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Five Figures: Sixers bounce back defensively to put Hawks away

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

63 Points (per NBA.com)

After giving up 40 points to the Hawks in the opening frame, the Sixers held Atlanta to 63 points from the 2nd quarter on, including just 38 points in the 2nd half. The Sixers’ defense is going to keep them in a lot of games when the offense is struggling and it was especially impressive to see them rebound from a poor start to the game. Most notably, the defense bore down on Trae Young after the 2nd-year fire torch initially looked like he was in for a career night.

The Sixers will exhaust themselves playing high-intensity defense night in and night out. They need to find a way to ease that burden by generating more potent offense. But so far, the team that built their identity on defense has shown that they can indeed dictate a game when the ball is not in their hands. That’s extremely difficult to do in an NBA that wants offense, offense, and more offense, and it bodes well for playoff basketball.

1.565 Points Per Shot Attempt (per Cleaning The Glass)

Joel Embiid was ridiculously effective against the Hawks, scoring 1.565 points per shot attempt last night. Jo was highly accurate, hitting 12 of his 19 attempts from the floor and going a perfect 10 for 10 from the line. He even hit two threes on six attempts. Atlanta simply had no answer for him as Embiid drew nine personal fouls, frustrating the hell out of Atlanta’s front line. Embiid finished the contest with 36 points for his 14th 35+-point game of his career, efficiently carrying the load on offense.

1.333 Points Per Play in Transition (per Cleaning The Glass)

If a team is going to struggle to generate points as the Sixers did at times against the Hawks, they had better make the most of their transition opportunities to get easy buckets. The Sixers did exactly that last night, scoring 1.333 points per play in transition while 16.5% of their offensive possessions started in transition. When separating out for transition plays off steals only, the number jumped even higher to 1.833 points per play. With pesky defenders in Matisse Thybulle and Josh Richardson and one of the NBA’s fastest open court players in Ben Simmons, the Sixers have the personnel to make these sorts of transition opportunities frequent occurrences.

6 stocks (per NBA.com)

Matisse Thybulle collected 4 steals and 2 blocks for a total of 6 stocks (steals+blocks). No matter how many times I’ve seen them put to use, I’m still blown away by Thybulle’s range, instincts, and hand speed. Stealing a possession is nothing more than a decision for Thybulle, seemingly taking the ball from the opponent whenever he feels like it.

26.8% from three (per NBA.com)

The Sixers as a team hit just 26.8% of their threes while shooting 42 attempts from deep. It’s good to see the Sixers getting so many attempts up from three (I think), but they just weren’t connecting on some really open looks. Harris and Thybulle were largely responsible for the misses, combining for 13 on 16 attempts. We can expect some positive regression, from Harris in particular, but the poor shooting from behind the arc almost cost the Sixers the game. Despite Atlanta’s strong 1st quarter, the Sixers outplayed the Hawks enough to win by a more comfortable lead than they did. But a win is a win, hopefully Harris can get going soon enough.

Bonus: 1 Ejection

Mike Scott was ejected from the game as a result of one of the weakest calls I’ve seen through one week of play so far:

If Scott reaches his arm out like he’s attempting to steal the ball, most refs call this a hard but legitimate personal foul. The fact that Scott never even so much as reaches toward the ball is why the transgression gets elevated to a review and it’s early in the season, so if you want to set a precedent, maybe he gets a flagrant one foul. But to give Scott a flagrant two foul for that play is unjustifiable. It’s not as if this game was especially chippy beforehand or if Scott’s foul sent Damian Jones to the ground or if it set off a melee — situations where I could understand the refs getting ahead of a potential retaliation. There’s a difference between dirty and hard, the former is nefarious and the latter is part of the game... and also a good description of Scott’s foul.

The refereeing in general has been distracting to start the season as the amount of calls, replays, and deliberations has disrupted the game flow for three straight games. This hard foul to deter a 4-on-1 being put to review and ultimately leading to an ejection is yet another example of the referees playing entirely too big of a role in the product on the court. I seriously doubt even the Atlanta Hawks, if they’re being honest, saw an egregious foul worthy of a flagrant on that play.