You could use several different words to describe the Sixers’ level of defense in their Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics. We’ll simply go with leaky after the team came back from a layoff to allow 117 points on 48.2 percent shooting.
What aspect of its performance might have been even worse? Three-point shooting.
The Sixers were a dismal 5 for 26 (19.2 percent) from long range in the loss. However, don’t expect them to start shying away from three-pointers moving forward in the series. In fact, expect to see even more.
“I think the threes, by and large, that we took, you take most of them again and some,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said to reporters at Tuesday’s practice.
The Sixers are averaging 30.5 attempts from distance in the postseason, which is on par with their 29.8 a night during the regular season. The difference has been their three-point percentage, which has dropped from 36.9 during the regular season to 33.9 in the playoffs.
That’s because despite those flashes against Miami when the Sixers twice drilled a franchise playoff-record 18 triples in Games 1 and 3, their shooters have actually watched their numbers slip from beyond the arc.
The three-point percentages have dropped for JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli over the course of six playoff games. Covington’s struggles were particularly noticeable after he went 0 for 4 in Game 1 (36.9 percent in the regular season to 33.3 percent), and Brown wants to get the streaky swingman going.
“I think schematically Boston’s always mindful of the three-point shot,” Brown said. “In some ways, they seem quite OK to let Joel (Embiid) get 40. They’re very mindful of the perimeter. When teams do that and they do it well, and Boston does do that well, at times Robert can be influenced if we don’t sort of help him with movement and movement as a team, and him be aware of blind defenders and those types of things.
“I give credit to Boston. I think there are some things that we can do and that I can do to help him more.”
One of those things involves more treys from the Sixers’ centerpiece.
Brown admitted earlier in the season that getting Embiid more attempts from three-point land might be beneficial for the squad by having a bonus threat and opening up more chances for teammates (see story). Look for the big man, who shot 2 of 5 from deep in Game 1, to get a few extra opportunities from long range when the series resumes Thursday.
“Did I say eight to 10? Did I say eight to 10 threes?” Brown jokingly asked about how many attempts per game he wanted from Embiid. “I thought it was four to six, but that’s OK.
“I think in the trail spot he’s really good at it. It’s harder with a mask and it’s harder when you haven’t played basketball. I mean look at (Al) Horford. Look at what a five-man can do that can shoot threes. So somewhere with a coach’s wish and the acknowledgment that he’s pretty damn good at the block and the reality that he hasn’t played much, it’ll grow to that. And I think, in general, we need to shoot more threes as a team.”