Much has changed since the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets last took the floor together. The Sixers are coming off a rough eight-game road swing that started in Brooklyn and took them on a tour of the Western Conference. They return home having finished 2-6 on that trip, and have dropped to a season-high five games under .500. Brooklyn has taken off after firing coach Avery Johnson, going 5-1 since replacing him with P.J. Carlesimo, propelling themselves right back up toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
In the Sixers’ two wins on their road trip, they recorded offensive numbers that were palatable: offensive ratings of 104.5 and 112.1 and effective field goal percentages of .523 and .585, respectively. The losses were super ugly on the offensive end - their highest offensive rating was a lowly 98.3, and they didn’t shoot any better than a 47 percent effective field goal percentage. Yikes.
As their records suggest (9-7 at home, 6-13 on the road), the Sixers fare a good bit better at the Wells Fargo Center. They’re flat-out better in just about every category - they shoot better, hit the boards more, dish out more assists and take better care of the ball.
Evan Turner is a prime example of the team’s contrasting performances. At home, his 48.4 effective field goal percentage is respectable, and his assist percentage jumps 1.5 points to 20.2. But on the road, those numbers dip to 44.4 and 19.8, while his turnover rate rises to 12.5 percent.
While plenty has been made of Deron Williams’ struggles this season, Joe Johnson’s importance to the Nets is being somewhat overlooked. He’s not having his best season by any means; he’s registered a -1.0 nERD on the season, and his win shares per 48 are under .1 for only the third time since he left Phoenix. But Johnson has been absolutely vital to Brooklyn’s offense for the year.
For his career, Johnson’s teams have an offensive rating 4.6 points higher with him on the court than off. Brooklyn’s net this year? They’re 13.9 points better with Johnson on the floor. Compare that to Williams - Brooklyn’s on/off net for him is a mere +1.8 on the offensive end.
Johnson’s impact is most evident in two categories - shooting and turnovers. Brooklyn’s eFG% drops by six points - from 50.2 to 44.0 - with Johnson off the floor. While not having his best season shooting the ball, Johnson is still registering a 49.9 effective field goal percentage while getting a lot of looks in the paint. He has been as stellar as always in taking care of the ball. Johnson turns it over on only 10.0 percent of his possessions, and, with 21.8 usage rate, that care with the ball is crucial to Brooklyn’s offense.