According to Brett Brown, it would take until Christmas until he knew what he had in this team. After a three game losing streak that included two losses at home, Brett Brown is ready to take back control of the team. Brown had previously given more autonomy to Ben Simmons as the point guard to run the offense. However, the Wizards have given the 76ers problems of late, and a fourth loss heading into a Christmas matchup against Milwaukee would intensify alarm bells.
“The thing that I am learning, as always, is the view is more of a need, I believe, with this particular team at this particular stage to help them get into environments to help call plays,” said Brown before Saturday night’s game. “And you know there’s a pace of how I think the game should be played at. You’ve all seen us play this in the past.” In that typical quick pace of play, Simmons was often the one who needed to run the show.
However, this free rein period appears to be on hold at the very least. Brown went on to say, “This particular team, especially after makes at times, I think needs more of a guide. More of a voice that I need to provide as called-play type thing. Just because of the way the team is, it may be a little bit with them but not a lot with them. It’s just, in general, the team is kind of unique on the construction and the skill sets and all that. And so I feel personally, more than I have ever since I have been here, the need to like help them be placed in environment [to succeed].”
First Quarter – 32-25 Sixers
Early on, this change in approach to offensive play-calling seemed to pay immediate dividends. The Sixers were able to get excellent shots for the majority of the first quarter Saturday. They shot 12-23 and led 32-25 after one. The team also had 8 assists to just 2 turnovers and were under control for nearly all of the quarter. Bradley Beal carried the Wizards with 9 points including a buzzer-beating jumpshot over the outstretched hand of Joel Embiid to keep the Wizards in the game.
While the Wizards haven’t posed much of a defensive threat to anyone all year, it was still a breath of fresh air to see the offense operating efficiently to start the game. It was particularly impressive considering it was the second game of a back-to-back.
When asked about how difficult it is to make adjustments during a back-to-back, Brett Brown said, “It’s part of the need, I think, to have a routine. For me, it’s important that I have a routine, that I’ve been doing this for a long time. And, you know, when does the plane leave, what’s your prep work, what information ammunition do you want to share with your team?”
He continued to give a window into the life of an NBA head coach during an 82 game season. “And so my prep work is always geared toward what did we last do. I don’t move ahead, until I feel like we’ve done a good job of looking in the rearview mirror and fixing stuff. And like if you go to Navy SEAL people in the Marines and all that, they’re going to talk about mastering and advancing. You know, like you feel like you’ve done something well and you feel good enough to move ahead, then you move ahead. And there’s no book that tells you how to do that, and clearly for me, you know, dealing with zone stuff is all in my mind.”
Brown on Gameday Coaching
So how does Brett implement that routine and those corrections on game days with such short turnaround? Through a three-pronged approach.
“Every day I go into it and you have three opportunities. You have a, I call it, State of the Union. I go in there and I say, here’s the deal, this is the game plan, offense, defense, and this is my voice, my mic, and I deliver a message,” Brown said as he discusses his normal game day routine. “Then we walk out on court, and we have a walkthrough, and you know, offense will do something, defense will do something, I’ll do what I do. And then you go see them in the locker room, and then we have pregame film. So I count that as three opportunities” to communicate with his team about specific priorities for a given game.
“And, you know,” continued Brown, “there’s some things you feel like you can [mention] once and then [they] got it. There are the things you got to double down on every one of those three times. We’re going to talk about it, we’re going to walk through it, they’re going to get tested on a film. And so today (Saturday), we have two times. I got my State of the Union. And then really, once I get State of the Union which will feature in the pregame film, and then they’re going to go play a game.”
Defense Equals Tee Shirts
Defense Equals Tee Shirts76ers Hype Squad
Despite the concerns with how the Sixers’ offense handled the zone and his decision to take back control of the offense, Coach Brown was more focused on fixing their flaws on defense.
“You know in the light of day, I am reminded significantly when I watch the tape throughout the course of the day, that it’s still about our defense. We can’t get tricked. We really can’t get tricked and not understand that it’s still about that, and we didn’t play defense. I didn’t think we played defense to the level that we need to play. We talk about some of the zone issues, which are there, but that is my practice, is trying to put things to bed where I feel responsible.”
And in the second quarter, the Sixers’ defense showed up in a very big way. The Wizards scored just 7 points in the first 8 minutes of the second as the 76ers ground their way to a lead that was as high as 23 points. The Sixers dominated on the offensive glass in the quarter, with 12 offensive boards in the half. The Wizards stormed back to score 23 points in the final 4 minutes to end the half 65-53.
After the loss on Friday versus Dallas, Joel Embiid remarked that the team had played scared. He presumably meant that in regards to how they responded to a team that played heavy zone defense against them. “I’d be guessing because I haven’t spoken to him on it,” Brown responded when asked about it pregame. “I think that, you know, whether that’s his words or my word was words of, like, we can’t let some of these things affect our spirit.
“But I think that just trying to overcome this kind of funky phase of, you know, dealing certainly with some zone problems is on all of our minds,” said Brown. However he then pivoted, “I don’t see the world like that. I see the world as I just said it, I think that is crept into a spirit.”
The 76ers were noticeably better against the zone in Saturday night’s affair. Ben Simmons commented on it postgame by saying, “I think we did a lot better just moving the ball. That’s really the key to it. You can’t hold onto it too long.”
Brett Brown added, “I thought we did a very good job of executing stuff, going to floor spots, setting screens, understanding who to pick on in the zone. I called a lot of plays, more than I normally do, to just try and get us in an organized environment.”
Despite the success on Saturday night against a poor defensive opponent, ultimately, the players on the court need to be able to call and run plays themselves. This will be most naturally led by the backcourt tandem of Simmons and Josh Richardson.
After the game, Richardson talked about the increased play calling by his head coach. “I was just trying to do my best to get guys organized, get us into our stuff. I don’t think he (Brett Brown) should have to call plays every time down the court. He has a lot of things on his plate and a massive job. I mean that’s his job, but you know we try to make it easy on everybody, so I think if I can communicate the plays out of free throws and stuff like that, I think it’ll make things run a little smoother.”
Crashing the Glass
As the Sixers entered the second half, the game was played mostly evenly. The Wizards were finally able to keep the 76ers from dominating the offensive glass in the second half, but the overall rebounding differential was +15 in favor of the home team. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks mentioned after the game that “rebounds were a problem tonight” for the visiting team.
When asked about the team’s dominance on the boards and its connection to perimeter defense, Sixers guard Josh Richardson said it was mostly just the physical size advantage that his team has. “[It was mostly just] using our size advantage defensively and offensively,” he said. “Three guys with three offensive rebounds at least today. And it was almost, it was one play that Ben and Al was like playing volleyball down there. And then I was like standing behind them watching. But you know, I think we can do that on a nightly basis if we really focus in on it.”
In the crucial stretch between 10 and 3 minutes remaining, the Sixers pulled away, led by Tobias Harris. All five starters were in double figures, and that overall balance and dominance on the glass largely negated another huge night from Bradley Beal.
The 76ers outscored the Wizards 37-28 in the fourth to cruise to a comfortable 125-108.
Isaiah Thomas was ejected late in the game after going into the stands after some verbally abusive fans.
I did not see it, but Isaiah Thomas apparently went into the stands and had an altercation with a fan. He has been ejected.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) December 22, 2019
Thomas had 20 points and was the Wizards second leading scorer tonight.
The Sixers head to Detroit to face a struggling Pistons team before coming home Christmas Day for a huge matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. Who will be calling the plays for the Sixers’ offense by then? We may just have to see how things go next game. We’re nearing that Christmas deadline set by Brett Brown earlier this year.