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Took Their Best Punch – Observations from Sixers 106, Heat 102

Kevin Kinkead - April 22, 2018

If I needed a cigarette after game three, I need an oxygen tank after game four.

You saw a little bit of everything on Saturday – fighting, fouling, scrapping, turnovers, huge defensive stops, and a tight fourth quarter finish. Through it all, the Sixers kept their head above water and found a way to win a playoff road game while being totally out of whack for the better part of two and a half quarters.

The fact that they turned the ball over 26 times and still came out on top is nothing short of astounding. If Miami can’t get it done after throwing a haymaker barrage for the second straight game, then it’s time to wrap this series up and move on to the next round. The Heat fly back to Philadelphia down 3 to 1 in the series after failing to capitalize on two performances that probably should have been good enough for at least one win.

This game gave us our first truly tight fourth quarter, a series of possessions where we can really analyze how Brett Brown and the Sixers operated in crunch time.

It was 100-99 Philly with 1:00 to play and possession of the ball after a Joel Embiid turnover and Dwyane Wade layup. With the half-full American Airlines Arena finally showing a pulse, Brown went to the team’s staple horns set, and a JJ Redick back screen gave Ben Simmons a free run to the rim:

That’s a defensive mixup between Josh Richardson and James Johnson, and Simmons saw it all the way.

On the other end, Wade would answer with a 16-footer of his own, which brought us back down the floor with the Sixers again leading by one, this time with 30.1 seconds remaining. Brown went to another play that’s worked well before, something they used in the regular season in Miami, the Joel Embiid and Redick 25 action:

Very simple dribble hand off and a huge screen on Richardson, who got abused on the second straight possession with Hassan Whiteside unable to help. The only thing you’d ask for there is for Redick to get his feet behind the three point line. Otherwise, that’s perfectly run.

On the other end, Joel Embiid was whistled for a foul on Wade, though I think the refs got the wrong man. Embiid seemed to get all ball after Robert Covington had slapped Wade’s arm and caused the ball to pop free, yet Joel got the foul instead.

After Wade missed his second free throw, Redick crashed the glass for a rebound, took a Heat foul, and converted both foul shots at the other end. That was enough for a four point win after Miami missed on their final possession at the game.

They just executed mentally and physically in that final minute. They answered tough buckets with well-run sets and hit the free throws when it mattered.

Playoff basketball often comes down to fourth quarter half court possessions, and in their first real test of that this postseason, the players and the coach passed with flying colors.

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Reports: Eagles and Nick Foles Agree to Revised Contract

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

They basically gave him a bonus for winning the Super Bowl.

Per Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport:

Foles was originally set to earn $7 million this season, the second year of a two-year contract.

It’s another player-friendly move via Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas. Earlier this offseason they revised Stefen Wisniewski’s contract to reward him with $250k from a missed playing time incentive. Chris Long is also returning to the Birds, reportedly with a revised deal.

In other contract tweaks, Lane Johnson’s deal was restructured. Zach Ertz also agreed to a restructure.

This Team-Produced Eagles Documentary is Amazing

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

If you do one thing this weekend, carve out 45 minutes to watch this video, which is filled with exclusive locker room stuff that we hadn’t seen before.

It’s on Youtube:

The Not Worst of Philadelphia

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

Some schlub in the comments section didn’t like the “Worst of Philadelphia” bracket because he/she thought it was “a dumb series of posts that only enhance the negative views of the city.”

Congratulations to he/she for being the only person to take the bracket seriously, and for also lacking a sense of humor.

But I realize that a three-week competition to determine the worst things about Philly is intrinsically negative, and Crossing Broad is a website that was founded on fair and balanced journalism.

So in the interest of equilibrium, and also just to prove that I’m not a total asshole, I whipped this up:

Looks like a pretty good field to me.

I think I’d have to assign “Eagles Super Bowl champs” as the overall #1 seed. I could definitely see “it’s not New York” coming out of the bottom left region. Ron Brooks is a JUGGERNAUT on the other side of the bracket and I think “easy to walk and bike” would do some damage. Seriously, have you ever been to Atlanta or Los Angeles? You can’t walk or bike anywhere. Those cities are just big plastic suburbs.

Anyway, I think it’s important that we show positivity, objectivity, and fairness in our journalism, which I hope we’ve accomplished here.

 

 

Garbage Time Layups: Legitimate Beef or a Big Nothingburger?

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

It was 127 to 108 with four seconds remaining last night when Dario Saric drove to the rim for a layup attempt.

He was cut off and blocked by Kelly Olynyk, a hard downward slap but nothing truly malicious, as the Heat center/power foward looked to keep the homie from extending a 19-point lead with an easy garbage time bucket.

The play began with a defensive rebound and quick transition up the court. The Sixers could have easily just walked it up and run out the clock, but they did this instead:

Asshole play? Or totally fair?

You see a bit of a stare from Olynyk. He’s not giving that up at the end of the game, and I don’t blame him.

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Beat ’em at their Own Game – Observations from Sixers 128, Heat 108

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

I felt like I needed a cigarette after that game, and I don’t even smoke.

Talk about a slug fest; we watched two teams exchange blow after blow and come back for more. There was fouling and clutching and yelling and jawing and scrapping and one guy even grabbed another dude by the arm and pulled him off the court. Another guy stepped on someone’s goggles and we also saw the Slovenian guy flex at the Italian guy in some sort of 2013 EuroBasket redux beef.

Through all of that, the Sixers never really truly seemed as nervous as fans on social media. Miami successfully junked it up, slowed down the game, and got the whistles blowing, but the Sixers found an answer for everything thrown at them. They answered physicality with their own physicality. They countered a 48.5% three point mark with a 52.9% effort of their own. They ratcheted up the defense, got some stops, and then just showed their superior talent in what became a 20 point win.

If one thing stands out more than anything, it’s obviously the performance of Joel Embiid, who went for 23, 7, and 4 in his first game since March 28th. Specifically, it was Brett Brown’s decision to give Embiid 30 minutes and allow him to shake off a 0-5 start from the field, which Joel turned into a 5-11 overall mark and 10-15 effort from the foul line. He was typically stout on the defensive end and blocked and altered shots that Miami had been converting in games one and two.

Go down the list and you find contributions across the board. Dario Saric put up 21 points. Ben Simmons went for 19, 12, and 7. Marco Belinelli hit some big shots early to keep Miami from building a lead. The entire team only turned it over 12 times and showed a lot of mental fortitude out there.

All of those things add up to a really nice road win. These are the types of games where young guys learn what playoff basketball is all about.

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The Eagles Schedule is Out

Kevin Kinkead - April 19, 2018

The Sixers are headed to halftime, so take a look at the Birds’ 2018 schedule:

Looks like December 16th in Los Angeles for the #1 seed in the NFC.

I don’t see many losses in there, do you? Minnesota at home? Jacksonville in London? Saints in NOLA? Couple tricky games for sure, but we’re talking about the defending Super Bowl champions here.

Some quick notes:

  • only one instance of back to back road games, on December 9th and December 16th
  • five prime time games
  • the bye week comes after the Jags game, so we’ve got two weeks to talk about how much Dallas sucks before playing the Cowboys at home (plus, week nine is a good spot to get that break, instead of having to burn that bye too early in the season)
  • the Eagles do not face any teams coming off their bye week.
  • the Thursday season opener allows the Birds 3 extra days to prepare for Tampa Bay
  • they will play the five other teams that made the NFC playoffs last year (Rams, Saints, Panthers, Falcons, Vikes)

Thoughts?

Game Three: Five Things to Watch For

Kevin Kinkead - April 19, 2018

The Sixers can get it done without Joel Embiid.

That might be the biggest topic of the past 48 hours, Joel’s game three status, but we’re talking about a team that just won nine games in a row minus the superstar center.

When you re-watch game two, you can look at Miami’s increased pressure and physical play and tip your hat to Dwyane Wade for his phenomenal individual effort. You can also look at the fact that the Sixers didn’t shoot the ball well, suffered a horrendous second quarter, and still cut the lead to two points deep in the fourth quarter.

Going with the glass half full approach, we’ll start with that topic:

1. Uncontested Field Goals

How much of the Sixers’ shooting struggles were due to Miami’s more intense approach, versus simply missing open shots?

Luckily for us, the NBA keeps statistics to help us determine that.

I edited the chart below to show each player’s minutes and overall field goal percentage. The other six categories are fairly straightforward:

  • CFGM = contested field goals made
  • CFGA = contested field goals attempted
  • CFG% = contested field goal percentage
  • UFGM = uncontested field goals made
  • UFGA = uncontested field goals attempted
  • UFG% = uncontested field goal percentage

The NBA defines a contested field goal as “any shot where the closest defender is within 3.5 feet.”

Taking that into account, here you go:

They only shot 30.2% on uncontested looks. JJ Redick was especially poor here, hitting just 1-9 vs. a 3-4 contested field goal mark. Marco Belinelli hit just 3 of 10 uncontested looks and Robert Covington was 2-7.

For comparison, those three players were 6-10 (Redick), 6-11 (Belinelli), and 3-6 (Covington) in this category in game one. The entire team was 56.5% in uncontested field goals, so it lends a lot of truth to the idea that they just weren’t hitting on Monday night. Still, you give credit to Miami for being disruptive and pestering on the perimeter and making guys more uncomfortable in general, but I highly doubt the Sixers shoot 19.4% from three again this series.

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