On May 9th, 2018 you defeated the greatest basketball team on planet Earth, my Philadelphia 76ers.
I’ve never seen a team so well coached in a while. Led by coach Brad Stevens, your team was an absolute force on both ends of the floor.
With the unfortunate injuries of your two superstars: Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, many have doubted that your team would go deep in the playoffs. Even myself, as I wrote in my playoff preview post:
Little did I and many others know, your team’s supporting cast was filled with talent the entire time.
Led by all-star veteran Al Horford. I’ve gained so much respect for Horford during this series. When Kyrie and Gordon got injured, not a lot of people remembered that the Celtics still had Horford. He’s an absolute beast on offense and defense. I lost count of how many tough shots Horford made against us, and it was all skill, not luck. His offensive IQ is elite. Defensively, he’s up there too. He was able to guard both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He can make the big plays when they need it. Remember, he hit that big shot against Embiid in game 2 and he created a huge 6 pt swing all by himself in game 5, it was ridiculous.
Then there was Terry Rozier, the friggin’ “back up.” This guy’s not a backup, he’s a starter for a lot of teams. This dude can make the big 3 or make the big layup, it was almost like Kyrie never left.
Then Jaylen Brown. Jaylen’s been pissing me off since Summer League. Seriously, why was he even there? But it clearly helped him. The guy who couldn’t shoot 3’s, was draining 3’s…confidently. And he was coming off an injury.
Then the rookie Jayson Tatum. I’ve always liked his game since high school, very Melo like. In this series, Tatum was a one-on-one assassin. We couldn’t guard him. He had moves upon moves and a jumper that was money. He’s a great player.
So congrats Boston. Don’t get it twisted, I still hope you get destroyed by LeBron James like last year. Even if it means that LeBron won’t go to Philly (assuming he leaves Cleveland like the time Boston beat him years back), I will never root for a Boston team.
For my Sixers, this series has exposed every single issue our young team has, which is an unfortunate blessing.
Besides game 1, every single game was winnable for our Sixers.
Game 2, we wasted a 20 point lead. Game 3, we turned it over. Game 5, we didn’t execute.
Was it immaturity? Was it stupidity? Was it lack of execution? Was it lack of talent?
It was everything.
A) Our offensive system sucks.
I never want to see Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova, or Marco Belinelli dribble the basketball ever again. We need guys who can put the ball on the floor and create. In the semifinals level of the playoffs, every team had a player who could break down the defense by putting the ball on the floor, EXCEPT US.
Literally Donovan Mitchell dominated this postseason off a simple pick and roll. Mitchell’s speed and athleticism, combined with his jumpshot, allowed him to hold the defense hostage every time he got the ball. He could either: pull up for a shot, drive in for a layup, or dish it out to a shooter. It worked a bunch of times.
James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston spent the entire season playing in a simple isolation offense that relied on Harden and CP3’s ability to put the ball on the floor and create. Harden can take anybody one-on-one and CP3 is a pick and roll gawd. Then if they get doubled, they pass the ball out to their shooters.
AND HERE we are. I don’t blame Brett Brown for the philosophy of passing the basketball, I still think it’s the best way to break down a defense. But it’s how we’re passing the basketball. Our offense is a freestyle/freelance/on the fly decision making offense, with a few sets here and there. But it’s mostly a pass and screen offense. You’re basically praying for JJ Redick or Marco Belinelli to get open.
The issue is, without the threat of putting the ball on the floor, it’s easy to defend. Besides JJ , Jojo, and Dario Saric, we don’t have guys that can really do that, and with Boston’s athletic defenders, it was a wrap.
I hope we can focus on running similar systems like Utah and Houston. We don’t have to force guys like RoCo to put the ball on the floor, but put him in the corner waiting for a pass. Did you notice how much better we were when TJ McConnell was on the floor? His ability to create, which isn’t super elite, was enough to get our offense going.
B) Ben Simmons is a liability
This is a big issue. I’ve been able to defend Ben Simmons all season long, but I can’t really defend his performance in this series, it was abysmal. Boston exposed every issue Ben has.
Ben’s lack of a jumpshot is the biggest problem Ben has to fix, and if Ben left this series believing that he doesn’t need to add a reliable jumpshot to his game, then seriously suck one Ben, you’re an asshole if you believe that…honestly. Now I will give it to him though, Ben shot wayyy better at the free throw line in the postseason, which shows that he is kinda working on shooting. Sadly he’s still shooting left-handed (I really think he’s right handed). But yeah back on topic, Ben needs a jumpshot.
Without that jumpshot, defending Ben was a piece of cake, you just had to dare him to shoot. BUT it didn’t just help Boston defend Ben. Since he can’t shoot, Boston defenders were able to sag off of him and help other defenders, and you remember point A?? Yeah we got guys who can’t even dribble, so defending us was easy as hell.
Once Ben gets at least a TJ McConnell baby midrange jumper, defenders will have to come closer, and Ben will finally use his speed to blow past defenders and use his athleticism and IQ to grab us two or three points every possession.
C) We lack athleticism and speed defensively
I’ve always thought that a team would eventually exploit us having Marco, Dario, and Ersan on defense; and here came Boston. How many times did I see Marco get blown right thru? And why did we think Ben could keep up with Terry Rozier?
The talk of Kawhi Leonard and PG13 is intriguing. They’re exactly what we need. Or maybe we can get Mikal Bridges? We are getting Jonah Bolden next season…
D) We need Markelle Fultz
Remember my earlier post? That the answer to all our problems was Markelle Fultz? (And lebron…)
It’s still true.
E) We’re young and stupid
From Ben Simmons not passing the ball out after an offensive rebound with the shot clock dead to Joel Embiid not finishing the game tying bucket in Game 5. From Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid shooting with the wrong hand, to Ben Simmons missing a wide open dunk. From JJ Redick passing it to Ben Simmons’ back, to Joel Embiid passing it out of bounds.
So many mistakes that you shouldn’t see at this level. I’m really praying it’s just our youth. There’s hope, Jojo got really good in the post this series, it might’ve been the best I’ve seen him inside his whole career. And Ben Simmons was really doing work at the end of game 5.
…so congrats Boston. See yall at the NBA lottery.