Sixers Notes: The Day After

A day of media availability before practice on Tuesday afternoon, as the Eastern Conference quarterfinal shifts from cold and crappy Philadelphia to warm and beautiful Miami.

Of course the big story on Action News was Joel Embiid, and whether or not the seemingly disgruntled Sixers center will play on Thursday with the series tied at one game apiece.

“It’s still moving forward,” head coach Brett Brown said before the training session. “What I can say is there is a very unified effort with his representation and the people around him, with the people that did the operation, the doctors, with me and with the coaching staff. We’re all doing this; there’s a unified sort of spirit and line of communication. What that means in terms of when is he going to come play again, that’s still unknown. Today he’ll be doing some stuff with shooting and scripting, really for the first time with his team. What that translates to in terms of when is he going to go play for us on the court, we don’t know.”

It would not seem like Embiid is on board with the “unified” outlook, since he went on Instagram after last night’s toss to tell people that he’s “fucking sick of being babied.” That non-controversy was squashed by Brown, who said that he doesn’t really expect anything less from his charismatic and outspoken superstar.

“What I said last night I would repeat 10 times out of 10,” Brown said of Embiid’s social media post. “And I really don’t have anything else to say, more than what I said last night.”

Here’s what he said last night:

Brown said Embiid has not yet participated in any drills involving contact, but explained that he would touch a ball, be with his team, and run a few of his plays at Tuesday’s practice.

As far as Monday night’s loss, the head ball coach said he felt like his team won every quarter except the second, a period in which his team only scored 13 points. The squad re-watched that entire quarter in a film session before training.

“We watched the whole second period,” Brown said. “If we’re all adults in the room, led by me, and trying to take this and make it a positive, we hadn’t lost since March 13th. That feeling of losing, we haven’t felt in a while. I’m reminded how, you know, it’s not a great feeling. You don’t really sleep, and you think, what do you want to do? Really your mood changes. The team’s mood changes, and it should. Coach (Jim) O’Brien, one of my trusted assistants said something that I think was smart, that the playoffs don’t really start until each team gets punched in the mouth. So far we’ve each been punched in the mouth, so here we go. That second period we went through, play by play by play and talked about good and bad and moved on. But it’s part of the growth of us and part of just getting through a series, making the adjustments and continuing to get better. It’s stuff you know I would say.”

The Sixers will fly to Miami Wednesday morning and practice after getting off the plane.

A blueprint for success?

A lot was written last night about Miami’s defensive pressure in game two, a pestering and physical approach. JJ Redick was asked on Tuesday what he felt about the tweaks the Heat made to their game plan in a successful road performance.

“They probably feel like they have a blueprint to beat us and we expect a similar approach,” Redick said. “I think, too, that it wasn’t just about the physicality, I think a byproduct of that, and probably part of their strategy, is that if you’re physical, you’re going to foul. The game becomes choppy and the game is played at their pace. We have to figure out a way to play the game at our pace.”

Redick is right; that second quarter especially was junky and discombobulated. Philadelphia only took 19 of their 96 shots (19.7%) in that period of play. Both teams combined for 18 fouls in the 2nd, which comprised 34% of the games 53 total hacks and grabs and shoves and whatever other infractions.

Overall, that led to Philadelphia to only out-shoot Miami 96 to 82 in this game, versus a wider gap of 95 to 78 in game one.

“I think part of it, and the two go hand-in hand-for sure, but you’ve got to give them credit; they made an adjustment,” Redick added. “I thought we got better as the game wore on with reacting to that. But it was honestly what we expected them to do. We didn’t expect things to be as easy as that second half was in game one. They’re a championship organization with a lot of pride, so that was expected. We have to move on with the assumption that that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the series.”

How much of last night’s struggles were due to Miami’s defense, vs. just missing open shots?

Tracking data at NBA.com shows that the Sixers got 53 uncontested field goal looks last night but only hit 30.2% of those shots. Redick himself was 1-9 in UFG shooting.

“I think we just missed shots, could have got a lot of better shots,” said Ben Simmons. “Second period, I think that’s how it played out, got some good looks and they didn’t fall.”

He’s not wrong. The Sixers had multiple good looks from three and just couldn’t hit, like this one:

That’s a good screen from Richaun Holmes and a good look for Redick. He makes more of those than he misses.

Ball Handling

When Miami started showing full court pressure last night, Ben Simmons was asked to handle it himself while Brown kept T.J. McConnell and Markelle Fultz on the bench. Neither backup point guard is much of a shooter, but could Brown have put one in the game without sacrificing scoring? I think so.

Here’s one look:

  1. Simmons
  2. Fultz
  3. Covington
  4. Saric
  5. Ilyasova

I don’t see what’s wrong with something like that, considering the fact that four of those guys started the game anyway. You’ve got three good shooters and two ball handlers in that lineup.

You could also do this:

  1. Simmons
  2. McConnell
  3. Belinelli
  4. Covington
  5. Saric

Stretch-five Saric with Covington at the four? They’ve done that before, too. Cov played a bit of four in the second half of game one.

I think Brett has options here if they run into ball-handling struggles again, not necessarily with turnovers per se, but just navigating pressure without the loss of rhythm or tempo. The issue is whether or not he trusts McConnell and Fultz in the postseason. Derek Bodner brought up the topic on Tuesday.

“It is a challenge,” Brown admitted. “So as we’ve said before, sort of the holy grail of playoff basketball is shooters. Rotations generally don’t swell, they shrink. If you’re saying – and I agree with you – how the ball handlers are T.J. and Markelle, yeah, right now you wouldn’t call them shooters. So now what? There are challenges. How we ought to sub that with that truth you just said is on our mind. I think it’s as simple as that; you can have shooters or you can have secondary ball handlers. That’s a decision I have to make.”

 

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