Posts for nba

Winning UGLY: Four Observations from Sixers 89, Celtics 80

Kevin Kinkead - January 19, 2018

That was… a pretty bad basketball game. Turns out the Celtics are total shit without Kyrie Irving, which I think we already knew.

It was summed up brilliantly by Brad Stevens, who did a compelling and rich interview with Kristen Ledlow at the end of the third quarter:

Ledlow: Here with Celtics coach Brad Stevens; you limited the turnovers in the third quarter, what else has to change offensively in the 4th?

Stevens: A lot. We stink. First three quarters, we’ve stunk.

Well said, coach.

You can slap a big, fat asterisk on that win and say, “well Boston didn’t have their best player,” but while it might be fair, that’s a bit disrespectful of a fine Joel Embiid performance, plus some really nice team defense.

Yeah, they almost blew another lead, but they didn’t. They won. Two straight games now that they’ve successfully closed out. That’s five wins in six to improve to 21-20 and go above .500 for the first time since December 12th.

That’s me, I’m the pragmatist. I’ll look for the positives in a nine-point road win, no matter who’s on the floor. It can be Kyrie Irving or Larry Bird or Brian Scalabrine. All you can do is go out and play the squad they put in front of you. Continue Reading

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Got The Job Done: Four Observations from Sixers 117, Raptors 111

Kevin Kinkead - January 16, 2018

Still time left to enter our $500 tailgating giveaway from AmeriGas. The prize includes a portable grill, a portable heat lamp, two tailgating chairs with sunshade, a hose to hook it all up, and $200 worth of apparel from the Crossing Broad Store. You can enter here.

 

They blew another lead but not the game, hanging on for a 117-111 win in the regular season finale against the Toronto Raptors.

The takeaway could be that they almost coughed it up, or you could go with the glass half full approach as they found a way to weather a Raptor run and make enough plays down the stretch for a good win against a really good team.

It was a 102-101 ballgame with 3:03 to play and Ben Simmons, who had missed his last two shots and turned the ball over three times in a row, drove right to the rim for a contested bucket. After a stop on the defensive end, Simmons came right back down the floor, put a defender on ice skates, then dished it out to Dario Saric for his only three pointer of the game, a triple that extended the Sixer lead to six points.

That was it, right? Aggressive Simmons showed up to close out the game.

Sort of.

The next trip down, he tried to find Saric in the low post and turned the ball over, leading to a Sixer foul and pair of foul shots for DeMar DeRozan.

With a four-point lead, Simmons was intentionally fouled and sent to the line, where he nailed both free throws. Later, he stole the ball, but missed the ensuing dunk. That was really Philadelphia in a nutshell, where they did a lot of great things, then followed up with errors. But they did more of the former and less of the latter in buckling down to beat one of the NBA’s better teams for the first time this season. Continue Reading

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

Kevin Kinkead - January 12, 2018

Still time left to enter our $500 tailgating giveaway from AmeriGas. The prize includes a portable grill, a portable heat lamp, two tailgating chairs with sunshade, a hose to hook it all up, and $200 worth of apparel from the Crossing Broad Store. You can enter here.

 

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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The Sixers’ Turnover Issue Isn’t as Bad as We Make it Out to Be

Kevin Kinkead - January 9, 2018

This story could begin and end by attributing the Sixers’ turnover problem to the fact that they start a rookie point guard and a second-year big man with a top-five NBA usage rate.

You have to expect growing pains while bringing along a 21 and 23-year-old at the same time, then throwing 19-year-old Markelle Fultz into the mix. No one should be surprised that Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are ranked 5th and 6th, respectively, in raw turnovers per game.

Their trouble with the ball, plus contribution from the supporting cast, places the Sixers dead last in the NBA with 17.8 turnovers per game. Casual observers, and even some who are more dialed in, identify the issue as one of the key things keeping this team from taking the next step forward.

They’re not wrong. Fewer turnovers results in more meaningful possessions, which results in more shots, which results in more scoring opportunities.

No shit, yeah?

But it’s not necessarily about turnovers in a vacuum. Rather, it’s looking at the number as it applies to the Sixers’ style of play and offensive identity, which is predicated on up-tempo transitional movement and sharing the basketball.

Case in point, the 33-8 Golden State Warriors, who have the NBA’s best record. Golden State commits 16 turnovers per game, good for third-worst in the NBA. They consistently lose the ball and consistently win games. What gives? Continue Reading

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Sixers Notes: Markelle Fultz and the Full Contact Practice

Kevin Kinkead - January 7, 2018

No Markelle Fultz videos today, since he was finished training by the time media was allowed into the gym.

We did get an update from Brett Brown, who says the rookie guard is coming along nicely.

“He didn’t go through the full practice today, but he went through the large majority of it,” Brown said. “Anything that had transition defense, or play calls, or slides, or passing drills – he went through the whole thing, in relation to, he had the ability to do whatever I wanted. He didn’t go through the entire practice, but he was available to do a very large majority of it.

“He played five-on-five and got up and down the court in a more detailed, lengthy way. I think that’s the thing that stands out the most, that he was more available to do things that he had been less available to do in the past.”

That included full contact, according to Brown, who says Fultz will travel to London, though he’s not expected to play. There’s no target date for a return, though 1/15 against Toronto, MLK Day, seems like it would be the goal.

“I thought his rise-up looked pretty good,” Brown added. “He didn’t shoot any threes. But that skill that he has, as I’ve said to everybody, it connects the dots. And when you don’t have it, you realize it even more. He can create a shot for himself. He can create a shot for others. He’s got a lot of wiggle to his game. That was different. He’s different than all of our players.”

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The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth – Four Observations from Sixers 112, Spurs 106

Kevin Kinkead - January 4, 2018

A few weeks back, Joel Embiid went from questionable, to probable, to out against Toronto.

Last night, he went from doubtful, to very doubtful, to officially out, to the starting five.

Pregame, we were told by Brett Brown that Embiid had swelling and bruising in his shooting hand, resulting in difficulty catching the ball in the post. That was corroborated by Embiid, the discomfort part, who spoke at his locker around 5:30 p.m.

After warmups, however, he apparently told Sixers’ staff he was good to go, per Brown’s post-game explanation:

“This is the world we all live because I get up here and I tell everybody pregame everything I know, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (laughter), and you pivot out of that when it gets to the game-time decision and that’s what it is. It’s happened quite a bit, in Toronto you learn he’s gonna play or not. Tonight, there was nothing in my mind that suggested he was going to play based on the swelling in his hand and what we saw at practice. He went out and had a good warmup then he felt quite good about himself and with about 35:50, 36 minutes on the clock – I meet the team at 35 – it was announced to us that he felt good enough to play. And I think to Joel Embiid’s complete credit, he came in and he surprised me, he actually made some shots. If you saw the swelling in his hand you wouldn’t think that would be the impact, he would’ve blocked shots, he would’ve rebounded, he would’ve been physical defensively. But he actually still had some touch and finesse to his shot with a swollen right hand. It happened quick, it was completely unexpected and I give him a lot of credit for playing through complete pain and trying to play in front of the Philadelphia fans and help his teammates, that’s a gutsy effort.”

Embiid finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 blocks. He favored the right hand at times but it didn’t seem to bother him much. He wore a wrist wrap in the first half, then took it off for the second half, explaining that he didn’t feel like it was making much of a difference.

He also told us that part of the reason he wanted to play was to get Brett Brown his first win against mentor Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, leading to this pretty cool moment after the victory:

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Number Crunchers: The Sixers, The Three Ball, and the Pace of Play

Kevin Kinkead - January 3, 2018

This is the second installment of a data dive I’ll write periodically throughout the Sixers season.

We did the first one after 10 games, when the team was 6-4 and had just wrapped up a five-game winning streak that carried into the west coast road swing. They were shooting the three-pointer at a high clip and sharing the ball like a gunslinging, up-tempo team, but they really struggled with turnovers, fouls, and free throw shooting.

They’re 11-15 since then, and I don’t think a ton has changed on paper, but let’s take look at the numbers and see what we can find out.

 

Team stats:

Points per game: 108.3 (7th in the league)

They’re actually up four spots in this category, from 11th to 7th in the span of two months. The raw number looks good overall.

