While the 76ers aren’t acting as if they are already in the playoffs, although not qualifying would take some doing, they do have one eye on the postseason with 21 games remaining.
Following Friday’s 110-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets, coach Brett Brown talked about the type of team he envisions the Sixers in the playoffs and it will be one that will be proficient from beyond the arc.
As for the playoffs, the Sixers (34-27) are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, where the top eight teams will qualify. The Sixers hold a 5 1/2-game lead on the No. 9 team, the Detroit Pistons.
Brown will use these final games to shore up the three-point shooting, especially with recent additions Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, who have great capacity to stretch the floor.
Yet Brown made an interesting statement after Friday’s win regarding one player he wants to be a vital part of the perimeter game – center Joel Embiid.
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“I really want him to shoot six to eight threes a game — and so how does that happen, and he is still an interior presence, a paint-catch guy?” Brown said.
For a 7-foot-2 center, Embiid has a nice shooting touch, but he won’t be confused with the likes of Stephen Curry when shooting threes. In Friday’s game, he hit 1 of 4 from beyond the arc, making him 53 for 169 for the season (.314).
Still, Brown had a reason for wanting his center so involved in the perimeter game.
“When you look at our team, I am convinced the three-point line is where the sport is headed and will rear its head during the playoffs,” Brown said. “And our point guards don’t shoot threes.”
He was referring to Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell. Simmons hasn’t taken an actual attempt this season and McConnell is 25 for 53 for 47.2 percent on mostly open looks.
Yet with that reluctance, the threes have to come from somewhere. Embiid is more than willing to oblige, but he can be effective from the three-point line, even when not shooting due to the open space it creates. The Sixers had several uncontested layups against Charlotte, with Simmons taking the most advantage of the space.
“When in that type of offense what I can do is to help set my teammates free, I will do,” said Embiid, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds. “If it takes me to the other three-point line for Ben to attack the basket and have a free lane, that is what I am going to do.”
As a team, the Sixers are shooting 36 percent from three-point range.
“We want to shoot a lot of threes,” said JJ Redick, who is hitting 40.1 percent from beyond the arc. “We are not Houston, we don’t run spread pick-and-rolls with the rim rollers.”
So for the final 21 games, Brown will make sure the Sixers continue to refine their three-point game. He also has the dilemma of not taking Embiid away from the basket too much due to his ability to dominate down low.
Embiid is game for any style.
“My job is to draw attention and open up the court for my team,” said Embiid, now averaging 23.8 points and 11.3 rebounds.
Whether away from the basket or near it, rest assured, he will draw plenty of attention.