Ben Simmons, Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, and the Sixers Defense
There’s a million different ways I could start this post but today, with snow pouring down and road conditions less than ideal, I’ll stick with the high road.
Instead of telling everyone how wrong they were about Ben Simmons after every game that he dominates in a million different ways and how thinking it would be smart to move a 24-year old that has a ceiling as tall as the Comcast Center is the dumbest thing I have had to deal with on social media besides Carson Wentz being traded, let’s just take a look at the second half of last night’s game vs the Brooklyn Nets.
But first, let’s be clear, the Brooklyn Nets, when healthy, are really good at basketball. With Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup, the Nets are an offensive powerhouse. They score north of 122 points per 100 possessions. The Sixers did not face that type of lineup last night, but rather a team that just consisted of James Harden.
Harden had a terrific game last night. He scored 26 points and added 10 assists to the final stat sheet. He stared Embiid in the eyes from three point range and knocked down shots with a fearless attitude that anyone who enjoys basketball would envy.
However, in the third quarter of last night’s game, things changed drastically.
To start the game, some initially thought that Ben Simmons would be glued to James Harden throughout and like clockwork, folks on the bird app were tweeting away like they knew the best defensive scheme that the first place in the Eastern Conference Philadelphia 76ers should be using against the Nets. However, Ben Simmons primarily defended Jeff Green for roughly two and a half quarters last night. Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle were given the James Harden assignment.
Doc Rivers chose to keep Simmons off of Harden until midway through the third quarter in order to keep Simmons out of foul trouble. Harden after all, draws a ton of fouls and can easily take a defender out of the game early by getting them in trouble. With 7:30 left in the third quarter, the Nets trailed the Sixers by just one point. Rivers switched Ben Simmons over to the James Harden assignment and the Sixers closed the 3rd quarter on a 30-13 run.
Rivers did not only make the right decision by keeping Ben Simmons fresh for when the Sixers needed to clamp down on defense, but he also found a new defensive group that we will most likely see a ton more of throughout the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Last night, Simmons told the media that he and Embiid had a conversation about how to prevent James Harden from switching defenders. Harden was constantly looking for a mismatch to attack but Doc Rivers countered that with Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle in the second half of last night’s game. Harden could no longer switch off to Seth Curry and when looking for mismatches, he found absolutely nothing to work with thanks to Green and Thybulle.
We haven’t seen the Simmons, Green, Thybulle combination very often this season but their ability to lock down the perimeter and limit mismatches defensively cannot be ignored. A healthy Nets team would obviously present more challenges and we’ll just have to wait and see how the defense holds up when the Nets have Durant, Harden, and Irving on the floor. Regardless, this is a step in the right direction and the Sixers making adjustments mid-game to lock down defensively is a breath of fresh air.
With a few days off before hitting the road against the Kings, Blazers, Suns, and Jazz, all of which who shoot well from the perimeter, this is a defensive lineup that could be the perfect counter.