May 09, 2022
It has been long enough since I did a mailbag on the Sixers that you guys flooded my mentions with replies when I asked for questions on Monday. Point taken — I should probably check in with everybody more often during the postseason.
Here's what I was able to get to on Monday night's trip to Miami as we all gear up for a huge Game 5 on the road.
Why do you think Spo keeps refusing to play Duncan Robinson and will that change in Game 5?— Dan Spinelli (@danspinelli902) May 9, 2022
When Herro has guarded one of Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey or James Harden, those three players have shot a combined 14/25 from the field and added eight free throws on top of that, scoring a combined 37 points between them. As a team, the Sixers have scored 110 points on 81 possessions, roughly 1.36 points per possession. You can chalk some of that up to variance, as you would anything in a small sample, but he is food out there for their better offensive players, and the degree to which they are beating up on him is forcing other Heat players into tough situations in help, opening opportunities elsewhere on the floor.
Maybe the Heat decide they're okay with bringing in another questionable defender for the sake of juicing up the offense, and I think that would be defensible, but going from having one obvious target on the floor to two is not insignificant. Once the Raptors dropped an ailing Fred Van Vleet from the lineup, for example, it became a lot tougher for the Sixers to generate offense against a longer and tougher Raptors team.
If the Heat juggle the rotation to make sure only one of Herro or Duncan Robinson is on the floor at a time, that might allow them to gain the most while giving away the least. I lean toward Spoelstra finally bringing him into the series in Game 5, but I also thought that coming into Game 4, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Miami's head coach remain steady, hopeful his role players will simply play and shoot better at home.
How crazy would it be to give 5 minutes to Bball Paul with the starters and have him guard Jimmy as a different look? Maybe 3rd quarter and only if Paul is not in foul trouble— John smith (@Johnsmi58862073) May 10, 2022
We know Doc’s disposition on BBall Paul and Bassey, but what is Morey’s take on those two? Could they be the back up center(s) next year, realistically? Does BBall Paul’s playoff playing time/effectiveness change anything?— Jeff Jamison (@jjamison21) May 9, 2022
Call this an educated feeling, but I think if Morey had his way, next season would feature a competition between Reed and Bassey for the minutes behind Embiid. Whether that's how it plays out is another story, but I think with Reed showing he can hang and Bassey having another year under his belt, perhaps there will be a bit more organizational trust in the young guys. Truth be told, I am still a little surprised Bassey didn't get a chance to show what he has down the stretch, as I think he might be the most natural option behind Embiid.
Do you think Doc will ever pull thybulle from the rotation?— jojo’s son (@JoelEmbiidsSon) May 9, 2022
I don't think you can go into a game expecting to sit him entirely until/unless the Sixers upgrade the rotation in the offseason. The other guys coming off of the bench aren't trustworthy either, and while I'm a big Danny Green advocate rain or shine, his central importance to this team tells a story about the rest of the roster. They don't have enough guys to just abandon the idea of Thybulle, but he is certainly a situational player at this point.
Would rather play Boston or Milwaukee next round? And most ideal finals opponent if they get there?— Nick Wiley (@nwiley529) May 9, 2022
There are a lot of pitfalls in a Sixers-Celtics series, ranging from how they defend two high-level wings to Al Horford's history with Embiid to their defensive style that might prove harder to crack. Neither is "favorable" but there are probably fewer question marks if you play the Bucks, and you're also getting them with Khris Middleton presumably still trying to get up to speed.
Without exposing anyone, what is the impression that people on the beat get of Doc Rivers with his media presence vs that of other teams’ coaches or past coaches like Brett Brown— Jesse James Larch (@JesseLarch) May 9, 2022
(I joked about this recently, but one of his biggest flaws in terms of media presence is constantly taking the bait when Howard Eskin shows up to cause a scene. He's smart enough to understand his whole deal.)
Broadly speaking, his interactions with all of us are fairly positive, and he has a good perspective on where basketball fits in on the world's importance scale. The occasional back-and-forth makes for good theater for the public, but there's a reason it becomes news when it happens — most of our talks are pretty standard-issue reporter/coach discussions.
Do you think analytics is ruining basketball and do you think the numbers actually prove anything?— .theo 波 (@______theo) May 9, 2022
Here's an example. If I had a thought that a certain lineup combination was absolutely terrible for the Sixers, and then I checked lineup data and it said that group actually graded out positive, that's not a reason for me to reject the numbers, it's a reason for me to say, "Hmm, that's interesting" and see if I can figure out why the disconnect exists. Maybe that group had an unsustainably hot stretch shooting the ball, maybe they played a crappy opponent that inflated the numbers, or maybe my initial read/instinct was just flat-out wrong. In any of those cases, the important thing is to make sure I am not just saying, "Here's what the number is, that's all that matters."
Like anything else, numbers are tools. They can be helpful, they can point you in a direction you didn't expect to move in, and yes, sometimes they can mislead. The key is knowing they are not infallible but knowing them all the same.