When we modify the statistic per 100 possessions, the Sixers fall all the way to 19th place with a 104.0 number. That’s inefficiency there, with the high turnover rate being the biggest reason for the drop off in meaningful trips down the floor.

 

Field goal percentage: 46.1 (11th)

Not much movement in this category, but a slight increase of 0.3%. They’ve been top 15 in FG% all season long, and right now they’re making 40.2 of 87.2 attempts on 103.3 average possessions per game.

That possession number, known as “PACE,” is top-three in the NBA, and shows you just how fast the Sixers move the ball up and down the floor. Per 48 minute averages, only the Lakers have a higher number, at 103.9. The Warriors, who are the poster child for wide-open play, are 5th in the league with a 102.3 PACE number, and they shoot the ball at a 50.8% clip.

They play up-tempo and shoot the lights out, which is probably why they’re the league’s best (and most exciting) team.

 

Three-point shooting percentage: 35.5% (19th)

A massive drop-off here, the Sixers were the third-best three-point shooting team in early November.

They shot the ball 39.9% from the deep during the first ten games, then really fell back down to Earth.

Right now they’re hitting 10.6 of their 29.9 attempts per game, way down from a 12.3 for 30.8 average at the start of the year. They’re making almost two fewer three-pointers per game, which is about a 5.8 point swing on the scoreboard.

The decline is noticeable from October, to November, and now down to December:

 

For whatever reason, they shoot the three better on the road, at a 38.1% rate, compared to a 32.5% rate at home. I don’t know why there’s a huge gap there. You would think they’d shoot it better at the Wells Fargo Center, but they don’t.

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Sixers Notes: Joel’s Hand and Markelle Fultz Shoots a Basketball

Kevin Kinkead - January 2, 2018

Joel Embiid is doubtful for tomorrow night with a bruised hand suffered during the Sunday win in Phoenix.

The Sixers’ center was off to the side at practice Tuesday morning as a trainer worked on his injured extremity.

“It was a legitimate scare,” said head coach Brett Brown. “A legitimate fall. If you saw the palm of his hand you’d see the bruising and the swelling and the discoloring. If it was his non-shooting hand, you might feel more confident, but we’ll all learn more tomorrow.”

The 25-12 Spurs come to town on Wednesday night.

But the big story on Action News is the return of Markelle Fultz, who took part in 4v4 basketball and later did some 1v1 work as the ravenous Philadelphia media watched.

Brett Brown joked as he approached the scrum, offering to stand to the side so writers could film the rookie guard while asking questions.

“I think he’s doing okay, you know?” said Brown of Fultz. “He’s moving well. He’s starting to get excited about his return to play. Nobody knows a time frame on that yet. He came out and participated in some four on four, half court stuff with his team and now you’re seeing what you see, just some light one on one stuff.”

As described, most of his work was 1v1 offensive and defensive stuff at less than 50% speed. He worked with Jacob Pullen and James Michael McAdoo for a good 25 minutes before the session was closed down:

I didn’t see Fultz take a ton of jump shots, but he looked like he was moving relatively well. The shoulder looked fine on a dunk that I didn’t get on camera.

Kyle Neubeck over at Philly Voice snagged this clip:

Fultz is still officially listed as “out” on the injury report, and his return to practice was accompanied by this brief press release:

“Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz has been cleared to begin the final stage of his return-to-play program. The program consists of gradual re-integration into team practices and training, complemented with additional conditioning work to support fitness readiness for gameplay.”

It’s obvious that Fultz’s skill-set is going to be a much-needed integration on this team. They simply do not have anyone outside of Ben Simmons who can put the ball on the floor and score at the rim. There’s a lot of offensive redundancy between spot-up shooters like JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson, Jerryd Bayless, and even the injured Furkan Korkmaz.

Brown was asked if he thinks about what Fultz can add to the roster.

“Every day,” he said. “Because the reality of the whole thing is, the more you feel our team and coach it, his skill-set ties so many things together. He can make plays. When you’re missing some of those qualities in a group, things get exposed. He can do that. He can create a shot for himself and create a shot for others. So if you ask me, ‘do I project out what he can add when he’s in there?’ (the answer is) every day.

“The design of our team was mindful of what he brought to the table. His skill-set is very much in demand.”