The Sixers turned the ball over 21 times against the Wizards, constituting more than a fifth (21.0%) of their possessions, per Cleaning The Glass. A team just can not expect to win if they’re going to forfeit one in every five possessions, not even if they make over half of their shots from the floor (53.2%) and hit 46.4% from deep. But holding the Sixers as a team accountable for carelessness with the ball is a bit unfair. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons competed in a game within the game, in which the winner was decided by who could turn the ball over more. Embiid won by a slight margin, his 8 to Simmons’ 7. It was ugly, from entirely avoidable offensive fouls to passing to the wrong color jersey. After the game, Simmons had commented that he felt the Sixers came into the game too relaxed. I’d agree with that assessment. The best thing to do is rinse yourself clean and forget this ever happened.
Davis Bertans had scored at least 25 points in a game just once in his 239 career games prior to last night. So of course against the Sixers, Bertans dropped 25 points for just the 2nd time in his career. He was raining triples down on the Sixers with seven makes from deep. Bertans sort of has this punk-ass, shit-eating grin while he does it too. It’s infuriating. I love the guy. He’d be a fantastic addition to this Sixers’ squad. As a shooter, he’s more functionally akin to a shooting guard, not a big. He’s flying around screens, spotting up, hitting off the dribble. (I’ve been trying to figure out a trade for Bertans after a LB member suggested he be a target for the Sixers about a week or two ago. The Sixers’ books are strapped. It’s going to be very, very complex for them to execute any trade that isn’t a minimum salary). I was impressed.
If you’re looking for a positive from the Wizards game, the Sixers shot the ball well, especially from range, hitting 46.4% from deep. Tobias Harris and Al Horford each contributed a trio of threes, Furkan Korkmaz splashed two, and Joel Embiid had one make to round out the starters. Raul Neto (3-4 3PT) and Matisse Thybulle (1-3 3PT) provided off the bench. Over their last three games, the Sixers have shot 46.4%, 50.0%, and 47.8% from 3PT. On the season, they are now at 36.2%. That number ranks 11th in the NBA, an encouraging rate. (However, the Sixers still are shooting threes on relatively low volume. Their 29.5 per game is the 4th lowest in the league. Last night, they attempted just 28 threes.)
Before last night, the Sixers were 11-0 in games in which Matisse Thybulle played at least 15 minutes. Against the Wizards, Matisse played a career-high 31 minutes; unfortunately, the Sixers’ perfect record is no more. But that shouldn’t take away from what was a solid game for the rookie. Thybulle had just 5 points (2-4 FG, 1-3 3PT), but he flashed some quick decision making and creative passing with 6 assists, double his previous career high. He tacked on 2 steals (both on passes that had the potential to lead to easy buckets at the rim) and 2 blocks (both on 3PT attempts!).
32 Free Throws
The Wizards were gifted 32 shots from the charity stripe, sinking 26 of those attempts. Per Cleaning The Glass, their free throw rate (made free throws per 100 field goal attempts) was 28.9% for the game. Even more concerning: that was not an isolated incident for the Sixers’ defense. On the season, their opponents are averaging 25.6 FTA per game. Zach Lowe said on a recent podcast that while spending time with the Sixers for a story, he had mentioned to someone with the organization that the team was fouling a lot. The response Lowe received to that observation was that the team was big and physical and that they were prepared to live with fouling as a product of their construction. I tend not agree with that philosophy: putting your opponent on the line at such a high rate negates the spirit of having a stout defense. But so far, the Sixers mostly seem to be correct in their approach, they have one of the league’s most efficient defenses. But it’s fair to wonder whether we’ll see more games like last night in the long run, where the opponent doesn’t necessarily shoot the ball well, certainly not better than the Sixers, but wins by a not-so-small margin anyways. Because of the 9 teams that allow more free throw attempts per game than the Sixers, all have a losing record. There’s a happy medium there, you want opponents to know taking it to the rack is no walk in the park, make ‘em think twice. But you don’t want to cultivate a bad habit.