BY CHRIS LEWIS
Sixers-Celtics game 3 is today in Philadelphia. It’ll be the first time I’m at a Sixers home game this year. Unfortunately, the squad has dropped the first two games to Boston. Philly will get right back in the series with a couple of home wins. Here’s the adjustments I would make to secure those.
1 – Stop Posting Up Embiid – Posting up Joel Embiid should be the last resort of the offense, not the intended goal. The Sixers realized this during the last couple months of the season (including the 16 game winning streak at the end). Embiid’s post-ups were trending down before he got hurt, and it had a direct correlation with the Sixers offensive efficient reaching peak levels during that stretch. That’s because the post-up is an inefficient play. Here’s an example. The best, high-volume post-up player in the NBA this season was Lamarcus Aldridge. He scored on a 0.99 points/possession clip. The WORST offense in the postseason scores at at 1.003 points/possession clip. That means, the best post-up player in the NBA scores at a worse rate than the worst offense in the postseason. A post-up a a recipe to get a contested 2pt attempt while the other 4 players are stationary, when the rest of the NBA is using movement to hunt open threes. Plus, having your center expend energy banging with other bigs is not ideal when he has so much responsibility defensively. Whether it was foul trouble, or exhaustion, Embiid didn’t have the same impact on defense at the end of game 2. Boston is the best transition defense in the league. The Sixers have to do better than relying on post-ups to score in the halfcourt, and using Embiid as a screener, cutter, and floor spacer can open things up.
2 – Avoid Embiid Guarding Horford – The Celtics have gotten the better of this matchup through 2 games. The best way to make sure it doesn’t happen for a 3rd game is to avoid it all-together. Embiid starts the game defending Aaron Baynes, but when the Celtics go small with Horford at center, Embiid draws the assignment. That means, Embiid is caught on the perimeter defending the screening action involving Horford. With Al Horford being a 42% 3pt shooter with pick and pops, it’s putting Embiid in a compromised position of having to contain the driving guard and the popping big. It’s not his strength. However, when the Celtics go small, either Smart, Ojeleye, or Morris are on the court. Neither of them are big offensive threats. Embiid should be defending one of those players, and the Sixers other big (Saric, Ilyasova, even Rishaun Holmes) can take Horford. It’ll allow Joel Embiid to be more aggressive as a help defender to protect the rim. And, he’ll save energy by not being involved in perimeter defense as much. This will require playing Justin Anderson more, because putting Embiid on guys like Ojeleye and Smart takes away the hiding place for guys like Belinelli and Redick. Therefore, Justin Anderson would have to cut into their minutes.
Chris Lewis, the play-by-play voice of Boise State women’s basketball and Olympic Sports, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @ChrisLewisTweet (Twitter).