What we learned about the Sixers in their 118-111 win over the Bulls on Sunday.
If they were five wins better than they are right now, there wouldn’t be much to complain about. This was a Sunday evening game against a team that was already going nowhere and took the court without three of its top four scorers. The Bulls are not a good team, and it was evident early on that the Sixers would be able to sleepwalk their way to a win.
That being said, the Sixers are not five wins better than they are now. They are 28 games away from the postseason without any clear understanding of who they are offensively, and while they did in fact sleepwalk to victory, it would be nice to see this team use opponents like the Bulls to show us that they have the wherewithal to take advantage of mismatches when they arise. On Sunday, nobody in the starting lineup was able to do so.
Joel Embiid finished with a respectable 28 points, but he should have been able to score that many in the paint alone against a team that lacked a true five man. Al Horford was even worse, attempting just six shots while repeatedly failing to work himself into a high-percentage scoring position against Thaddeus Young. Likewise, Tobias Harris was unable to shake himself loose, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Josh Richardson attempted just two shots in 19 minutes while playing on a minutes restriction. Ben Simmons scored 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Frankly, the only two players who were able to take advantage of the Bulls were Furkan Korkmaz (31 points) and newcomer Glenn Robinson III (10 points in 12 minutes).
If you still believe that Brett Brown’s starting five can find themselves on the offensive end of the court in time for the postseason, well, you now have one less game for that to happen.
Late in the fourth quarter, Korkmaz coasted down the right side of the lane and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk that he punctuated with a roar. The bucket drew amused smiles from most of Korkmaz’s teammates, who spent a second straight game watching the third-year guard rescue them from themselves. Two nights after scoring a career-high 34 points in a win over the Grizzlies, Korkmaz drilled six of his 11 three-point attempts and finished with 31 points in 32 minutes of action.
Korkmaz earned a standing ovation from the home crowd after a steal and transition layup gave him 14 of the 32 points the Sixers scored in the game’s first 10 minutes. Korkmaz later drained his fifth three-pointer of the quarter to finish the period with 17 points. In his last 13 games, Korkmaz is averaging 15.1 points and shooting over 43 percent from three-point range. So, there’s your good news.
If Sunday’s game was any indication, a lot of the minutes could come at the expense of Raul Neto and Shake Milton. Neto registered a DNP and Milton finished with just 13 minutes despite starting the game in place of Richardson, who was operating on a minutes restriction. Robinson finished with 10 points in 12 minutes of 5-of-6 shooting. Burks did not play, although that may have been a function of the fact that he just joined the team on Sunday, 72 hours after the Sixers acquired him and Robinson from the Warriors.
Neither player figures to dramatically impact one of the Sixers’ biggest weakness, which is their humdrum three-point shooting around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the first unit.
Heading into last night’s game, 49.3 percent of the Sixers’ three-point attempts had been taken by players whose three-point shooting percentage was below league average. That was the second highest proportion among the top six teams in the Eastern Conference.
Percent of three-point attempts taken by players shooting below league average from three-point range
Neither Burks nor Robinson is the sort of shooter that figures to radically expand the Sixers’ capabilities — there’s a reason they are on minimum contracts and were available for a trio of low-level second round picks. Burks entered the day connecting on 37.5 percent of his 4.7 attempts per game, while Robinson had hit 40 percent of his 3.5 attempts per game.
That being said, it’s debatable how much impact Burks and/or Robinson can have on the three-point game given the roles they will occupy. The biggest drain on the Sixers’ percentage as a team has been Al Horford and Josh Richardson, who entered the night shooting a combined 132-of-400 (.330) from deep.