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Sixers Struggle From Deep, Fall To Nets 94-87

The Sixers perimeter offense sputtered as they lost to the Nets 94-87 at the Wells Fargo Center. Nerlens Noel led the way with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

You live by the 3, you die by the 3.

It's a truism that not many expected to be the case for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, but one that has taken shape since the NBA's February 19th trade deadline.

Since trading away Michael Carter-Williams at the deadline, and bringing in Isaiah Canaan in a separate deal, the Sixers have attempted as many three's as nearly anybody in the league. Their 31.2 attempts per game is third in the league during that time, behind only Houston (33.2) and Cleveland (31.7).

For the most part, the perimeter shooting has been an advantage for the 76ers, as they were shooting 34.7% from three after the break heading into last night's game against Brooklyn. Considering the Sixers lack of real high-level shot creators, their effectiveness from deep was rather remarkable.

Last night, however, was a struggle for the Sixers from the perimeter, who fell to the visiting Brooklyn Nets 94-87, snapping Brooklyn's 5 game losing streak despite another strong performance from Nerlens Noel. The Sixers rookie center had 17 points (7-10 shooting, 3-3 from the free throw line), 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists, and a steal.

The Sixers shot just 8-37 from three point range, including 2-7 from Jerami Grant and 1-8 from the typically reliable Isaiah Canaan. Canaan has shot 40.5% from three point range during his brief Sixers tenure, attempting an incredible 7.9 three point attempts in his 29 minutes of play per game.

Few teams in the history of the game have ever stuck with the three pointer as much as the Sixers did last night despite such limited results. In fact, there had only been 3 teams in history to have 37 or more three point attempts and connected on less than 22% of them before last night's game.

A byproduct of the approach has been that the Sixers have struggled to get to the free throw line of late. The Sixers, who were 6th in the league in free throw rate before the deadline, have fallen to 15th in the league since the deadline. Sixers starters attempted only 7 free throws last night, with Grant (0-4) and Noel (3-3) the only starters to get to the line.

Time Period % PTS from 3 % PTS from FT
Pre-Deadline 24.9% (12th) 18.4% (6th)
Post-Deadline 32.8% (3rd) 15.8% (22nd)

After the game, Sixers head coach Brett Brown admitted that some of the 3's needed to be dialed back a little bit.

"For sure. I think some other things are suffering too," Brown said when asked whether the amount of 3's attempted has impacted their ability to get to the free throw line. "I just saw all 37 of them 2 minutes ago. I think probably 8 of them, maybe 9 of them, are ones that are just too much. [They were] contested, not great looks.

"I encourage our guys, if they're open [to shoot]," Brown said, with that last part being an important caveat. "They've earned the right. I give them credit that they've put in the time. It's just sometimes that the end result is shooting in a crowd or somebody has a hand in their face, and we have to coach that a little better."

One thing that hasn't suffered, however, has been the defense. After some initial post-deadline struggles, Brett Brown has the Sixers defense locked in once more. Over the last 6 games, the Sixers defensive rating of 95.9 is the 5th best mark in the league.

Defensive Rating over last 6 games
Team Def Rtg
Indiana Pacers 92.6
Washington Wizards 93.6
Utah Jazz 93.9
Golden State Warriors 94.8
Philadelphia 76ers 95.9

per nba.com

A big part of that has been the Sixers ability to take care of the basketball on the offensive end. The Sixers, who turned the ball over on 18.9% of their offensive possessions before the All-Star break, by far the worst in the league, have turned it over on only 14.2% of their possessions over the past 6 games, one of the 10 best marks in the league during that span. By forcing teams to play more in the half-court, the Sixers defense has benefited tremendously.

Time Period TO Ratio
Pre-deadline 18.9% (30th)
Last 6 games 14.2% (10th)

A big part of that turnaround has been Ish Smith, who has 43 assists to only 11 turnovers over his past 7 games.

Thaddeus Young's (re-)return

Thaddeus Young returned to the Wells Fargo Center for the 2nd time since being traded last offseason. It was not a trip that he expected to make.

Young seems to be happy with his situation in Brooklyn, at least publicly.

"It's one of those things where they want me for the future. They want to keep me around. It's a mutual feeling," Young told reporters.

Young can opt-out of his contract after this season.

"I'm not really looking towards that right now. I'm just trying to continue to play this season and try to make a playoff push with this team," Young said.

Young had some time to reflect on his career here with the Sixers.

"With Doug, he was just one of those guys where you have your role with him, and he wants you to settle into your role," Young said. "Other coaches, they let me shoot 3's, they let me go out there and just be more free, be more active, and do a lot of different things that I had in my game, and now I'm able to show it. "

Was Young surprised about the Michael Carter-Williams trade?

"I wasn't surprised because of some of the moves that have been made in the past," Young said. "You kind of see some of this stuff coming.

"It's crazy how this business works. It's crazy how you can be the centerpiece of a team one year, then you're off onto the next team. It's just a crazy situation," Young concluded.