As the Philadelphia 76ers prepared to face the Boston Celtics in the final game of the vaunted 12-game gauntlet, Coach Brown talked about the team and its preparation for a playoff run.
“When they win, they turn people over and they hunt threes,” Brown said of the Celtics who are third in the NBA with 35.3 attempts from distance per game. Boston is also tied for third with Indiana with 8.9 steals per game. Those points of emphasis were at the forefront of Brown’s pregame media availability. “Can you get a shot, and not turn it over,” Brown said, preaching going strong with the ball as opposed to limp and loose.
On the defensive end, Brown said the team needs to focus on “appropriate helping” but cautioned that “you don’t want to get into scramble mode” where over-help creates wide open looks from three.
As it turned out, this was the “premortem” for the game. In a 112-109 loss to their rivals from Boston, the Sixers got caught doing that exact scrambling Brett Brown warned about pregame. The Celtics exploited mismatches and caught the Sixers rotating until they eventually found players like Gordon Hayward open for three. Hayward came off the bench to knock down 6 of 7 attempts from distance.
The game was, in many ways, a test of wills for the teams, who struggled over pace. The Celtics wanted to play a half court, grind it out, ball movement game while the Sixers struggled to get into the open court. The Celtics had just 9 turnovers in the game which kept the Sixers from running.
Additionally, Joel Embiid struggled for much of the night to score efficiently on Al Horford. Embiid dominated late in the game and ended the night with 23 points and 14 rebounds but failed to get a call from the officials late with the game on the line.
“The refs f***ing suck.”Embiid as he left the postgame press conference.
The Sixers also struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 22 for 31 including three key misses late in the 4th from Jimmy Butler. Butler and Ben Simmons combined to shoot just 9 of 17 from the line.
But it was the Celtics’ ability to put the Sixers into “Scramble Mode” that ultimately is the takeaway from this game.
The Energy in the Building
Boston has dominated the matchup in recent history, going 10-2 against the Sixers in the last 12 matchups. However, as Dave Uram noted, the Sixers only played four of those games at home.
“To dismiss a home court advantage, especially in Philadelphia, would be wrong,” Brown said about the advantage of having a contest at home against Boston. He noted the team had only lost three games all season at home heading into Tuesday night’s game.
The Quiet Tournament
Brett Brown talked about the flexibility of learning more to identify who is going to play in the playoffs. He noted that he will use a 10 man rotation in the regular season but likely just a 9 man rotation of normal minutes come playoffs.
When asked about how he balances those roles, Brown noted “candid conversations about roles, about expectations”..
Talking in the locker room pregame, Jonathon Simmons was surprised by his assignment to “Stalk Rozier.” He agreed that on-ball defense is going to be his differentiator in the competition for roles. He noted that he intends to be a pro and follow whatever the team does.
“That part is just about being a pro, just paying attention and following the lead of guys who’ve been here.” – Jonathon Simmons
The question mark on Simmons is his shooting this season, whereas the challenge for Korkmaz will be on the defensive end. Brown did note that he may implement “Horses for Courses” matchups if needed. However, he wants to see if one of the three wings, including Ennis, can truly emerge as a two way role player.
Listen to the audio from pregame here
“There is a quiet tournament going on between Furkan (Korkmaz), James Ennis, and Jonathon Simmons to see who emerges.” Brett Brown
Jonathon Simmons locker room: