“When I’m counting up my demons
Saw there was one for every day
With the good ones on my shoulder
I drove the other ones away
If you ever feel neglected
If you think all is lost
I’ll be counting up my demons yeah
Hoping everything’s not lost”
Congrats to you if you’re reading this. You have an optimistic and patient nature that your friends and loved ones undoubtedly draw inspiration and comfort from. You have the indomitable spirit of a warrior. No matter what life throws at you, you take a deep breath, you plan your day, and you take on whatever may come next with an open mind and an open heart. The Sixers got smoked in game 2, the wheels came off, and it was one of those “how did we get here” days of reckoning for so many of us. But here you are, bright and early to read this godforsaken game preview! Incredible. From all of us at Liberty Ballers, thanks. We tip our caps to your eternal sunshine, a glowing hearth surrounded by wilderness, darkness, and the lonely frost of defeat.
Believe it or not, there is basketball to analyze.
Brett Brown, being foisted onto the proverbial gangplank, may be tempted to float away from the moment, to remember the pain, the grind, the innocence of the early process days, to relive his first conversations with Robert Covington or Joel Embiid, or shake his head at how the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, the first “real” season he had to coach winning hoops, still feels at once so near, so fresh, so tangible, and yet also like several lifetimes ago. Achey nostalgia could easily begin to seep in and distract from the task at hand. But alas, there’s a job to fight for. A series to be won. Pull-ups to contest. Deep-drop coverages to analyze, top-lock strategies to double check, new ways to pump oxygen back into Tobias Harris. And new ways to unlock Joel Embiid’s dominance that might better help his teammates capitalize on all of the attention the fleet-footed beast commands.
There are things to build on, both in the immediate and well into the future that offer hope for a better tomorrow, both literally and figuratively.
I’ll have an article touching on this, but Joel Embiid’s screening in pick-and-rolls yesterday was a lot better and he moved into open space much better, too. Using him so frequently as a roll man during this series might be a huge step in him becoming a vastly improved roll man.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) August 20, 2020
It’s possible that there may be suboptimal strategies being employed that need a little bit of tweaking:
Brett Brown says the Sixers will be talking about hedging in pick-and-rolls a lot at today's practice. He says maybe they could have turned to it earlier in Game 2 after they used it in the 2nd half. Sounds like we could see a more aggressive defensive approach in Game 3.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) August 20, 2020
Embiid on how they have to defend Boston’s perimeter players better. “I know they want me to stay back and protect the rim in pick and rolls...but something has to change, it feels too easy.”— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) August 20, 2020
Then again there are process-oriented counter-narratives to consider: perhaps our strategy was smart but simply did not work, like hitting on a 16 when the dealer draws a 7 at the blackjack table. It’s a crummy situation (without Ben Simmons) you usually lose so your gut screams stand, even though you’re strategy to hit is prudent. Maybe it’s still the best path moving forward to minimize the pain:
fuming about drop coverage defense that sixers used to beat the celtics 3 out of 4 times during regular season pic.twitter.com/ELbUGDghEg— Ben Detrick (@bdetrick) August 20, 2020
As always Joel Embiid needs some help. This series he’s averaging 30 points per game, 13 rebounds, 12.5 free throw attempts per game, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 assists, at 52.8% from the field. He’s the real deal. But he’s not enough.
Brett Brown said before practice today that he's always asking himself: "What can I do better to help Tobias?”— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) August 20, 2020
Brown says it starts with pace and 'getting out into a cleaner, more spaced court.'
Brown did think Harris was in 'attack mode' in Game 2, but just didn't finish. pic.twitter.com/7BCAtwZC15
Josh Richardson has stepped up. He’s averaging 18 points and 50% from 3, with fierce perimeter defense but his decision making and vision are limited in important ways. Tobias Harris hasn’t been good enough. Rook Matisse Thybulle has shown real promise, even though Jayson Tatum hits every shot he takes. Sort of like how Ben Simmons displayed real promise while defending Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs last year, even though Leonard too hit every shot he took. But look how Ben blossomed defensively the following season! Thybulle fans should be very excited with how his on-ball defense (at times a weakness) has appeared on one of the game’s best perimeter threats (I know it hurts to write as much as it did to read even for your unconquerable positivity). His on-ball defense hasn’t always been a strength, but he continues to shine in new ways defensively.
Maybe none of the players are flipping chairs over, but I know some of us fans are.
Hearing Brett Brown say there is no one in locker room who is flipping out over team’s performance is incredibly deflating. Might as well book a flight home tonight, then.— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) August 20, 2020
Tune in for game 3 tonight at 6:30 if your indomitable spirit is still intact this evening. If we steal game 3, then we might have some momentum for the fake home game of game four. Then watch, everyone else without your inner Zen will be back to join us too. Fair weather Philadelphia warriors that they are.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics, Game 3
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 6:30pm ET
Watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic