The Sixers only have 17 games remaining this season. They’re currently in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of Miami and Milwaukee. Over these final 17 games, there are several different aspects that the Sixers need to focus on to get them ready to make a run.
Closing Out Games
One problem that has plagued the Sixers for the past several years has been their inability to close out games. There have been countless times where the Sixers have a +15PT lead at some point in the game and then find some way to blow it. The issue here is that many of the past Sixers teams have not had a player with the ability to go coast-to-coast with the ball and get a bucket from anywhere on the court. Now the Sixers still don’t really have a player that can do that, but they do have guys that can compliment each other well enough to close out games.
Ben Simmons can go up-and-down the length of the court faster than most and finish at the rim with a wide variety of layups, dunks and floaters. Joel Embiid can eat up defenders 1-on-1 in the post or pull-up from the mid-range. JJ Redick is the perfect veteran sharpshooter that can play off the ball and knock down clutch threes. Dario Saric has been the most reliable player for the Sixers since the All-Star break.
The Sixers lead the league in turnovers at about 16 per game. Plus, it always seems that the Sixers turn the ball over the most during the final stretch of a game. If the Sixers plan to hang around and make some noise in the playoffs, they’ll need to bunker down late in games and focus on making smart passes and not forcing things.
Simmons and Embiid, who combined average about 7 TOs, need to lower that number by about half if they plan on being successful in the postseason. Now this may come at the cost of less Simmons drives and less Embiid face-ups, but if the Sixers want to win they need to hold on to the ball.
The Sixers are still very young and though they’ve signed veterans like Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, they still tend to lose it late in games. Many times have I seen the opposition go on a run and the Sixers go the length of the court only for somebody to take an off-balance shot off the dribble and absolutely brick it. The Sixers can’t panic when a team goes on a run. The veterans need to take control of the game and set the pace for the young Sixers to follow.
Belinelli can’t be pulling up in transition with a man on him if the Sixers are down by 11 with 4 minutes left. Simmons needs to attack the basket and not shoot mid-range jumpers. Robert Covington needs to focus on getting open to knock down 3s instead of trying to take defenders off the dribble.
The Sixers need to play to their strengths. Feed Joel and Dario in the post. Run pick & rolls with Simmons. Set screens for the shooters to get open. Take high quality shots.
It’s been 6 years since the Sixers last made the playoffs and I know they don’t plan on playing just one series. It’s time to start preparing and make the final push that will hopefully see us playing into May.
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