It was a crisp 40 degrees on Broad Street, just as it is most nights in Philly as the Sixers tip off, when the Sixers (15-8, 11-1 at home) faced the seemingly-imploding Washington Wizards (8-13, 2-8 away) on Friday night. Fresh off a 21-point loss in New Orleans, things did not get much better for the Wiz in Philadelphia last night. The Sixers, coming off of a throttling of the Knicks in the City of Brotherly Love on Wednesday, continued their winning ways with a 123-98 victory over the Wizards to improve to 16-8 on the season and 12-1 at home.
For my first article as an eager member of Philly Front Office and Philly Front Office – Sixers, I’m not going to bore you with the player-by-player statistics and why they matter; that’s part of what my podcast (@TheFeedToEmbiid on IG and Twitter) is for. I’m going to tell you what happened that made the difference in last night’s ball game.
In honor of my being a new member, let’s start with something new for the Sixers. Joel Embiid is averaging 28 points and 13 rebounds in 35 minutes per game on the season. All three statistics are far and away a career high for the 7’2″ (emphasis on the 2 in honor of everyone’s favorite PA guy, Matt Cord) center from Kansas. Tonight, Embiid put up 16 points and 15 rebounds in 22 minutes – and he didn’t even need to do that much for the Sixers to win last night. The most important Embiid statistic has yet to be mentioned – he committed ZERO (!!!) turnovers in his 22 minutes last night. For a player of Embiid’s caliber, for a player whose only major weakness is turning the ball over, no turnovers is gargantuan. For reference, JoJo averages close to four turnovers per game for his career. But, what does this mean for the team? Why does that matter? Well, Embiid’s 3.6 turnovers per game contributed to the Sixers losing numerous games decided by one or two possessions last season. It certainly hurt the Sixers in last season’s second round playoff loss to the Cetlics. If Embiid is not turning the ball over, he is helping the whole offense run more efficiently because those possessions without his turnovers, in theory, are going to result in a shot attempt. That at least gives the Sixers a chance to score, which is obviously much desired over Embiid turning the rock over.
So if “The Process” only dropped 16 tonight, who else stepped up? That’s the thing, no one was a superstar last night. Ben Simmons filled the stat sheet with 13 points, 10 assists, and 8 boards; JJ Redick picked apart the Wizards interior and perimeter defense with 14 points on a few nice cuts for layups off-the-dribble and then his patented Embiid dribble-hand-off into a midrange jumper; Jimmy G Buckets (and, yes, the G stands for “Gets”) contributed 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Off the bench, Mooooose dropped a dime and two pennies to go along with 10 rebounds off the bench. Everyone’s favorite rookie Landry Shamet poured in 12, while only making a pair of triples – in other words, he showed an unnoticed ability to score on cuts to the basket and mid-range jumpers, something we’ve rarely seen from the former Shocker before. Everyone’s favorite Sixer, TJ McConnell, scored a season-high 15 with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals to back up Big Ben. Finally, Furkan Korkmaz (or Turkish JJ, as I like to call him) put up 13 points and 5 assists for the 76ers in the game. With eight players scoring in double figures, the Sixers certainly had a balanced offensive attack last night, something we haven’t seen all season.
Dominance on the Offensive glass, implementing the full put back offense, tonight.
— J Blevins PFO (@JBlevinsPFO) December 1, 2018
In a 25-point win, a lot of things obviously go your way. While the Sixers were generally sloppy last night (I counted 10 live-ball turnovers), it was the rebound differential that spelled the difference in this one. The Sixers pulled down 58 rebounds to obliterate the Wizards’ 42. The differential on the defensive glass favored the Sixers by 7 (41-34), but they really knocked out the Wizkids on the offensive glass, finishing the game +9 in that category (17 to 8). How do I put this together? The Sixers won the second quarter by 10 and third by 6. While they won the first quarter by 12 (their largest quarter victory of the night), they proceeded in the opposite direction of what their trend says – they did not blow the lead, they built it using rebounds to pulverize John Wall and co. last night.
Allow me to paint the picture for you: in the second and third quarter, the Sixers were able to weasel their ways into offensive rebounds to create extra possessions for themselves. Playing the offensive side of the game the correct way, the Sixers’ ball movement pulled the Wiz out of defensive position, which ultimately creates good looks for players like Joel and JJ to score. If not that way, Joel simply pulled down the offensive board and put it back up and in (and maybe got the and-1 as well). Psychologically, to defend well enough to force a missed shot but then give up an offensive rebound is demoralizing and exhausting. This allows the Wizards to loosen their guard on defense and make mistakes, resulting in good opportunities for second chance scoring for the Sixers. Then, on the other side, there were seven possessions in which the Sixers were able to hold the Wizards to one shot. By shutting the Wizards offense down in tandem with forcing them to defend extra possessions, the Sixers were able to flex that lead from 12 to as much as 33.
Them boys playing like a bunch of muggles rn
— Shake Milton fan account (@johnwintertweet) December 1, 2018
The Wizards, with a plethora of internal turmoil involving their coach and friction between players, are a ticking time bomb that might have already exploded. Sure, they’ve strung together a few nice wins recently, but they looked completely uninspired and disinterested as individuals last night. It was easy to see that they simply did not want to be on the floor playing together. That translated to minimal effort on both sides, and contributed to the Sixers securing those offensive rebounds and holding the Wiz to one shot on multiple possessions. In other words, the Sixers were not great last night, but they are much more cohesive than the Wizards, and that was enough for them to dismantle a team that appears to be on the cusp of spontaneously combusting.
The New Guy
If the Sixers pay Jimmy Butler, they can't give Ben Simmons a max extension because they need that money for Shake Milton.
— Shake Milton fan account (@johnwintertweet) December 1, 2018
Shake Milton made his NBA debut for the Sixers last night. The 2-way guard scored 5 points in 11 fourth quarter minutes. A few things stood out to me. First of all, at 6’6″, 205, with a 7’0″ wingspan, the 54th overall pick has a body that could stick in the NBA. Second, I was impressed with his defensive awareness. He kept his head on a swivel, did not over – or under – play anyone, and understood basic defensive concepts such as individual helper, team helper, and switching. Finally, Milton, who shot 2 of 4 from the field and 1 of 2 from three-point range, seemed confident and aggressive in scoring. He was ready to play, willing to push himself to do more than just spot-up, and just tried to play the game that got him drafted. I don’t know how Brett Brown felt about him, but I am certainly on board for giving him a few minutes outside of garbage time.
The 76ers (16-8, 12-1 at home) will host the Memphis Grizzlies (13-8, 6-5 away) at 6 PM on Sunday. They will look to avenge an overtime loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis earlier this season.
Follow me on Twitter, @AustinKrell_PFO !
Ecstatic to announce that I will be joining @PFOPhilly as a contributor to @PFOSixers . There could be something in the works for a Villanova Basketball column, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Huge thank you to @JBlevinsPFO and @BrianJacobsPFO for the opportunity!!
— Austin From Villanova (@AustinKrell_PFO) December 1, 2018