Sixers struggle to defend the three vs. Wizards
John Wall hit five of the Wizards' 18 three-pointers in their 116-102 win over the Sixers. (AP)
New Sixers coach Brett Brown says he expects some growing pains on offense with his youthful and inexperienced team. That’s the reason why he calls so few plays and will live with the mistakes, the coach says.
But the defense is another issue. In the Sixers’ 116-102 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), Brown says the plan was to protect the paint and gamble on the outside shots.
Looks like the Sixers came up with snake eyes.
For the second straight game the Sixers were battered by the three-point shot. This time the Wizards tied a Wells Fargo Center record by hitting 18 threes, hitting them at a 54.5 percent clip. Six different players hit a long ball with John Wall burying five and Martell Webster coming off the bench to nail four of them.
This comes after Andre Iguodala hit a career-high seven three-pointers and the Golden State Warriors hit 15 threes in a 20-point victory on Monday.
“If you look at those numbers they look deflating,” Brown said. “But I said from the start that we want to guard the paint. We had a 29 percent three-point shooter come in and had a helluva game. Last game Andre Iguodala came in and went bananas. We’ve chosen a way to play. We’ve chosen to protect the paint with a young team. We’ve hedged our bets and it’s hurt us.”
Wednesday was the third time this season the Sixers allowed 15 or more three-pointers in a game. Let’s put that in a bit of perspective -- the Sixers allowed 15 three-pointers in a game just twice in the last three seasons combined.
The NBA record for most times allowing 15 or more three-pointers in a game is five. At the rate the Sixers are going, they could shatter that mark by next week.
“When you come in you have to decide which sword you’re going to die on,” Brown said. “We’ve said we want to get back and guard the paint and then we’ll go out and defend the three-pointers. And when a 29 percent three-point shooter like John Wall comes in and does what he did, it’s easy to step back and second guess that.”
One has to imagine that Brown will alter the game plan. After all, the Sixers dominated the glass against the bigger Wizards, scored 42 points in the paint and shot a higher percentage from the field (47 percent to 43.9 percent).
But when a team trades two-pointers against threes, the math isn’t going to add up. That’s especially the case when the Wizards squeezed off 98 shots with 33 of them coming from long range.
Is there a way the Sixers can adjust? Is it possible to come out and contest the three-pointers instead of concentrating on protecting the paint?
Not really, says Brown. Not when many of the three-pointers are coming in transition.
“I think when you go back and look at the tape you’ll see some correlation to half-court defensive schemes, but you’ll see a lot of correlation to turnovers,” Brown said. “It’s easy to see the three-point shot and wonder what you’re doing in the half-court defense, but I think you’re going to see a lot of them coming on scrambles for the ball and turnovers instead of us rotating here or rotating there.”
In that case, chalk it up to a vicious cycle. Because the Sixers want to run and push the pace on offense, they are prone to committing turnovers. And when they commit turnovers, the Sixers are out of position to stop the three-point shot.
Again, pick your poison, Brown said.
Or, the Sixers could just stop committing turnovers. In Wednesday’s loss they gave it away 20 times. That comes after a season-high 24 turnovers in the loss to the Warriors.
Five games into the season, the 3-2 Sixers average 19.2 turnovers per game.
“I have no drills on how not to turn the ball over,” Brown said. “I don’t know what no-turnovers drills we can do. We have to be smarter in transition. We’re always trying to run and when you look at our turnovers, I think a lot of them come when we try to initiate the break.”
The Sixers play the Cavaliers on Friday and Saturday, a team that went into Wednesday’s action with just 17 three-pointers on 26.6 percent shooting for the season. Expect the Sixers to pack it in and gamble on the long shot again.
“We just have to trust him,” said Evan Turner, who led the Sixers with 24 points. “When guys are hitting threes, they’re hitting threes. When they hit them you just tip your hat to them. That’s coach’s philosophy and you have to trust it and take it from there.”