watch the film and see that. It’s always nice when he’s making shots, stretching the defense so well, which is good for us.”


Pop’s hair

The more Gregg Popovich grows that hair out, the more he looks like that lawyer who was always sitting courtside at the Sixers games:

Ehh.. I dunno. Maybe not as much as I thought. That’s Tom Kline btw, of Kline and Specter (they do personal injury and medical malpractice and stuff like that). He had season tickets and was always right down on the baseline, near team benches. Maybe after the pandemic we get him out there with the dunk squad and he does the trampoline routine.

Some readers had other suggestions:

And finally:

Happy Monday. Let’s have a great week.