The 76ers took a massive poutine shit in the Great White North in front of a national audience, and in turn gave the rest of the NBA step-by-step instructions on how to dismantle their entire game.
Despite putrid shooting in the first half, the clearly superior Toronto Raptors rallied to defeat the Sixers by double digits after completely negating two of their three best players through the night. Jimmy Butler kept the Sixers in it with 38 points, but when Ben Simmons is doing his best impersonation of the Invisible Man for 99% of the game and Joel Embiid is getting dominating by Jonas Valanciunas, it’s not going to end well.
And end well it did not.
The Raptors basically gave a detailed TED Talk to the rest of the NBA: “Hey Gang, here’s the easy and effective way to beat the 76ers….for fun and profit!”
And how is that done? Sit back and listen to cyborg Kawhi Leonard try to ace the Turing Test and reveal the secrets to the Raptor’s success.
Step 1: Throw countless double-teams at Embiid the second he turns his back to his defender and starts to make his slow back down to the basket.
Embiid cannot pass out of a double team. It may come as he becomes more experienced, but right now he cannot effectively recognize when a double-team is coming, pick up the open man, and deliver an accurate pass to the open man.
How many times last night did he either try to bully his way past two defenders and hope to get bailed out with a foul call (he shot all of two free throws last night), turn the ball over, or when he actually is able to locate the open man, throw an inaccurate pass for a turnover or at a spot where the open shooter has to regather himself, allowing a defender time to close the open space.
Granted, Embiid had close to his worst game as a pro last night. It’s not going to happen every night, and he will hit one or two of the open threes he took, but this is exactly how Boston defends him with great success. Why would a team ever let him go one-on-one? He’s going to dominate (everyone except Al Horford) so make him throw a smart pass and let someone else beat you.
Step 2: Get back on defense, don’t let Ben Simmons score in transition and all of a sudden he’s a one facet player.
For the love of god, Ben, learn how to shoot a jump shot. I bet of you. At LEAST learn how to shoot 65% from the free-throw line so you won’t be petrified of being fouled and having to shoot a shot I guarantee I could make 75% of the time. If a 36-year-old jackass like myself can do something better than a professional NBA athlete, you should be ashamed. SHAME.
Every team won’t have an elite defender like Leonard completely stifling any and every attempt Simmons makes to drive to the basket, but even then teams are learning to just crash the lane when he gets going. It turns him into a completely one-dimensional player. He doesn’t shoot outside of 10-feet, so if he’s anywhere outside of that perimeter he’s going to pass.
Or worse yet, he’s going to do that thing where he jumps in the air for no reason and is forced to throw a pass outside of the lane.
Here’s a moment from the fourth quarter that perfectly encapsulated his game.
Embiid and Simmons run a perfect give and go, and Simmons finds himself with a clear path to the basket. Valanciunas is the closest defender to him.
Simmons is 7-feet tall (AND YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT) and one of the most athletic guards in the league. For the love of all that’s holy, go up with your left hand and dunk the ever loving shit out of the ball, or go up strong with two hands AND STEAL VALANCIUNAS’S SOUL. You’ll likely get fouled and have a chance for a three-point play.
What does he do? He jumps under the basket and throws a reverse layup with his right hand that has NO CHANCE IN HELL to go in. Butler bailed him out by putting the rebound back up for two, but that was his game in a nutshell. No aggression. Scared to death of being fouled and having to shoot foul shots.
Outside of his one MAGNIFICENT pass to Butler in the first quarter, Simmons was pointless. He played lackadaisical defense, turned the ball over far too many times, and couldn’t put any kind of a mark on the game at all because he CAN. NOT. SHOOT. THE. BASKETBALL.
In crunch time the Raptors were leaving Simmons wide open at the free-throw line, packing defenders into the lane because they knew he would not shoot. They knew he wouldn’t even consider it. And hey, SPOILER ALERT, he didn’t.
He didn’t put any mark on this game.
So there you have it. Two easy steps to completely negate two of the top three players on this team and increase your probability of success against Philadelphia by, oh, 1,000% I’d estimate.
Moral of the story? Canada, as always, remains the worst.