What stupid acronym can we make up next year to help Embiid win MVP?— EmBeard (@Abs1085) May 9, 2022
Guys, I promise, advanced stats are not the reason Nikola Jokic won MVP. I would have voted for Embiid if I had a say, but we don't have to pretend he only lost because catch-all numbers favored the other guy. And look, he's the guy who still has more to play for, so try to enjoy the playoff run and not dwell on something that ultimately doesn't matter.
What is your take on why Doc loves Niang so much? He’s inconsistent offensively and bad defensively. I don’t love alternatives either but just curious why you think he gets the bulk of those minutes.— StoyMcCoy (@StoyCoy) May 9, 2022
The defense is obviously rough, and I've written about that all year. When push comes to shove, I just think Rivers looks at him as a guy with a critical skill who gels relatively well with the important pieces. They're not getting as much out of the 1-4 ball screens he was killing with playing next to Harden early on, but it's something they might be able to lean on in tough times.
Is there anything the Sixers can do to slow down Jimmy while continuing to stay close to the shooters?— Francis Parker (@franciszomes) May 9, 2022
Another thought to chew on — are you better just continuing with the current switching strategy, forcing Butler to beat you predominantly as a scorer? If Butler's attacking doesn't open up passing lanes and open jumpers for teammates, you might just say you're content letting him pile up the points as long as everyone else can't/doesn't eat.
Have you ever got drunk at a game and passed out?— Tom P. (@pav20) May 9, 2022
Fingers crossed, I suppose, but doing okay up to this point.
did u play elden ring yet— pat 😵💫 (@patchslowpoke) May 9, 2022
Basketball has been too high on the priority list to write a review or even an impressions piece on that game, but it was a remarkable achievement. Every time I thought I was pushing up against the outer limits of the game world, it just kept expanding and expanding and expanding some more. FromSoft preserved the gameplay that I love, guided players through a massive world with a minimalist HUD, and managed to create what I imagine will be the runaway favorite for Game of the Year. Not for everybody, but for anyone it hit for, a stone-cold classic.
Can they win this series?— jim mclaughlin (@jimmclaughlin7) May 10, 2022
It has been a very even series where I feel both teams could convince themselves they don't need to change much. You don't get many of those, but we'll see if the home teams can continue standing their ground.
Non basketball question here...Which would you rather suffer from for life. Uncontrollable dandruff or a unibrow that can never be removed?— John Ezra (@whatbugsmeis) May 9, 2022
If you had to guess, how much of the home team shooting disparities is actually due to the home crowd and not just adding Joel Embiid to the court between travel? Is it an impossible question to answer?— Andrew (@DeSanasaurusRex) May 9, 2022
Of course, having Embiid impacts shot quality and a whole lot of other things. Trying to assign a percentage value to all the components is damn near impossible.
Any shot Embiid Gets the mask off this postseason or is it on until extended rest as a best practice?— Addison (@DAdRobs) May 9, 2022
any recent games you've been enjoying that you think more people should be aware of? I played weird west which was surprisingly fun & a different style game than I'm used to, cool concept in general.— sevlionlion (@sevlionlion) May 9, 2022
Hoping to play a bit of "Rogue Legacy 2" once the season ends, though.
Why do you think Chris Paul is labeled a winner and Harden is labeled a loser who always chokes, when both have no title? If Harden played a game like Chris Paul did yesterday, he'd be getting trashed on an epic scale. The narrative between both players is so drastic— Mike (@Boston__Sucks) May 9, 2022
And frankly, Paul's production in the playoffs is either right in line or better than his career numbers basically across the board. Even in losing efforts, he has had some absurd series, including his 2011 first-round performance against the Lakers that featured a couple of the best individual efforts I can remember watching in the playoffs. Harden has had huge moments and big series efforts, but one could argue his "signature" moment is all the way back in Oklahoma City, when he threw the haymaker to end the Conference Finals and push the Thunder past the Spurs.
rank all the Hideo Kojima games you’ve played— Tom (@TJFsports) May 9, 2022
The original "Metal Gear Solid" trilogy accounts for, I don't know, maybe about 20 percent of my taste in both games and media in general. I can remember playing the demo version of MGS on a Pizza Hut giveaway disc that included "Gran Turismo," "Crash Bandicoot Warped," and "MediEvil" and that one opening piece of the game sustained me until I was finally able to get the full copy later. The sequel was about 15x weirder, is probably the reason I ended up with some niche film interests (e.g. liking David Lynch movies), and ended up being a surprisingly prescient story about misinformation, politics in the internet age and censorship.
The top spot comes down to a matter of preference — the more complete game ("Snake Eater") or the best pure gameplay loop. I think "The Phantom Pain" has taken deserved heat for being incomplete and messy as a result of internal issues at Konami, but for my money, it has some of the best, most flexible gameplay of any game ever made. Nowhere else can you call in a friendly support helicopter that will airdrop you emergency supplies while "Rebel Yell" by Billy Idol blares from the speakers and your support dog rushes in with a Bowie knife aimed at an enemy's neck as you hide behind an inflatable replica of a human being. "Snake Eater" topping that is a testament to its all-around brilliance.
I love all of these games, for the record, so Tom asking me to essentially rank my favorite children was pretty rude.
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