Is Michael Carter-Williams the real deal?
Brett Brown's Sixers -- as a result of their play on the fast break -- lead the NBA in points scored from inside the restricted area and shots taken from inside nine feet. (AP)
After three games, the Sixers’ ability to run, get shots in the paint and then run some more has been evident. The 3-0 start with wins over the Heat, Wizards and Bulls has come, in part, because when the opposition starts sucking wind, the Sixers keep running.
Former MVP Derrick Rose said as much after the Sixers overcame a 20-point deficit in the third quarter to stun the Bulls on Saturday night.
“We took a breath and they kept going,” Rose said after the game.
But according to coach Brett Brown, the Sixers can do better. They can go much faster.
“I think it’s a B. I think we need to get it up to a B-plus to an A,” Brown said grading his team's up-tempo pace on offense. “I think it’s good, but it’s not great. At times it’s great, but it’s not consistent.”
As Brown says, if the Sixers get caught in a half-court game, they are in trouble. In able to survive, Brown wants his team to push the basketball.
“I feel like to take our roster and find ways to score easiest, it’s going to be with speed and it’s going to be in open court. It’s not going to be against a static half-court, Chicago Bulls-type defense,” Brown said.
“That is not an environment that we want to play in. You know, as you start playing deeper into a playoff situation, as I learned in [as an assistant for San Antonio], you better have that ability to go to that. It scares me now, because we don’t really. We’re not spaced, the timing’s not where we need it to be, the execution is not where it needs to be at all. That’s on me. We’ve invested a lot of time in other places and I think you see dividends. I think that open court is where we should live, and I think we’re a B right now.”
The Sixers’ ability to run the ball up the floor quickly has led to some interesting numbers. No team in the NBA has attempted more shots within nine feet of the basket than the Sixers, and no team has made more shots from the restricted area in the paint.
Meanwhile, the Sixers are next-to-last in the NBA in long two-pointers attempted from 20-to-24 feet and have the highest average of possessions per game, with 103.2.
But the biggest number might be a big zero … as in turnovers. The Sixers have not committed a turnover in the final five minutes of a game this season. Zero turnovers with a rookie point guard in crunch time against the Heat, Wizards and Bulls.
With numbers like that, how can the Sixers improve on the B grade the coach handed out?
“I think you compartmentalize spots,” Brown said. “Is Michael Carter-Williams getting high-outlets? How quickly is he getting the ball over half-court? How quickly is the in-bounder or rebounder getting high-outlets or dribble-outs? How quickly are you getting to corners? It’s simple. Just playing simple rules we’ve identified with the players.”
It also helps that the players enjoy playing in something of a freelance offense. The Sixers rarely run the pick-and-roll, which is the industry standard in the NBA. Even though they don’t have an active player over the age of 25 -- with nine players with no more than three years of experience -- Brown has given the team the freedom to run and set up the offense as it sees fit.
“[Brown] is a lot less scripted than it’s been in the past and we’re adjusting to that,” said center Spencer Hawes, who is second on the team with six three-pointers. “He’s given us the freedom to initiate the break and we know it’s a big responsibility, but we look forward to it.”
The Sixers will face a more experienced version of themselves on Monday night, when the high-scoring Golden State Warriors come to the Wells Fargo Center.