Every Adjustment the Sixers Need to Make Ahead of Game Two
Clean Up the Turnovers
Let’s start off simple, the Sixers had a huge turnover problem in last night’s game. The Sixers finished the game with 19 turnovers, but more importantly, 12 of those came in the first half. Yes, turnovers is a pretty simple concept in the grand scheme of things, but as a team goes deeper into the post-season those simple issues become even more important. Every game counts, and this series isn’t going to be a cake-walk like many thought it was going to be. To win the series, the Sixers are going to have to clean up their act, and that starts with the simple concept of protecting the ball better.
Put Ben Simmons on Trae Young Permanently.
One of the hot-button topics from game one was Doc’s decision making with the tall task of guarding Trae Young. To be honest, I understand his thought process behind it. The refs were calling a very soft, ticky-tacky game and Ben plays to his size when guarding small. While Danny isn’t a better defender than Ben by any stretch of the imagination, he does a good job at limiting fouls when guarding on-ball.
When the second half rolled around Doc put Ben on Trae without having to worry about foul trouble since Simmons didn’t pick any up early. There’s just one problem with that plan though, Trae Young dropped 25 points on Danny’s head that helped his team to a 20-point halftime lead. Listen I get the strategy, but this is just truly over-complicating things in the end. Doc needs to put his best defender, his finalist for DPOY, on Trae Young. Will Simmons get called for silly fouls? Of course he will, but to not let him even guard Trae out of fear for those fouls is stupid. I expect to see Simmons on Trae from the jump in game two.
Play Honest Man in Half-Court Defense
It’s safe to say Doc panicked a bit about halfway through this game when it came to defensive schemes. Everyone knew this Hawks team loves to shoot the three, and I even warned you guys about that before game one. At the end of the day, Atlanta isn’t going to hit another franchise-record 20 three’s against us. What Doc shouldn’t do in response is the defensive setup he tried in the second half. Every possession down the court Doc had two Sixers run at Trae off of ball-screens to double him hard. Even with good rotations the Hawks constantly passed the ball out of trouble to an open shooter.
While Trae Young did have a hot first half, he’s just as much a great passer as he is a great shooter. When you double like that, he’ll find a way to get the ball out. Once he did, the Sixers were scrambling to guard a perimeter that, at times, had three guys who all shot the triple at a 40-percent clip. I am all for the pressure in the full court that rattled the very young Hawks backcourt, but once they cross that line, Philly needs to play honest man and trust their ability to keep guys in front of them if they don’t want to give up so many open threes.
Knockdown Your Free Throws
Another simple but very important one the Sixers struggled with in the game one loss. As a team the Sixers left eleven points at the stripe, something you cannot do in big-time playoff games. Now the main culprit of the struggles from the stripe was once again Ben Simmons. Simmons went an atrocious 3-for-10 from the line in the loss. I’ve got to be honest, after the struggles we saw in the Wizards series, Ben’s free throw shooting is starting to really worry me. Simmons cannot be leaving seven points off the board in these tight playoff games. Just think how much different the end of this game would’ve been if Simmons had just hit 50-percent of his free throws this game.
Outside of Ben, Tyrese missed two of his own, Tobias only missed one, and Joel missed a singular free throw. Embiid I am not upset with in the slightest considering that was one miss on 15 attempts. Bottom line is, if the shooting from the stripe was sharper, the Sixers could’ve very well have completed the comeback in Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.
Stop Running the Full-Bench Lineup
This is a Doc Rivers staple that I was hoping had died with his time coaching in LA. For some reason, Doc has always loved to put out full bench lineups for a good five minutes worth of game-time during the playoffs. My best guess behind the reasoning is to rest all the starters together so you can put them all back out again at once. While that might be true, by doing so you’re basically giving opposing teams a window to either close the gap or extend a lead, and the latter is exactly what happened on Sunday.
Before the first quarter closed, Doc ran out a lineup of Hill, Maxey, Thybulle, Korkmaz, and Howard. That unit didn’t score a bucket and let the Hawks go on a 10-0 run that ballooned Atlanta’s lead to 20. Doc needs to let his old habits die hard and game-plan to always have one of the five starters out on the court going forward, or these bench lineups will continue to be taken advantage of by opposing teams.
Mandatory Credit: Curtis Compton.