With the Sixers opening playoff series in the bag — and Brett Brown’s first playoff victory — I’ve reflected back on some of the statistics from the 1st Round. As with any 5 game collection, all numbers should be consumed cautiously. However, the numbers can give us answers as to why the Sixers were so successful. The following are 5 numbers that jumped out to me from the Sixers series vs. the Miami Heat.
29.6 OREB%: The Sixers have gobbled up offensive rebounds at an above average rate all season, and the playoffs have been no different. Their playoff leading 29.6 OREB% has translated to 13.2 offensive rebounds per game (also playoff leading), giving the Sixers plenty of opportunities for 2nd chance points. The Sixers’ forward play has been the biggest contributor to the team’s ability to retain their own misses: Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova have combined for 5.4 offensive rebounds per game. The two have routinely demonstrated a knack for being around the ball, and have redefined the meaning of “stretch 4”. Ben Simmons has impressed on the offensive glass as well, averaging 2.4 OREBs in the 1st Round. I can’t say for sure, but I’d guess many of these came from his own misses. All season long, I can recall Simmons often missing shots around the rim, simultaneously landing and preparing to go right back up, and tipping his miss in the hoop.
Much of the concern surrounding the Sixers youth is their turnover epidemic. Game 4 didn’t seem to make sense: 26 turnovers and 22.6% from 3PT, and they won? Look to their 17 offensive boards and 36.2% OREB% as key reasons why the Sixers salvaged that game. And it’s not just the Heat’s lack of a big presence (RIP Whiteside); it’s been a pattern all year for the young Sixers, as they finished the regular season 3rd in OREB%. When you look forward and consider the Sixers’ 2nd round opponent, keep the Celtics’ lack of height in mind - although, the Celtics have been above average on the offensive glass as well.
- .364 FTA rate: Another category in which the Sixers lead all playoff teams. The team coming in at 2nd in FTA rate? The Heat! The Heat series was especially physical; physicality was the Heat’s game plan. So it doesn’t come as some big revelation that the Sixers got to the line at a higher rate than any other team. (The early part of the series was almost torturously disrupted due to fouls.) But it’s definitely an area to keep an eye on. The Sixers attempted almost 32 FTs a game in their 1st Round series, and while I expect that number to come down, I do think many teams observed the Heat’s game plan and thought, “Not bad. If only they could actually score.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sixers continue to get harassed by physical defenders. The Sixers just need to continue to play within themselves and take advantage of overaggressive defense.
- 71.4 FT%: Ben Simmons shot 71.4% from the free throw line in Round 1, on 7 FTA per game. That’s a significant leap from the 56% that Ben shot in the regular season. Always heed small sample size in percentages, so I’ve been told. And personally, I haven’t noticed much difference in the mechanics of his shot. So it’s perfectly reasonable to be skeptical of Simmons’ improvement. However, if it’s real, man… I mean, when does it stop? There has to be a limit to single season improvements, right? If Simmons is going to connect on 70+% of his attempts at the charity stripe, by all means, opponents: please be physical with him.
- 53.5% on shots within 5FT: Miami made barely more than half their attempts within 5 feet of the hoop. I don’t care who the Sixers play, if they can protect the rim at this rate, they have a shot against anyone. The most incredible part about this number is that it was practically the same when Embiid wasn’t playing. Team defense!
- 1.08 PPP: I recently wrote about the Sixers’ struggles in scoring from isolation plays. Not necessarily that they had to iso more, but that they had to score more efficiently when they did. Their 0.80 points per play from isolation in the regular season was tied for 2nd worst in the Association. Against Miami, the Sixers scored 1.08 points per play on isolations, a number that would have ranked 2nd in the regular season. Granted, the Sixers isolated just 13 times against the Heat. But it’s encouraging to see the increased efficiency. The team has moved the ball tremendously in Brett Brown’s pass heavy system, but sometimes plays break down. When that happens, if the Sixers can stay near 1.08 points per play when an iso is needed (a lot to ask, I realize), they’ll have a very valuable added dynamic to an already explosive offense. I’m skeptical, but the 1st Round has given me some optimism.