The Sixers notched one of their more impressive wins of the season on Friday, handling the Atlanta Hawks from end-to-end for a 99-80 victory. One night of home-cooking helped the Sixers snap a five-game losing streak before kicking off their eight-game road trip in Brooklyn. Philadelphia is catching their Atlantic Division rivals at a perfect time; the Nets have lost eight of their last 10.
Attacking Brooklyn’s D
The Nets, after looking like one of the better defensive teams in the league at the start of the season, have fallen back to earth. They’re now a middle of the pack team, ranking 18th in defensive rating. One area they are playing well on defense is protecting the paint. According to hoopdata.com, the Nets’ opponents shoot only 62.4 percent when they get to the rim, eighth-best in the league. Credit goes to Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans, both of whom have the lowest defensive ratings of the career. Lopez is blocking a higher percentage of shots, with a block rate of 6.9, than ever before in his career.
Where Brooklyn struggles when it comes to closing out on mid-range shooters. They rank 24th in field goal percentage allowed from 10-15 feet and 27th from 16-23 feet. Lucky for them, those can be problem areas for the Sixers; while they rank seventh in shooting from 10-15 feet, they’re 26th in the league in shooting from 16-23 feet.
Point Guard Battle
Both Deron Williams and Jrue Holiday signed fat new contracts in the offseason, but their games have been heading in opposite directions. Jrue is playing the best ball of his career, while D-Will hasn’t been this bad since, well, last season.
While he was subpar in his return from injury against Atlanta, Holiday still dished out seven assists and helped key the Sixers to victory. When Holiday hits the seven-assist mark, the Sixers are 11-8.
Williams, on the other hand, has struggled badly shooting the ball. A shooter with a 49.9 effective field goal percentage for his career, D-Will has been ice cold all season. He’s shooting a miserable 33.7 percent on jumpers, including 29.4 percent on three pointers. Most troubling, Williams is only hitting on 29.2 percent of his fourth quarter looks on the season, the time when superstars (which Williams is paid like) are supposed to step up.