The Philadelphia 76ers Weekly Report Card: After 4-1 Week Are Sixers Finding Their Way?

76ers report and review of December 2019

The past ten days have been pretty good overall for the 76ers. They won the games they were supposed to win and lost one against the Raptors on the road in a tightly contested game in which Joel Embid failed to score a point. The 76ers went 4-1 over the stretch, beating the Kings, Knicks, Pacers, and Jazz.

Let’s take a look back at those games, as well as some of the rising favorites in the NBA.

Raptors vs 76ers Nov 25

This game was as close as we all expected it would be. The 76ers only shot 40% from the field and were dominated in the paint (44-28). Though the 76ers outrebounded the Raptors 51-40, the poor shooting, lack of offense from Joel Embid, and the 56% free throw percentage were just too much for the 76ers to overcome. The silver lining here is the 76ers also were -6 in turnovers in the game, so if they can continue to clean that up throughout the season, they should be able to take their rebounding and size advantages and ride that to some grinding victories as the season progresses.

This team loves ball movement and with ball movement comes the increased likelihood of turnovers. However, good ball movement leads to higher percentage shots, so as long as the 76ers can keep getting higher percentage shots, there should be more regression to the mean in these outcomes.

Kings vs 76ers Nov 27

The Kings put up a good fight. They shot very poorly and only made four free throws, but they still managed to hang around despite the poor shooting (41%) and going -7 on rebounds. Their turnover differential (+6) helped them stick around as the 76ers once again, struggled to hang on to the basketball.

The bounce-back performance by Joel Embid (33 points) and the breakout game on both sides of the ball from Matisse Thybulle (15 points). The three-point shooting from the 76ers was awful (5 for 26) but hey, their rebounding advantage once again kept them in the game and it was enough for a close hoe victory.

Knicks vs 76ers Nov 29

The 76ers took three quarters playing catch-up in New York against a hot-shooting Knicks squad. The 76ers outrebounded the Knicks by 9, but only managed to eke out another narrow victory. The Knicks got off to a very magical start, before turning back into a pumpkin later in the second half, yet still managed to keep the game close in the fourth. From a gameplay perspective, it’s getting a bit worrisome as to how the 76ers keep allowing so many points in the paint. It has to worry fans to know that when a game slows down and half-court offense is so critical, how a team with such size, athleticism and perceived defensive abilities can be exploited down low so easily.

The big reason the 76ers won this game came down to execution at the free-throw line. The 76ers attempted a whopping 40 free throws and made 32 of them. It was a staggering differential compared to the Knicks, who made just 19 of their 33 free throws. It sounds simple, but the Knicks simply couldn’t execute when it really mattered. Had they made even a few more free throws, this game would’ve been drastically different down the stretch.

Pacers vs 76ers Nov 30

It was nice to see the 76ers jump out with such tenacity in a game to start. The 76ers got out to a 9 point lead via a 38 point explosion in the first quarter. From there, Indiana seemed to find their footing in the second quarter. It was clear early in the second half that neither team seemed likely to pull away. The game resembled that of a grinding playoff affair between two great teams.

There was a lot of action in the paint, high percentage shooting on both sides, and few rebounds to go around. There were a combined 90 points in the paint scored and just 63 rebounds. It wasn’t, however, a clean game. The two combined for 33 turnovers, but for once, the 76ers came out on the better end (+5). The difference in the game ended up being the turnover differential as two late Pacer turnovers were enough for the 76ers to ice the game with free throws.

Jazz vs 76ers Dec 2

Not only was this the second straight game in which the 76ers got off to a hot start, it was also their second straight win against a good team and the second straight game the 76ers went +5 in the turnover differential. The ball movement early on here was incredible, again. It appears the 76ers are starting to find their way at this point, accepting the fact the team is a team predicated on ball movement and exploiting matchups. Though the Jazz really got rolling late with Rudy Gobert and the pick and roll, it appeared to be more of an exploitation the 76ers were willing to cede, given the large lead they had late in the game.

The Jazz feasted late, but it was not a good representation of their play earlier in the game. The Jazz shot much better from the field, but also attempted 10 less shots, were outrebounded by just 5, and shot just 5 for 22 from three. That’s not the execution you want in a contest with such a negative game script.

The biggest questions for the 76ers going forward are, “Can the 76ers accept the system they’re currently playing within?” and “Can the 76ers continue to limit turnovers?” The past few games have shown us the 76ers might have turned a corner on their season. We can only hope their future continues to get brighter as the season heats up.

The frontrunners

With over 20 games into the season, we continue to take our weekly look at the top teams in the NBA, which includes an appearance from your very own 76ers. Here are the top four teams in the NBA right now with odds to win the NBA Championship courtesy of the BetRivers PA Sportsbook.

1. Clippers 16-6 +300 to win title

The Clippers, when playing at full strength, appear to be the most complete and dangerous team in the NBA. Montrezl Harrell has made the jump this season and is playing at a higher level than he ever has in his career. He’s averaging career-highs in rebounds, assists, and points, while averaging only 2.2 fouls per game; better than his 3.1 from the season prior.

Harrell’s defense has been outstanding and he’s shooting at 60% so far this season, averaging 19 points per game. The Clippers also have the sixth man of the decade in Lou Williams, perennial All-Stars, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonhard. It’s the best defensive team in the NBA and one littered with high percentage scorers who can get buckets in a wide array of situations.

2. Lakers 19-3 +350 to win title

The Lakers are a fun pick for the title. I think their odds are too high, personally. I think the oddsmakers know the Lakers are going to be very popular amongst bettors, so their odds are higher than they should be, due to all the action. They’re still a very good, but top-heavy team. Yes, it’s true Lebron and AD are dominating when they’re on the floor, but we’ve seen in games against good teams that their lack of depth has hurt them. They don’t match up well against the Clippers. That’s the dark little secret.

If this team faces the Clippers in the playoffs at full strength, I think the Clippers take the series, 4-2. I’m not sold on this team yet, but if they continue their hot streak and finish as the #1 seed, they’re worth considering. I just think they match up horribly against the Clippers, and we can’t bank on the hope one of the Clippers key players gets injured.

3. Bucks 19-3 +550 to win the title

The Bucks have emerged as the frontrunner in the East. As of right now, the Bucks appear to be the force of the East, and Giannis currently holds the highest PER rating of all-time. He’s averaging 31 points per game, 13 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and has a 34.05 PER rating. His supporting cast has been great so far, as it appears the loss of Malcolm Brogdan may not be as critical as we initially suspected. Either way, this man can get to the basket whenever he pleases and dominates on both ends down low. There’s a video of him last week just backing down Julius Randle of the Knicks and dunking on him from five feet away from the basket. How can anyone defend that?

The Bucks are a safe bet in the East right now, but the question will be, “Can this team develop around Giannis and pose a threat to the West?”. Only time will tell, but for now, as we learned last season, just get to the Finals and anything can happen.

4. 76ers 15-6 +700 to win the title

We’ve said all we need to say about this team. They’re extremely deep and have multiple players capable of carrying the team on offense. They also have the size and ability to be a true defensive juggernaut, but the question with Philly is, “Can they win under their current system?” We have months to come up with a reasonable conclusion on this, but for now, if you think the 76ers are a good bet to win the East, +700 are good odds if you think the team has a shot at taking down either the Clippers or Lakers in the title game.

Though the 76ers have the talent, the issue will be their ability to succeed under Brett Brown. Now would be a good time to bet the 76ers as long as you feel they can get the chemistry straight by the playoffs.

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Author: Collin Hulbert