The 76ers have gotten off to a strong start, and after a summer where many predicted them to advance to the NBA Finals, they are possibly now the most overlooked out East, in large part because of the unexpectedly strong starts of the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Miami Heat. Though they have three likely All Stars on their team, they rank just 15th and 10th in offensive and defensive rating, respectfully, due in part to low shooting percentages and point declines from last season from a lot of their big guys. That, combined with what appears to be a thin bench and a lack of consistent outside shooting (17th in three-point percentage, 34.6) has resulted in an offense still trying to find itself.
The Spurs, who might not be as bad as their 5-10 record would indicate, are desperately in need of a win in any way possible. They’ll need to hustle on the defensive end of the court to prevent a middle-of-the-pack offense from looking like a juggernaut, while doing what they can to minimize the height advantage Philly brings to the game
San Antonio Spurs (5-10) at Philadelphia 76ers (9-5)
November 22, 2019 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: ESPN, FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Derrick White (foot - QUESTIONABLE)
76ers Injuries: Josh Richardson (hip - day to day)
What to watch for
- How will Gregg Popovich counter Philly’s size? - The shortest player in the 76ers current starting line-up is Furkan Korkmaz at 6’7”. They deploy 3 guys that are 6’9” or over in that line-up, including a 6’10” point guard that is bigger than their power forward, summer free agent signing Al Horford. For contrast, the Spurs started 2 players against Washington that were under 6’3”.
It would appear to be unwise to go into this game with a similar strategy. Though the topic of choice has been slow starts, the real problem for the Spurs is on the defensive end, which was once again on display in a 138-132 shootout in Washington. Gregg Popovich has plenty of options at his disposal, though he has not elected to see what they can do yet. DeMarre Carroll, after playing 8 solid minutes against the Mavericks, was the 4th sub off the bench and played just 10 minutes, while Lonnie Walker IV continues to remain in the doghouse.
It will be interesting to see if these two finally see some more minutes tonight in an effort to combat the size of Philly’s starters. It is also a homecoming situation for Walker, who is from Reading, Pennsylvania.
- Ben Simmons still doesn’t want to shoot jump shots - Simmons is known just as much for his broken jump shot as he is his freakish athletic talent and naturally gifted passing IQ. Though he averages 16 points a game on 55% shooting from the field, he has a very limited offensive game when it comes to scoring the ball outside of transition or the paint. Even though there was a lot of hype over the summer over his supposedly improved jump shot, he remains completely averse to shooting the ball outside of 10 feet.
This is on full display when looking at his scoring numbers, which show that he’s attempted just 9 shots from outside of 10 feet the entire season. The internet went insane the other night when he made his first career 3-pointer:
BEN SIMMONS FOR 3. CASH. pic.twitter.com/JM7AO6646m— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) November 21, 2019
While his outside shot remains a work in progress, Simmons has no issue backing down little guards and scoring inside. Gregg Popovich may very well go away from the Patty Mills-Bryn Forbes backcourt that he started last game to help take away Simmons’ scoring opportunities, which in turn lead into opportunities for his teammates.
Regardless of defender, though, expect to see them play way off of Simmons and goad him into taking jump shots.
- Bring the physicality and focus - The Spurs have played with the sort of tenacity so far this season that had Pop questioning their competitive nature all the way back during preseason. While the most optimal defensive players and line-ups maybe haven’t been deployed yet, the players that are getting minutes have, at times, exhibited what should be seen as less-than-satisfactory effort, like on this play in the 2nd half against the Wizards:
I don't think Rudy was very happy with DeMar for standing there and watching Beal lay this ball in. pic.twitter.com/hKGEopGsIv— CharlieOCharles (@CharlieOCharles) November 21, 2019
Plays like this are due to a lack of awareness and focus on the defensive side of the ball. Too many of these will cause you to lose games, and the Spurs have had far too many breakdowns like this so far this season.
The 76ers, as has been stated, are a big, physical basketball team that mucks up the game inside. For the Spurs to have any sort of success, they’ll have to match that physicality.
What they’re saying
In a piece that looked at ways the 76ers could improve their offense after a slow start to the year, Liberty Baller’s Tom West highlighted how a misuse of size (and post-ups) has limited them:
“The Sixers also need to learn to not turn to any size advantage and think it’s a mismatch. They’re first in the NBA in post-ups per game by a mile at 15.1 (ninth in efficiency at 0.92 points per possession), well ahead of the second-place Lakers at 9.3. When Philly’s offense has faltered, it’s looked stagnant, sloppy, or limited. It’s fine having a physical identity, but embracing post-ups to the point that they’re being used with poor positioning or by the wrong players won’t work. The offense needs some diversity.”
Vegas odds: Philly -7.5, O/U 224
For the 76ers fans’ perspective, visit Liberty Ballers.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.