The Sixers held the Nets to 10-of-28 from the three-point line in a 120-97 win in Brooklyn on Sunday.
It was step in the right direction to correcting a problem the Sixers have been having.
Through Feb. 12 the Sixers were the NBA’s best three-point defensive team, allowing opponents to shoot 33.2 percent on average from deep. But in the 10 games leading up to their matchup in Brooklyn, the Sixers were the league’s second worst three-point defending team, allowing 42.4 percent.
Brooklyn has been averaging 38.7 three-point attempts per game since Feb. 1, second in the league behind the Houston Rockets. The Sixers’ game plan Sunday was not only to limit the percentage that the Nets made but also limit their attempts.
“I thought we were pretty good [tonight], I give us a B+,” Brown said of the Sixers’ perimeter defense following the game. “They only got up 28 threes…I thought our guys did a pretty good job tonight.”
Brown attributes the Sixers’ recent decline in three-point defense to a few of different things.
First, Brown says rotation is key. When teams pass inside, then out to a corner and quickly swing to the other side, the Sixers need to make sure they know where they’re supposed to be and when, including positioning for long rebounds.
Secondly, he says the Sixers have been focusing too much on trying not to foul, which leads them to close out less aggressively.
Finally, Brown says his team needs to stick to the defensive principle of being the second man off the floor. So when a shooter looks like he’s going to go up for a shot, don’t fall for a fake and end up in the air, giving room for a side step and shot, or a blow-by.
“I think that the template of [Brooklyn’s] style of play is the modern day game,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
It’s a undeniable truth. The three-point line is king in the NBA and the game is continuing to evolve in that direction. Learning how to consistently defend the high-percentage shooters that change the momentum of a game with just a few quick shots is a priority for every team.
“You can see the Golden State Warriors, they are champions, and always in the Finals, and they’re unbelievable how they shoot the threes,” Dario Saric said.
With that in mind, the Sixers know that it will be the little things, the well-timed closeouts, the perfected rotations on shooters, that will matter when the playoffs start, when teams start looking for every weakness.
“Guys are going to be finding different ways to score in playoffs,” Robert Covington said. “We’re going to have to guard the three-point line differently and in so many different maniacal ways because we don’t want teams to beat us that way. Threes can be a big momentum shift, we don’t want to give them away.”
The Sixers next opponent, the Indiana Pacers, will come to Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday not as a high-volume three-point shooting team, but as one of the most efficient. The Pacers are fifth in the league in three-point shooting, giving the Sixers another chance to improve their perimeter defense.