spencer dinwiddie

Scouting D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets

Scouting D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets

Brett Brown hasn’t shied away from discussing how and why the Nets are a difficult matchup for the Sixers.

Ahead of Game 1 of the Sixers’ series today against Brooklyn (2:30 p.m./NBCSP), let’s look at the film to scout what specifically the Nets do well and where the Sixers should have advantages.

Russell, Dinwiddie and the pick-and-roll

D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie do an excellent job of identifying favorable matchups and attacking them. 

Russell was far too quick for JJ Redick on this play from Dec. 12, and he floated it perfectly over Joel Embiid.

After Jarrett Allen’s screen, the Sixers switched Mike Muscala on to Dinwiddie on the play below from Nov. 25. Dinwiddie is too explosive to be contained by big men, and he knows it.

Many of the Sixers’ pick-and-roll issues against the Nets stemmed simply from Russell or Dinwiddie beating their defender on the initial move and placing the Sixers in poor positions.

Russell uses his body well to shield off his man once he slides past him. 

After T.J. McConnell again gets caught on top of the screen, Embiid half-commits to Dinwiddie here, seemingly unsure whether to switch, hedge or drop back, and Dinwiddie capitalizes on the indecision with a lob to Allen. 

Given how McConnell has struggled to handle Dinwiddie, who has averaged 23.8 points and 5.5 assists against the Sixers this season, a more agile perimeter defender who doesn’t frequently fall behind on the first step and can fight over screens would be a better option. It’s worth giving rookie Zhaire Smith a chance on Dinwiddie. 

The Sixers also can’t afford to neglect all the things the Nets do surrounding the basic pick-and-roll. Furkan Korkmaz was fixated on the pick-and-roll between Russell and Ed Davis on the play below, which caused Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s down screen on the opposite wing to catch him off guard. Harris, the NBA’s leader in three-point percentage (47.4), can’t be left open. 

And Harris’ offensive skill set isn’t limited to catch and shoot. Here, he makes an “Iverson cut” from the right wing to the left wing over screens from Hollis-Jefferson and Allen, then accelerates on a drive baseline past Simmons. 

The unguardable Embiid 

The Nets are not alone in this respect, but they don't have any defenders capable of guarding Embiid one-on-one.

Allen is a good rim protector with some high-profile blocks on his résumé this season, but Embiid has the skills to dominate him in the post. 

Davis, though a prolific rebounder, doesn’t have the strength to handle Embiid.

Embiid scored 32 or more points in three of four regular-season games against the Nets. He’ll likely face a good amount of double teams in this series, meaning he’ll need to curb his occasional instinct to dribble in one direction and then spin back into the help defender. 

Another way the Nets might look to avoid defending Embiid one-on-one is through playing a 2-3 zone, which they did for stretches in the second and third quarters of the Sixers’ 123-110 win on March 28.

The Sixers countered the zone with a basic, effective approach, placing two men on the wings, one man sliding from elbow to elbow, and one sliding from short corner to short corner. 

They got plenty of good shots when they found the “soft spot” in the zone. Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll have a moment of hesitation on the play below when Boban Marjanovic receives the ball at the foul line, uncertain who should pick up Marjanovic and who should take Simmons on the right block. Marjanovic realizes Redick is open because of their brief confusion.



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What to watch for ahead of the Sixers' playoff series against the Nets

What to watch for ahead of the Sixers' playoff series against the Nets

With the first round of the NBA playoffs set, let’s take an early look at some things to keep an eye on as the Sixers match up with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.

Joel Embiid is the X-factor of this series

Assuming Embiid is healthy for the playoffs, which Brett Brown says he expects, the Nets haven’t been able to stop him all season. He averaged 30 points per game and nearly 15 rebounds against them. On top of that, Embiid has gotten to the line at least 10 times a game against Brooklyn, and he’s shooting over 80 percent from there. In their most recent matchup on March 28, both Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis had a tough time defending him. The Nets also tried going small with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Brooklyn knows it can’t match up size for size, so don’t be surprised if they look to counter with speed.  

