north-south interests me a lot because it equals dunks and free throws

Brett Brown on Ben Simmons playing downhill

The last time the Sixers faced the Toronto Raptors, revenge for the playoff loss was well within their grasp. After a 31 point third quarter, the Sixers had a lead late in the fourth quarter despite an unprecedented 0-11 performance from Embiid. Now, the game on Sunday came just one night after the Sixers’ evisceration of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brett Brown spoke very little before the game versus the Raptors about the night before, instead focusing on the 15-6 Raptors who have given the 76ers tremendous problems in recent history. The Raptors have succeeded in large part due to their ability to force the Sixers’ two young superstars, Embiid and Simmons, into turnovers.

So let’s recap Sunday night’s 110-104 win using Brett Brown’s comments from before the game.

On Joel Embiid handing doubles teams

When talking about the struggles that Gasol caused for Joel Embiid last game, Brett had this to say. “I mean, he’s good. And again, I don’t mean to give a smart guy answer. He’s good. Like he’s just a Defensive Player of the Year. You know, and he’s smart and he’s good.

“When you judge the points generated by going to Joel, and they double, he threw it out. It was actually quite effective. They turned him over a few times in key situations, whether they decide to do that again tonight, who knows,” continued Brown. He mentioned that other teams have learned from what’s been effective versus Embiid. “It did jumpstart teams after that, sort of doing the same thing. And I do feel like we and he has improved in handling random doubles.”

On Sunday, the Raptors applied this kind of pressure to Embiid, Horford, and Tobias Harris. The Sixers were able to handle that pressure well for most of the game. Through three quarters, they had 24 assists to just 9 turnovers as Philadelphia made quick and unselfish decisions. However, as the Raptors ramped up the pressure in the fourth quarter, the Sixers’ turnovers began to mount. They had 8 turnovers in the final frame, with Embiid having 5 of them by himself.

we accept the double teams and you know your whole team cuts and… picks apart a gym

Brett Brown on the Raptors heavy double team defense.

On Marc Gasol and his Success versus Embiid

“[Embiid] is still playing against a really good player that has had a history of, you know, some success against Philadelphia 76ers, whether it’s Memphis or in Toronto,” Brown said pregame. “And I think in general, my mind is is more about like, how do I help Joel help himself and the team. And it could be doing what was asked before. Like we post them and we accept the double teams, and you know, your whole team cutters and like he picks apart a gym. And you played hooky to make sure to move in and drive it and type stuff.” Embiid brought this mindset into the game, dishing out 6 assists and regularly looking for the open man.

“But, you know, let’s look,” Brown continued pregame. “As good as Marc Gasol played on Joel, that game up in Toronto was still a bizarre outlier by any standards, let alone Joel Embiid standards. And I think that you’ll be good to go tonight.” Embiid was certainly better in this one than in their first meeting. However, he still only finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds, both well below his season averages.

On Ben Simmons needing to get downhill.

“I’ll double down on what I said last night. Quietly and privately, he (Simmons) and I talk all year,” Brown mentioned pregame. “And, you know, last night I probably went further than I have in the past, and I don’t backpedal one step. And I think that for Ben, you know it’s for me, it’s about, especially now with Joel back, it’s about spacing. Like how does he space and prepare himself to do what we saw last night? Take that space and chew it up as a 6’10”, you know, breakneck speed athlete playing downhill.

“You can take the space and use it as you choose and judge the game. And so it starts with space. It’s all and will always be about space, and it’s exacerbated when you have a huge team. The punishment, when you don’t have space, for me, is painful. Like I see it immediately, and so space is the starting point. And then when you get into that world of, you know, you can choose to be a five foot or two foot from the rim. That thing we talked about, you know, that Body, Body, Ball stuff. That long stride step, gather step, call it what you want.

“You know that’s what we’re seeing in him. Just as simple as, you know, bringing a shoulder around so we can get to the rim instead of going east-west and more north-south.” Brett Brown continued that this “interests me a lot because it equals dunks and free throws. And I think if you just lived in those two worlds, you’d be in my world and the discussions that I have with him. That’s what interests me when I talk about Ben Simmons, and it’s especially important, the spacing issue with Joel tonight.”

And on Sunday evening, Simmons very much did get downhill. He was efficient from the field and turned the corner to get into the teeth of the paint to create either dunks, layups, or passing opportunities. He finished the game with 16 points and 9 assists, to go along with 11 rebounds.

Thybulle and Harris Ascension

Matisse Thybulle had arguably his best game of the season. He was a problem for Toronto on both ends of the floor, notching 4 stocks, 5 threes and 3 assists to go along with a career-high 20 points. “You know, Matisse is moving forward,” Coach Brown said after the game on Sunday. “I like the way that he is trending. I thought offensively, for the large portion of the game, we were good against a really good defensive team.”

Tobias Harris also had a big game for the 76ers on Sunday night. Harris has really stepped up and played well, especially since Josh Richardson has been sidelined. He continued that against the Raptors in this one. “I think that, in general, he is in a good place offensively,” Brown said postgame. “We’re playing well around him and off him, but he’s having a really good mindset lately to score.” Harris finished the night with 26 points while hitting 4-of-8 from three point land.

On Late Game Situations in Regular Season versus Playoffs:

Prior to the game, Brown talked about coaching during end-of-game type situations. “I try to learn as much as I can, more than, hold stuff back and trick somebody, you know, with a minute left. If that makes sense. You do learn a lot in the regular season, [but it] is just entirely different than the playoffs. It’s so different when you go and you have to play somebody, you know, like we did with them seven times. And, you know, [there are] no secrets by the seventh game and I think in general. My belief is for the very, very large most part, you play basketball, and you learn, and you make adjustments from the last game to this game and it’s not like I’m holding something.”

The end of the game was certainly not pretty on Sunday evening. The Sixers looked unprepared for the full-court pressure they faced down the stretch. There will be plenty for the players and head coach to watch and learn from during the final few minutes of an otherwise impressive game.

On Utilizing the Bench

Before the game, Brown also talked about his bench. “I always learn, and it’s double barreled for me. It’s like the end, even with Mike Scott, you know, I decided to go with Mike, to try to jumpstart him and get him going again. I thought maybe that could be a good opportunity, and I thought he played really well, and I think that that he would have to be coming into the building tonight feeling pretty good about himself.

“I’m just from a human, forget Coach Brown, you just want a human standpoint, I like seeing them play. They don’t play a ton, and so to be able to find that environment, which we really haven’t had much of lately, is rewarding to see them with the work that they put in to get out and play. Can you put coaching hat on and, you know, you see Kyle do some things. He’s physical, like and he is an adult in the room, no doubt. And you see Trey has the ability maybe to play, you know, alongside Ben as we’ve seen a little bit. I refer to it like an AI, you know, scoring two guard, lightning in a bottle type.

“Maybe, you know, you can sort of envisage that a little bit more. You’re always learning, and last night, those guys get extended minutes, so you felt like you learned a little bit more.”

Some nights, it will be Burke providing that AI-type spark off the bench. Other nights, it will be the sure-handed Neto providing stability at the backup PG position. Sunday night, Brett Brown decided to utilize Neto, who finally got the Sixers’ three point shooting going when he hit a deep three in the first half. From that moment on, the threes came in bunches for the 76ers.