After a tough loss in Boston Friday night, the Golden State Warriors (27-34) will try to bounce back today when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers (31-30). The Sixers have won seven of their past 10 games and are currently clinging to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings. However, the last time they played the Warriors, they were blown out of the building. Should the Warriors faithful expect the same thing when they play the 76ers on the road?
On offense, Philadelphia averages 98.7 points per game (17th in the NBA) on 46.4% field goal shooting (11th in the league). The 76ers do a phenomenal job of going from defense to offense by forcing misses and then getting out in transition as evidenced by their 17.6 fast break points per game (third in the association). Given the athletes they have on the roster, it makes perfect sense for them to push the pace and run the break.
When the game slows down and they have to execute in the half court, the 76ers share the ball amongst themselves to create high percentage shots. And indeed, they average 22.3 assists per game (ninth in the NBA). Earlier in the season, this was not the case; the Sixers seemed to endlessly dribble the ball and settle for contested jump shots.
The team has now evolved to where they understand where their shots will come from. The offense is predicated on ball movement to feed the team’s main scorers (Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holliday, Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young). Given the fact that these players are the team’s main scoring options, it stands to reason that they get the bulk of the shots; mind you they are all jump shooters. Teams can get by with such tendencies from their perimeter players, as long as the big men are able to produce high percentage shots on the interior.
But in the case of the 76ers, those instances are far too rare. According to Hoopdata, they convert 67.6% of their shot attempts at the rim (third best in the NBA), but only manage to generate 22.8 field goal attempts at the rim per game (19th in the league). Consequently, the Sixers only average 41.0 points per game in the paint (16th in the association) and manage 23.6 free throw attempts (21st in the NBA) per game.
When Philadelphia traveled to Golden State on December 27th, the Warriors porous defense helped them improve on those averages as they repeatedly allowed the 76ers to drive past them on their way to 28 shot attempts at the rim. However, the Dubs length caused problems for Doug Collins’ team, thus resulting in Philadelphia only converting 15-of-28 shots at the basket (53.6% conversion rate). Teams that struggle converting interior shots usually struggle against opponents if they are unable to shoot the lights out from the perimeter; and well, if we remove the field goal attempts at the rim from Philadelphia’s shot total, they only went 23-for-60 (38.3%) from the field. Not a recipe for success on offense.
On defense, Philadelphia surrenders 96.8 points per game (12th in the NBA) on 44.8% field goal shooting (eighth in the league). Earlier in the season, the 76ers had some trouble with their screen and roll defense; they would at times struggle with their strategies, as players were unsure about hedging, switching and even trapping at times.
It seems as though the players have finally figured out what Doug Collins wants from them defensively and thus execute the game plan as mapped out. The players all gravitate towards the paint to protect the basket and yet still manage to close out on shooters effectively. Indeed, the Sixers only allow 33.3% shooting from three point range (third best in the NBA) and they also chase players off of the three point line as evidenced by their 16.9 three point field goal attempts surrendered per game (eighth least in the league).
And that defensive prowess is not limited to the three point line, have a look at how Philadelphia defends the rest of the court:
|Shot Location||FG%||NBA rank|
|3 to 9 feet||36.6||5|
|10 to 15 feet||36.8||6|
|16 to 23 feet||37.7||8|
Needless to say, the 76ers defense is a tough one to score on, given their ability to defend every spot on the court. However, there is one area in which their defense does not excel: interior defense.
According to Team Rankings, the 76ers defense yields 41.3 points in the paint per game (19th in the NBA). Part of the problem for this Philly team is that they are undersized. Their four main rotation big men (Brand, Speights, Hawes and Young) average out to about 243 lbs. Consequently, post players are usually able to seal them in the paint for post position. Indeed, this explains why Sixers opponents are able to manufacture 24.1 field goal attempts at the rim (13th most in the association) and convert them at a 64.7% rate (only 10 teams in the NBA allow a better field goal percentage at the rim).
And yet, against the Warriors, this might not end up being a problem at all given the fact that the Dubs main rotation big men (Biedrins, Udoh, Lee and Amundson) weigh on average 237 lbs. Furthermore, Golden State is a perimeter oriented team that likes to create its offense from the outside and then set up the interior players to get baskets.
When these teams met in late December, the Warriors ran several pick and rolls that led to uncontested midrange jumpers; but they also drove the ball down the lane and kicked it out back out for wide open three point shots. The end result was an anomaly by basketball standards: the Warriors shot 65.2% from three point range (15-for-23) as opposed to a mere 53.3% on shots attempted directly at the basket (8-for-15).
We probably should not expect such a shooting exhibition to be replicated; however if the Warriors can shoot well from deep (not a tall task given the fact that they are the second best three point shooting team in the league), it should stretch out the Sixers defense and open the driving lanes.
Philadelphia game notes: In his last five games, Andre Iguodala is averaging 14.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.2 steals on 47.4% field goal shooting.
Golden State game notes: In his last five games, Stephen Curry is averaging 19.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 47.3% field goal shooting as well as 46.4% three point shooting.