Three Normal Playoff Things: Sixers vs. Hawks Game Four
Three normal things.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Welcome to another postseason edition of Three Normal Things. Let’s start with some news and then get to tonight’s game.
#1: Ben Simmons makes first-team All-Defense, Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle make second-team
Just before tipoff we received some big news -- of the 10 players making up the NBA’s All-Defense teams, three were Sixers. Ben Simmons made the first team by unanimous selection. Two of his teammates, Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle, were able to nab spots on the second team.
This honor was more than deserved for Simmons, who has been the league’s best perimeter defender over the last two seasons despite being 6-foot-10. There was no credible argument against him making the first team.
Embiid falling short of first-team honors was not a surprise given that he plays the same position as three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Embiid is clearly the second-best defensive big-man in the NBA right now, and he was accredited as such.
Where it gets interesting is Thybulle. On a per-minute basis, Thybulle was unquestionably one of the 10 best defensive players in the NBA. But as he only logged 20 minutes per game, many viewed his sample size to be insufficient. While the playing time issue is not one I would dismiss, my view is that Thybulle was so outrageously good in his minutes that he deserved this honor. For a second-year player to even be in the discussion is remarkable; for Thybulle to actually receive this honor so early in his career is a testament to how truly unprecedented his minute-to-minute defensive impact is for a young player.
#2: Seth Curry continues to shoot the lights out
Entering the playoffs, I was of the opinion that Seth Curry may be neutralized in his effectiveness due to tighter defense and Curry having trouble defending his man. I even went as far as to say I believed George Hill would consistently close games over Curry during the playoffs.
Well, four games through round two, I could not look more wrong. Curry’s production has not dissipated; in fact, it’s improved. Curry’s historically-great shooting has sustained, he’s provided offense off the dribble and he’s fought hard on defense. When Curry is playing with a green light and knocking down tough shots, I don’t know how anyone can stop the Sixers’ offense.
#3: Joel Embiid finally looks mortal
Embiid’s play during the postseason has so far been nearly flawless. But tonight, for the first time in a while, Joel seemed stoppable -- and beatable.
The Hawks did a good job of crowding the Sixers’ number one option, holding him to an extremely inefficient shooting night. In the second half in particular, Embiid seemed more focused on drawing a whistle than scoring a basket. While that occasionally works for Embiid, tonight it led to wasted possessions, silly turnovers and a whole lot of frustration.
Embiid looked perhaps the worst he has in well over a year. His rebounding and defense were there, but man oh man the offense was brutal.
It goes without saying, but if the Sixers want to win a championship, they need a much better version of Embiid. Hopefully they’ll get him back to his typical self soon.