What about the other 10 minutes?

For where there is a strength, there is also a weakness. One of the Sixers' biggest challenges of this series will be what to do when Embiid is not on the court. Let’s say Embiid plays 38 minutes, that’s 10 minutes of action where Brown will have to make the choice between an inexperienced Jonah Bolden or a big that doesn’t have that same foot speed in Boban Marjanovic or Greg Monroe. If you’re Brooklyn, that’s where you really look to attack the Sixers' pick-and-roll defense.

Perimeter game

Both the Sixers and Nets have been elite teams in defending the three this season (top five in every category), but it’s the Nets who excel in making them, averaging the fifth most made three-pointers a game this season, with nearly 13 a game. On top of that, virtually every Net (with the exception of Jarrett Allen and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) can shoot a three, which will pose a challenge for the Sixers' defense. And for the Sixers, Brown says a "hunting threes mentality" is something he’s been working on with this group. They shot 48 percent from three (12 of 25) en route to their big win over Brooklyn last month.

Other things to note

The Sixers may be forced to take a second look at their "go-guys" and "get-back guys," terms that Brown has used to delineate who should be crashing the offensive boards and who should be getting back on defense. The Nets are not a team you want to allow to get out in transition. If you watch Sixers basketball, you already know the matchup problems that D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LaVert cause for the Sixers. Oh, and force Russell to his right as much as you can.

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Spencer Dinwiddie scorches Sixers, gives them glimpse of what they need

Spencer Dinwiddie scorches Sixers, gives them glimpse of what they need

The shorthanded Sixers fought but lost to the Nets, 127-124, Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

But that’s not what this story is about.

This story is partly about Spencer Dinwiddie, the Brooklyn guard who scorched the Sixers for a career-high 39 points Wednesday (see observations). That mark topped his previous career-high of 31 scored against, you guessed it, the Sixers.

This story isn’t all about Dinwiddie — though he is a pending free agent who has yet to get an extension —  but about what he brings to the table. He’s a guard that can create and make shots.

Do the Sixers have anyone outside of Jimmy Butler you can say that about? 

Sure, Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level, but as we saw in the second half against the Nets, it’s not always easy to run the offense through the post. Ben Simmons can create shots, but he’s not necessarily willing to take them unless they’re at the rim. JJ Redick is as elite a shooter as there is, but his expert movement away from the ball is what gets him shots. They certainly don’t boast that type of player off the bench.

When you look up and down the roster, Butler is really the only the guy that can “get buckets.”

We seem to make every guard look like a freaking Hall of Famer” Embiid said. “All of their guards look like Hall of Famers against us. But they’re pretty good. I got to give them a lot of credit. Every time they play against us they always seem to take advantage of (us). They run a lot of pick-and-rolls, they shoot a lot of threes and they always seem to take advantage of that and make them, so you got to give them a lot of credit.

While it’s true that Dinwiddie and/or his teammate D’Angelo Russell always seem to go off against the Sixers, they can actually play. Dinwiddie was averaging 19.3 points over his last four coming in. 

The Sixers don’t have that type of player, and the other concern is that they can’t stop that type of player. When you look at teams like the Raptors and Celtics, the elite teams in the East, they have multiple players that can score in isolation.

That has to be a concern as the Sixers get closer to the playoffs. 

“I think that they’re a good team, to begin with,” Brett Brown said of Brooklyn. “I do not feel like their record reflects how good they are and I especially know that no matter what their record says, we struggle with that type of team, and we did tonight. Albeit undermanned. It doesn’t discount for me the fact that we do struggle with that style of a team.”

So what’s the solution?

As mentioned, Dinwiddie will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends. The anniversary of his contract was Dec. 8, meaning he’s been eligible to sign an extension since that date. The Nets may not want to have those conversations with Dinwiddie, according to reports.

Maybe if you can't beat ‘em, get ‘em to join you.

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