clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sixers Science: Things To Know vs. Bucks (+ Recap @ Pistons)

Sixers Science Game Preview

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Recap @ Pistons

Plus-Minus Table For Game


  • Markelle Fultz should have appeared in the last 15 minutes. He was a solid contributor to the offense & helped keep the Sixers ahead in the first half. They ran out of gas in the 4th quarter, which is partly attributable to the TJ + Dario pairing sharing 8 minutes together in the final quarter.

The Sixers were a +4.5 team overall in 2017-18, but when TJ and Saric shared the court, the Sixers were a -7.6 team. That is a drop from 5th in the NBA to 29th in the NBA (~Bulls/Suns).

  • Dario is categorically less effective in the 4th quarter vs. any other quarter. Let’s take a quick peak at Saric’s plus-minus by quarter in 2017-18.

1st Quarter: +15.8 (Team: +14.6 | +1.2 vs. Team)

2nd Quarter: +3.0 (Team: +2.2) | +0.8 vs. Team)

3rd Quarter: +8.8 (Team: +5.4) | +3.4 vs. Team)

4th Quarter: -6.1 (Team: -4.4) | -1.7 vs. Team)

During 4th quarters in which Saric appeared, the Sixers perimeter shooting and defense were two areas that saw a precipitous decline.

This year, albeit in four games, Saric is +9.3 vs. Team in the 1st Quarter and -5.4 vs. Team in the 4th quarter — at a horrid -28.4 plus-minus.

  • Only Embiid could stop Blake Griffin. In previous seasons, Dario Saric has had success guarding an often hobbled Blake Griffin. That was not the case last night. Here is a diagram showing who the Sixers threw at Griffin and the success/failures that ensued.

Embiid held Griffin to 5/13 from the field & everyone else got shredded. Inside the paint, Griffin converted 12/15 of his attempts against anyone not named Joel Embiid — that is the definition of “bully ball.”

I had the Sixers at +1 — a push. This takes my record to 3-0-1 on the season.

Starting Lineups & Game Info

Ben Simmons & Mike Muscala are active!

Past Performance vs. Bucks

In 2017-18, the Sixers won both home games and lost both away games against the Bucks. The four games were an eclectic bunch, with few statistical similarities among them.

In January, an Embiid-less Sixers went 2-for-26 from beyond-the-arc, losing soundly to a Bucks squad with Giannis going for 31 points and 18 rebounds.

In March, the Sixers lit the Milwaukee nets on fire, but a severe case of the butterfingers coupled with an inability to grab defensive rebounds led to their demise.

Whoever won the Points off Turnover battle won all 4 games as well.

Game 1 in PHI: Sixers +2 pts off TO in W

Game 2 @ MIL: Sixers -8 pts off TO in L

Game 3 @ MIL: Sixers -25 pts off TO in L

Game 4 in PHI: Sixers +20 pts Off TO in W

The Arrival of Khris Middleton

“Can Khris Middleton be among the most lethal 3-point shooters in the NBA this season?”

This was a question a posed to Giannis Antetokounmpo at a recent press gathering, via The Athletic.

Giannis: “Why not? In this offense, it’s easy. He’s going to find his shots and especially for guys that can shoot the ball really well like Khris. They’re going to find a lot of shots and they have to take those opportunities.”

As evident from his shot chart, Middleton has improved his shot selection. The idea being simple — any shot that occurs outside the paint should be a three pointer or certain to draw a foul.

Middleton was an elite mid-range player last year, converting 161 of his 302 (53.3%) shots from mid-range (10-16 feet). That is 1.06 points per possession, just a shade under the desired 1.10 threshold.

For illustrative purposes, Middleton would have to shoot 35.3% from three to equal his efficiency from mid-range, a mark he’s eclipsed 5 out of the 6 years he’s played. Thus far, Middleton is attempting 7.7 threes/game, knocking down 15/23 of his attempts from long range.

Budenholzer is on the record saying he wants to shoot at least “40 threes per game.” Middleton will likely be taking almost 20% of those attempts. His volume and percentage will regress as the season goes on, but early indications show Middleton may be a candidate for Most Improved.

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Eric Bledsoe is a Stellar Defensive PG

I’ve heard Markelle Fultz garner comparisons to the likes of James Harden, John Wall, Brandon Roy, and even Dwyane Wade. That is all fine-and-well, but I would have Fultz watch a lot of Eric Bledsoe tape, as I believe he can reasonably achieve this level/style of play.

To categorize his strengths on defense:

  • Excellent core strength, low center-of-gravity, and lateral agility, Bledsoe easily navigates through on and off-ball screens, first diagnosing the type of screener (guard/big), then using the requisite skills to fight through the screen.
  • Forces ball-handlers to take contested shots against the help defense with effectual rear-view contest. Not only does he get chase-down blocks, but Bledsoe consistently affects shooter’s peripheral vision and makes his presence felt.

Player-Impact Matchup Data

Once again, the Sixers have a roster advantage over their opponent, even without Ben Simmons. When it comes to situational basketball, there is an alarming lack of execution. This can be attributed to youth, and frankly, Brett Brown’s lack of trust in his players.

There is a stark dichotomy between the way the Sixers finish games and the way the Celtics finish games. When Boston is locked in a one-possession game in the 4th quarter, they maintain their focus, confidence, and execute. As opposed to the Sixers, who play like the training wheels came off for the first time — teetering and toppling to the finish line.

Who Do You Want Guarding Giannis?

To answer this question, it is worth taking a look at who defended Antetokounmpo well last season. The names that pop up:

  • Thaddeus Young
  • OG Anunoby
  • James Johnson
  • Stanley Johnson
  • Jimmy Butler
NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The best archetype to defend Giannis is a long-armed, athletic wing with toughness.

Last season, Simmons and Covington defended him well, holding him to 9/22 from the field for 28 points in 67 possessions. The Bucks scored less than 1.0 points per possession when one of those two defended Antetokounmpo.

When Dario defended him, he scored on 11/17 attempts, good for 23 points in 58 possessions. The same holds true for Middleton, who was defended well by Covington and Simmons & not well by Saric.


  1. Thou Shalt Not Put Dario In The Game With Less Than 6 Minutes Left
  2. Thou Shalt Not Play TJ and Dario Together
  3. Thou Shalt Not Take Mid-Range Jumper With More Than 8 Seconds On Shot Clock
  4. Thou Shalt Not Remove Player From Game For “Foul Trouble” If Less Than 4 Fouls
  5. Thou Shalt Not Ignore the Corner Three
  6. Thou Shalt Not Forget to Tell JJ Redick To Shoot Threes Off The Dribble
  7. Thou Shalt Not Play Man Defense on End Of Game Out Of Bounds Plays
  8. Thou Shalt Not Accept Ben Simmons’ Not Shooting Corner 3s
  9. Thou Shalt Not Avoid Plays Where Ben Simmons is the Roll-Man
  10. Thou Shall Trade for Jimmy Butler
NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports


Vegas: Bucks -255

Sixers: 118

Bucks: 117

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liberty Ballers Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Philadelphia 76ers news from Liberty Ballers