It’s a remarkable stat when put into a proper context.
The Sixers shoot the ball so quickly that 46 percent of the shots they have taken this season have come in the first 10 seconds of a possession. No other team comes close to matching that number.
Meanwhile, the Sixers average 100 possessions per game, which are nearly two possessions more than the next closest team.
In other words, when rookie NBA head coach Brett Brown says the Sixers are going to use their speed, he isn’t kidding.
“We’re adamant about playing at that pace,” Brown said after Monday’s practice session at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
But in the midst of a four-game losing streak with losses in eight of their last nine games and in 10 of their last 12, could the Sixers be going too fast? After all, as Hall of Fame coach John Chaney used to say about his deliberate and static offense at Temple University, “speed kills.”
The Sixers have committed 93 turnovers in the last five games, with 26 in the victory over Milwaukee on Nov. 22. They also have had 33 shots blocked during the most recent losing streak. That means in the last four losses, the Sixers have given away an average of 25 possessions per game without getting a shot at the rim.
Is the speed game killing the 6-12 Sixers? Perhaps. But at least Brown knew there would be some issues with playing at such a high tempo with the youngest team in the NBA.
“We knew it. We knew the problems would come,” Brown said. “We wanted to focus on the pace. We knew there would be pain and we’d take a hit. … We’re going to get better down the road incrementally when we understand how to use [a high pace] and not use it recklessly. We knew it was coming but, honestly, we didn’t know it was going to be this poor at times.”
The players enjoy the freedom of playing at a breakneck speed and the chance to make decisions on their own. However, there is some danger in that freedom. Now that teams have had a chance to go over the game film on the Sixers, there are fewer surprises. The opposition understands that it isn’t too difficult to get the Sixers to take a quick shot or coax a turnover.
Sometimes with quick shots and turnovers, the Sixers’ defense is put on its heels. Considering that the Sixers give up a league-worst 110.1 points per game, the defense has been tested often (see story).
That doesn’t mean the Sixers are going to give up and slow it down. Far from it. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams says the Sixers need to find a balance.
“We’re trying to find an in-between of playing fast and taking good shots,” Carter-Williams said.
To find the right recipe, Brown says he has to come up with some different ideas. The coach also said the onus will be put on him to teach his players the difference between a quick, bad shot and a quick, smart shot.
Brown also wants his players to understand that playing at a high pace is the only chance the Sixers have against some of their opponents.
“I just want to coach it better,” Brown said. “I don’t want to get on our heels and say we’re not going to run anymore because it comes with too many problems, which it does a the moment. I want to persevere with this style and this way of playing because … we have learned that we are not going to beat some of the teams we’ve beaten any other way.”
Meanwhile, with Orlando headed to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night following a game in Washington on Monday, the Sixers’ speed will again be a weapon. And just like with any weapon, there are plenty of risks.