The Sixers are 44 games through an important but tedious 82 season, one dedicated to development and the successes of future NBA seasons. Here at LB, we've fully embraced the process knowing that players would be evaluated as losses piled up. Overally, we've dedicated more time to praising the general manager and the players, but one moment late in the second half completely sold me on Brett Brown. It involved the clock and also Kendrick Perkins.
In short: Perkins is terrible. He hurts to watch and makes nobody better. The Thunder outscore their opponents by 4.8 points per 100 possessions more while he rides the bench. It usually does not matter, since Kevin Durant came from another planet and through basketball prepares us for the inevitable invasion of earth by his species. And against the Sixers, it didn't matter much either. Perkins did normal Perkins things in his 21 minutes.
He also took the court for the final five minutes of the second quarter, which is where this story begins. The Thunder began to put a little distance on the Sixers late in the quarter and had an 8 point lead with about 25 seconds remaining. After a James Anderson layup over the outstretched arms of Durant and fellow android Serge Ibaka, the Sixers committed a delay of game violation. Whether intentional or just a circumstance, it allowed the Sixers to get in defensive possession for the final possession.
Or so it would seem to be the case, except Lavoy Allen fouled Perkins immediately after the inbound.
Huh? Intentional fouling, while in poor taste for my buds, can be an effective strategy if employed against the proper personnel. Brett Brown was a longtime assistant in San Antonio, which popularized the hack-a-Shaq strategy initially and uses it selectively more than almost any NBA team.
Rarely, though, do you see it used in end-of-quarter situations except at the ends of contests, when fouling is used to "lengthen" the game. Lavoy Allen also fouled Kendrick Perkins off the ball, which is not allowed at the ends of games. Brett Brown used up a foul on a backup big to get Perkins to the line, and to get the final possession of the half for the Sixers. Perkins made one of two free throws - the Sixers received possession but did not score soon after.
Was this the right move, basically giving the Thunder what is in general the most efficient shot type in exchange for possession to end the half? Almost assuredly, yes.
2014 NBA Draft
As I mentioned earlier, Perkins is bad. That extends to his free throw shooting - in a small sample, Perkins is shooting just 56% from the line this season and is around 60% for his career. Not taking into consideration the potential for OKC rebounds and lane violations, a team shooting 56% from the line for every possession in a game would average 112 points per 100 possessions (1.12 points per shot or PPP), which would equate to the best offense in the league. Portland leads the league with an average of 110.6 per hundred, for instance, or 1.106 PPP.
But consider the situation for a moment. The Thunder have the final possession of the half, or so it would seem - only a few seconds, if any, will be left on the clock when the Sixers get the ball back. The Thunder, when combining usage and shot creation and efficiency, have the best individual scoring option in the league in Durant. Even considering the standard drop in efficiency that comes in late-game and quarter situations, they won't come that far from 1.12.
Instead, the Sixers get to manage the clock themselves at the end of the quarter. While, again, efficiency numbers drop in late-game and quarter situations in general, 1.12 (you can even use his career 60% free throw shooting and 1.2 PPP number instead - the math still works) less whatever the Sixers would do with their possession is certainly better on the whole than allowing the Thunder to run out the clock and get whatever they can.
Ultimately, the Sixers lost by 12, and any swing caused by this play was meaningless in the outcome. But as we're fond of saying: outcomes or results aren't as important as the process used. The Sixers, and Brett Brown as the coach, are betting big on using the correct process. When individual game results contain meaning, the little things in the process of basketball, like correctly fouling Kendrick Perkins, will count for something. Something that could be nothing, or something that could win a game for the Sixers that otherwise they might not have.