The Sixers won without Joel Embiid and James Harden last night, and obviously in the process they played a much different game. Without the pick and roll, post up, and iso possessions you get from those guys, the Sixers’ executed on the perimeter with ball movement and hand offs, giving us some classic dribble weave on the floor.

It was actually mentioned by both coaches, and this is what Erik Spoelstra said:

“They made some tough shots, you know they went to a dribble weave and (Tyrese) Maxey got to his right hand and he is strong right-handed and he made some shots and got confident. They just really got to their spots, honestly, we didn’t close the gaps and make the paint look as packed as we could have or should have and you know the got to their spots and Tyrese really took over that fourth quarter and played his butt off.”

We all did the three-man weave drill in junior high and high school. Inbound the ball from under the basket, pass and move all the way down the floor.

At higher levels, it’s built into perimeter-heavy motion offenses, with various actions that stem from it. You run hand-offs into ball screens, flares, brush cuts, and things like that. It’s annoying to defend because opponents have to constantly move laterally and move through traffic at the same time, and if you’re sitting in 2-3 zone or switching everything, then it requires extra communication and concentration.

I clipped a couple of sequences for you:

Nothing fancy, right?

Shake Milton with a hand off for Tobias Harris, who then hands off to Maxey. Tyrese catches on the move and is going downhill, which makes it hard on Tyler Herro, who just had to slide left, right, and then left again while the Heat sit in zone.

Clip 2:

Same exact action here.

This time, however, Maxey decides to pull up instead of trying to get to the rack, but mission accomplished, because he’s catching the ball in a prime spot on his right hand. Same defense from Miami.

Clip 3:

This one is different, but you see the weave action in there. Niang slips into that second-side DHO, and then the Sixers get out of the trap and find Niang who stayed over there in the left side corner for the wide open three.

Said Doc Rivers on playing without Embiid and Harden:

We work on it a lot. We know, going into the year I’ll say this, with Joel you know he’s gonna miss some games. And I thought last year we weren’t prepared for it until the second half of the year. This year we work on it every day. What are we gonna do? How are we gonna score? Space the floor. And we work on it every day. They play that dribble weave stuff every day in practice. And so they’re comfortable when they come in the game to do that. And moving forward, we’ve been doing it with James as well. Think about that same kind of motion with James doing it. It can be pretty good, but you’ve got to give up yourself to do it, and I thought our guys did that today.

Dribble weave is a classic basketball action. It’s a pain in the ass to defend, because you have to keep sliding and keep adjusting your movement. It’s almost like you’re doing a three-cone drill at the NFL Combine. Left, right, left, right again, if you’re sitting in zone. And if you’re playing man, you have to keep chasing your guy around the perimeter.

But from a schematic standpoint this action makes a lot of sense for a team missing Embiid and Harden, because the squad strength is perimeter movement with Maxey, Milton, Korkmaz, Harris, and Niang taking on elevated roles and seeing more of the ball. Good win, good Xs and Os stuff to talk about the next day.

EDIT – I’d like to share this one too, really like this action from St. Peter’s: