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Never Mind the Bollocks: Four Observations from Celtics 114, Sixers 103

Kevin Kinkead - January 12, 2018

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You didn’t expect them to hold a 22-point lead for the rest of the game, did you? You didn’t expect JJ Redick to shoot lights out for 48 minutes, nor did you expect the Celtics to play like crap for that same amount of time.. right?

Say what you will about the Sixers, but Boston just kicked it up a notch at the end of the second quarter. They finally showed some urgency and started playing the type of defense that makes them the best team in the east, with the NBA’s second-highest winning percentage.

Runs happen. You can’t blow a 22-point lead if you don’t build a 22-point lead in the first place, so the Sixers obviously do not “suck,” nor should Brett Brown be fired for this problem specifically. Instead, Sixer fans should be happy that the team is actually building any kind of lead at all for the first time in five seasons. That’s the glass half-full approach – a “good problem to have” for a fledgling group.

If they were losing by 22 in the 2nd quarter and went on to lose by 22, that’s something entirely different, and basically what we saw throughout the “Process” era. The problem is that a young team with mental fragility just doesn’t respond well to adversity. They are easily spooked and begin to turn the ball over. The basketball that got them there – up tempo, fluid, and rhythmic – starts to become jerky and disjointed. They build these leads with a fast pace and knock-down three-point shooting, and when that isn’t working, those leads disappear with the same brevity at which they were created.

In a way, this team really reminds me of, say, Chip Kelly’s Oregon Duck offense. They spread the ball out, push the tempo, and score points in bunches. Then, when Stanford figures it out and starts making tackles and shutting down your speedy attack, Oregon has no clue what to do. They can’t line up in I-formation and hand the ball to the fullback. They can’t run Corey Clement six times in a row. How do you play with a lead?

That’s the Sixers. Brett Brown has to figure out some way to shift out of 1st gear and teach Ben Simmons to manage the game in different ways, because they only really know one speed and one style right now. Ideally, you’re tossing the ball to Joel Embiid in the post and letting him work in a more deliberate, half-court style. But when he plays like he did yesterday, how effective is that? I don’t know what they can really do with this personnel grouping right now. Markelle Fultz should help as a guy who can theoretically create off the dribble.

As an inexperienced team that plays this style, the growing pains are what they are. The real killer is watching veteran guys like Jerryd Bayless throw the ball away on careless entry passes: Continue Reading

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