Sixers defense lacking when opponents approach the bench

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Miami’s Dwyane Wade celebrates with the crowd after scoring the winning basket on Tuesday. He’s just the latest player to come off the bench and torment the Sixers.

MIAMI – Was Dwyane Wade’s performance against the 76ers something special? Or should we just consider it the norm?

It appeared that the Miami Heat guard had a flashback to his all-star days in Tuesday’s 102-101 victory over the Sixers at American Airlines Arena. The 36-year-old finished with a season-high 27 points by scoring 15 of his team’s final 17. His 21-foot jumper over Ben Simmons with 5.9 seconds left turned out to be the game winner.

But haven’t we seen this before?

Reserve players have been feasting on the Sixers. Think back to Sunday when Washington Wizards backup guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. scored 16 of his 19 points against the Sixers in the first half. He made 4 of 7 three-pointers.

Back on Feb. 22, Chicago Bulls reserve forward Bobby Portis scored a career-high 38 points in a 116-115 loss to the Sixers. Twenty-one of his points came before intermission. And there was Indiana Pacers reserve guard Lance Stephenson’s fourth-quarter outburst in a 100-92 victory over the Sixers on Feb. 3.

He scored 12 of his 14 points in the quarter. Stephenson actually scored or assisted on the first 15 points of the quarter for Indiana.

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The Sixers have been trying to stockpile three-point specialists with the acquisitions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova (see below). However, one can argue that they should have been in the market for perimeter defensive stoppers. That’s because they appear to be a team opposing reserve scoring threats are torching.

“I don’t agree with that,” coach Brett Brown said following Wednesday’s practice at American Airlines Arena. “I think Portis was a pick-and-pop five-man. I think Lance Stephenson sort of like has one of those types of games, lightning in a bottle.

“I think Oubre, I think there are times that people have good games whether it’s against San Antonio, Golden State, the Philadelphia 76ers.”

Brown pointed to the Sixers (32-27) heading in Wednesday’s NBA games ranked fourth in points per 100 possessions at 103 as proof that the defensive is “in good shape.”

 

Camera icon Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
Bobby Portis (left) had a career-high 38 points off the bench as the struggling Bulls almost beat the Sixers last Thursday.

 

But the thing about numbers is that they can be skewed to make anything look better than it actually is. The fact is the Sixers are having a tough time containing scoring threats off the bench.

“I do concede that we have to do a better job,” Brown said. “I think it more adheres to the rules,  more adheres to a scouting report. There’s some discipline sides, not getting lifted on up-fakes.”

The coach, however, said he loves how the Sixers (32-27) are trending with their defense. He added that all NBA teams have trouble with isolation guys.

“I think [Robert Covington] can do a good job [defending isolation guys],” Brown said. “I think Ben [Simmons], when he puts his mind to it, can do a good job.

“I don’t feel as naked.”

Roster move

As expected, the Sixers parted ways with Trevor Booker on Wednesday after the two sides agreed on a buyout. The move was to create a roster spot to sign Ilyasova.

After clearing waivers, the power forward will sign with the Indiana Pacers.

“Philly, I appreciate my short time with you guys, great fans and a great future,” he tweeted Wednesday after the Sixers’ light practice.

Around 30 minutes later, he tweeted, “Indy, let’s work!!!!”

Ilyasova, a sharp-shooting forward, was bought out of his contract with the Atlanta Hawks on Monday signed with the Sixers on Wednesday.

The Sixers first acquired Ilyasova on Nov. 1, 2016, from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with a 2020 first-round draft pick, in exchange for Jerami Grant. Ilyasova averaged 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds and shot 35.9 percent on three-pointers in 53 games — 40 starts — with the Sixers.

However, the Sixers traded him to the Hawks on Feb. 22, 2017, with a 2017 second-round pick for Tiago Splitter and two 2017 second-round picks.