The 76ers, this season and especially the last two games, have been getting a lot of open shots and a much of that has come from the pace they have played.
In the preseason, coach Doc Rivers talked about wanting to play fast and he didn’t just mean getting transition points. It also means beating defenders to spots and the Sixers (5-1) did that consistently during Saturday’s 127-112 win over the visiting Charlotte Hornets.
“It’s been great, we are putting so much pressure on the defense that we can strike early,” said Rivers, whose team hosts the 2-4 Hornets again on Monday. “The floor is wide open for Ben [Simmons] to get into the paint and create action.”
Rivers said that the Sixers are doing two really good things to get shooters open.
“No. 1, we are getting Ben up the floor and he is finding shooters and No. 2, we throw the ball to Joel [Embiid] in the post and every time they trap, our spacing overall has been terrific and we’re getting threes.”
Not only threes, but wide-open threes.
Against the Hornets, the Sixers shot 16-for-45 (45.7%) from beyond the arc. During Thursday’s 116-92 rout in Orlando, the Sixers shot 15-for-33 (45.5%), including 10-for-17 (58.8%) in the first half when they put the game away, leading by 75-40. Many of those three-pointers were also from wide-open looks.
Not only are the Sixers beating opponents down the floor, but they are playing unselfish basketball, sometimes even over-passing instead of taking a shot.
Against the Hornets, the Sixers had 35 assists on 47 made field goals. Simmons led the way with 11 assists, but each of the other four starters had four or more assists. Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each had six assists and Joel Embiid and Danny Green added four each.
Simmons, who also had 15 points and 12 rebounds in registering his 29th career triple-double, says that beating the team down the court has been a key to getting so many open looks, but he added that it starts with defense.
“We’ve got to get the rebound first, then transition is easy,” Simmons said. “We’ve got guys filling lanes, either me, Seth, or Tobias pushing the ball and then you have Jo [Embiid], who works his [butt] off in terms of being in shape and being able to run the floor every game. When he does that, I feel we are unstoppable.”
Green, a member of last season’s NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, says the obvious keys in the Sixers’ fast pace are Simmons and Embiid.
“We can be very dangerous and if we keep making shots, that is going to open the floor for Joel and Ben,” said Green, who had made four three-pointers in the first five games, but was 3-for-6 against the Hornets. “Ben at the rim and Joel on the post, they aren’t going to be able to double [team] as much and there is nobody in the league that can guard Joel on the block.”
With teams double-teaming Embiid, it is also leaving open shooters, even when the Sixers are playing a half-court game. So the Sixers have had success either in the half court or transition, but running has made for better opportunities.
Most NBA players revel at being able to play a quicker game and the Sixers have been thriving in the early part of the season.