Flaws and all, JJ Redick reminds us how much he means to Sixers

Flaws and all, JJ Redick reminds us how much he means to Sixers

Throughout his basketball career, JJ Redick has been known for one thing. It’s not rebounding.

“Ten rebounds, I never thought the day would come,” the 34-year-old told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters after the Sixers’ 118-114 win Tuesday over Hornets (see observations). “I never thought the day would come.”

Along with grabbing a career high in rebounds, Redick made a bunch of long range jumpers in Charlotte, something he continues to do at a very high level. He scored 27 points, 21 in the first 17 minutes, and made 7 of 14 three-point shots, while his teammates hit just 4 for 18. And forget about his first career double-double — he was two assists away from a triple-double. He even made a pivotal defensive play, taking a charge late in the fourth quarter. 

As Jimmy Butler told reporters, “JJ had an outstanding game. He was out there hooping.”

Redick is an easy target for criticism when he isn’t making shots — he’s a below-average defender and good teams sometimes make him look like a bad one. Futile isolation matchups against Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on Feb. 12 and Mo Harkless on Feb. 23 are two recent examples that come to mind. Sure, Redick competes defensively, but it often isn’t nearly enough.

To be a positive player for the Sixers, Redick usually can’t afford off shooting nights. Sometimes, it almost feels as if he’s a kicker in the NFL whose value and professional reputation rests on executing one particular skill under intense pressure. All Redick can do, or so it seems, is trust his shot, know the slumps aren’t going to last forever, and believe the percentages will eventually balance out in his favor.

That's not to say Redick is exactly like a kicker in the sense that he only has one useful trait. Redick perpetually circles around screens, makes opponents account for the countless options off his two-man game with Embiid, sets sneaky screens, gives his teammates slivers of space to work that are impossible to quantify.

This season Redick has checked off a couple of nice, clean milestones. He reached 10,000 career points in December and, on Tuesday night, passed Robert Covington for the second-most three-pointers made in a season by a Sixer. He has a chance to break Kyle Korver’s franchise record of 226 in the 2004-05 season.

Those stats are convenient tools to understand Redick. They are, without a doubt, helpful. But, after watching him play 137 regular-season games as a Sixer, it’s obvious they’re not sufficient.

Perhaps the best way to make sense of Redick and what he means to the Sixers is by considering the impact of Redick’s absence. The Sixers have a minus-1.1 net rating when Redick is off the floor this season and a plus-6.4 net rating when he’s on the court. That differential is, of course, boosted by Redick’s minutes with Embiid and the Sixers’ best players, but it’s impressive regardless. It’s not a fluke. 

And in the bigger picture, the Sixers’ offense without Redick is … not really the Sixers’ offense. Sure, pick-and-rolls and isolations with Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris or post-ups with Embiid don’t rely on Redick, but the 13-year veteran is central to so much of what the Sixers do offensively. 

Redick is a flawed player. Brett Brown might need to pull him for defensive reasons at times in the playoffs. On nights when he’s not threatening triple-doubles, he generally needs to nail jumpers. All of those things are true, and they don’t prevent Redick from being a critical piece of the Sixers. 

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Off-court jabs continue as Sixers expect plenty of physicality from Nets in Game 3

Off-court jabs continue as Sixers expect plenty of physicality from Nets in Game 3

NEW YORK — Kenny Atkinson and the Nets will, the Sixers know, make adjustments Thursday night following their 145-123 loss in Game 2.

But the tactical nuances of when and how the Nets use their zone defense or whether Brooklyn will do anything to counter Boban Marjanovic’s jump shooting are not what’s most compelling heading into Game 3.

While it would be a stretch to say the two teams already despise each other, it’s fair to say neither the Sixers nor the Nets have the highest level of respect for their opponents.

At shootaround Thursday morning, Ben Simmons was asked about Jared Dudley’s comment that Simmons is an “average” player in the half court.

“That’s coming from Jared Dudley,” Simmons said. “Come on.” 

With Dudley sidelined by right calf tightness in Game 2, Simmons was brilliant, posting his second career playoff triple-double. Simmons had just nine points in Game 1 and shot 1 for 5 when defended by Dudley. The 12-year NBA veteran is listed as probable for Game 3. 

