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Five Figures: Sixers dismantle Cavs with balanced offense

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

+0.193 points per possession (per Cleaning The Glass)

In most games this season, the Sixers haven’t looked like a complete team. At times, elite defensive performances have assured victories in spite of lackluster offensive performances. On nights when Brett Brown’s offense is clicking, poor defensive execution has made at least one game closer than it should have been (@ Portland) and another resulted in an overtime loss (@ Oklahoma City). Against the Cleveland Cavaliers though, the Sixers submitted arguably their most balanced win of the young campaign, with a points per possession differential of nearly a quarter of a point (0.193) thanks to efficient offense (1.159 ppp) and effective defense (0.966 ppp). With the exception of rebounding, Philly outplayed Cleveland in every aspect of the game.

1.769 points per possession in transition (per Cleaning The Glass)

In my Five Figures post following the Sixers’ loss to the Orlando Magic on November 13th, I discussed the Sixers’ need to create easy buckets given their shooting struggles. Well, the Sixers did not struggle from the floor against the Cavs in part because they generated a ton of easy looks through transition opportunities. Not only did the Sixers get out and run on nearly a fifth of their possessions, they were highly efficient when doing so, scoring 1.769 points per possession in transition. Put to words: transition play for the Sixers was damn near a guaranteed bucket. Ben Simmons was particularly active assisting teammates in the open floor, especially when Joel Embiid was on the bench.

90.73% true shooting

Tobias Harris had a rough five-game shooting slump (starting against the Utah Jazz and lasting through the Sixers’ maddening loss to the Orlando Magic) in which he went ice cold from deep (0-18 3PT). Then against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Harris finally seemed to be shooting himself out of his cold streak with 21 points on 16 attempts including 3-4 3PT. Harris carried that confidence into game against the Cavs, finishing with a blazing 90.73% true shooting mark on 14 FGA and 2 FTA en route to a game-high 27 points. Tobi scored using a variety of methods, including finding easy transition buckets, exploiting mismatches in the post, and sinking midrange jumpers. It was refreshing to see Harris takeover the scoring load while Joel Embiid played just 22 minutes.

13 TOV (per NBA.com)

The Sixers did not waste many possessions, turning the ball over to the Cavs just 13 times, or put another way, on just 11.4% of their possessions (per Cleaning The Glass). Even with last night’s performance, the Sixers have the 4th worst turnover rate in the NBA. Turnovers have been a staple in Brett Brown’s offense given its pass-heavy tendencies and the nature of the team’s roster construction. The goal of Brown’s system is clear, but it can be maddening when passes are careless or excessive leading to turnovers. Frequently wasting possessions can make winning difficult for even the most talented teams. It’s like forfeiting 20 questions of a 100-question test before you’ve even started the test — the absolute best you can do is a B, and even that’ll take being perfect. When the Sixers limit their wasted possessions and execute on both ends, we see just how strong of a unit they can be: a 19-point victory in a game in which just a single starter played 30 minutes.

59.2% eFG% (per Cleaning The Glass)

Tobias Harris wasn’t the only Sixer who scored efficiently against the Cavs; only three Sixers hit less than half their shots and only Josh Richardson was below 40% from the field. The result was a team eFG% of 59.2%, Philly’s 2nd highest single-game rate on the season. And like their game overall, the Sixers’ shooting was balanced. The Sixers connected at above-average rates at the rim (77.3%), in the midrange (47.1%), and from behind the arc (40.0%). Given some very ugly recent performances, this Cavs game was just what the doctor ordered. People will stop panicking now, right?