Dudley and Caris LeVert also weren’t happy with another Sixers’ star after Game 2. LeVert told reporters he thought Embiid laughing in the middle of his apology for elbowing Jarrett Allen — an infraction for which Embiid received a Flagrant 1 foul — was “kind of disrespectful.” Dudley didn’t think Embiid should’ve been laughing when “someone could’ve gotten really hurt.”

Whether it’s because of all the off-court rhetoric or simply because of the higher stakes, the Sixers acknowledged they expect more physicality Thursday. Jimmy Butler, for one, wouldn’t mind it.

“I hope so,” he said. “I’m all for the physicality. I know a lot of guys on our team are. We’re expecting physical. We know we’re going to get their best punch. We’re coming back, playing at their crib, first time in a long time — they want this one just as bad as we want it.”

Simmons thinks the Nets “have to be” more physical. He just doesn’t think Brooklyn has the ability to effectively uproot the Sixers from their game.

“Physically, I don’t think they can,” Simmons said. “Just because we have so many guys who are able to be physical down low and in the paint. But time will tell.”

Brett Brown said before Game 1 he was expecting the series to be a “fist fight.” We might starting approaching that territory soon. 

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Predictions for Game 3 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

Predictions for Game 3 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

The Sixers used a record-setting third quarter in Game 2 to convincingly beat the Nets and even the series at 1-1.

Can the Sixers carry that momentum over into Game 3 (8 p.m./NBCSP/MyTeams app)? Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions:

In last year’s playoffs, the Miami Heat played the Sixers tough. They were physical — sometimes bordering on dirty — and the young Sixers battled through it. Emotions boiled over at times, including one instance where Goran Dragic smacked Ben Simmons in the head.

This series against the Brooklyn Nets may be entering a similar phase. While I do believe Joel Embiid wasn’t intending to elbow Jarrett Allen in the neck in Game 2, it still happened. And while Embiid and Simmons sharing a laugh about the situation was more about Embiid showing a little humility for a change, put yourself in the Nets’ shoes. The Sixers beat you up physically, they put up a record-setting third quarter and then laughed about it postgame.

This could get ugly.

Expect Brooklyn to come out fired up on their home court, but also expect the Sixers to relish the role of villain. Embiid always seems to get a little extra juice from boos and trash talk. There should be plenty of both Thursday.

What you saw out of the Sixers in the third quarter in Game 2 likely isn’t repeatable, but it does show what this team is capable of when they’re attacking the rim and defending the pick-and-roll and three-point line. The Sixers have more talent than the Nets and that was on display Monday.

My bold prediction for this one is that Tobias Harris fully breaks out of his slump. He had a 12-point third quarter Monday and played some of the best defense we’ve seen from him since he got here. After sounding dejected following a rough Game 1, he looked like he got his swagger back.

Sixers win a tight one and take back home-court advantage.

The Sixers’ last game in Brooklyn was one of their most memorable this season. They came back from a 20-point deficit on Nov. 25 thanks to 18 fourth-quarter points from Jimmy Butler, including a game-winning three-pointer over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 0.4 seconds left.

I don’t expect the Sixers will find themselves in such a large hole Thursday night.

Just about every adjustment Brett Brown made for Game 2 worked. No T.J. McConnell or Jonathon Simmons, with James Ennis as his main backup wing; more Jimmy Butler at the point; a forceful halftime message to run Brooklyn off the three-point line — all effective.

Kenny Atkinson will likely make some tweaks for Game 3 in response. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the game earlier to challenge Boban Marjanovic defensively. Atkinson might also decide enough is enough and start respecting Marjanovic’s ability as a shooter. More physicality when Ben Simmons gets into the paint wouldn’t be the worst idea either; Simmons is just 3 for 9 from the foul line in the series.

The problem for Atkinson and the Nets is, in all likelihood, their adjustments will be at the margins. There’s not much they can do about the Sixers’ superior talent other than sagging way off Simmons and Embiid, a strategy those two countered well in Game 2 simply by attacking the open space without hesitation and putting pressure on the defense.

The Sixers won’t score 52 points in the first quarter, as Butler said he hoped they would, but they’ll take Game 3.

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