The Blown Leads Era: How do the Sixers compare to the league?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets
Nov 8, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Every season, the Sixers always appear to be blowing big leads. After blowing a 21-point lead Friday night to the Nuggets, the thought popped into mind. Even though it seems Philly is always allowing their opponent to come back, is it really outlandish? How often does it happen around the league? Is this number different in the Brett Brown era, is it his fault? Do they come back more than they allow comebacks?

After hours of sitting on NBA.com and Basketballreference.com and collecting data, all these questions came to light.

Before getting into the Sixers specifically, just consider this; there were 491 games out of 1,230 this season in which a team had a 20-point lead. Previously, the most was 473 in 2016-17. As recently as 2010-11, there were just 369 games featuring a lead of 20-plus points.

Data came from https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/26725776/this-season-massive-comeback-nba

Comeback Wins

Let’s start this off on a positive note, comeback wins.

A comeback win is defined by a game where the Sixers were down at least ten points at any point and managed to win the game. A close game win is defined as a decided by five or fewer points.

For this stat, teams would prefer to be ranked toward the top.

Since the Embiid/Simmons Era

The beginning of the 2017-2018 season marked the first time the Simmons/Embiid duo played together for the first time.

  • 2017-2018:
    • Five 10+ point comeback wins
    • One 15+ point comeback win
    • One 20+ point comeback win
    • The Sixers ranked 26th in the NBA in comebacks
    • Their nine close game wins ranked 22nd in the NBA
  • 2018-2019:
    • Seven 10+ comeback wins
    • Two 15+ comeback wins
    • Zero 20+ comeback wins
    • 24th in the NBA in comebacks
    • 16 close game wins ranked 3rd in the NBA
  • 2019-2020 (So far):
    • Two 10+ comeback wins
    • Zero 15+ comeback wins
    • One 20+ comeback win
    • Not enough data to rank in the NBA thus far
    • Two close game wins

It is almost impossible to see how many times they were down 10+ points and came back, but those numbers show how many times they actually did it.

Overall, you can see that if the Sixers are down by a deficit of ten or more, it’s almost free game to shut them off.

In the Brett Brown Era

Since taking over in 2013, Coach Brett Brown has endured a wide array of teams. From being essentially talentless until about 2017, Brown survived “The Process.”

  • 2013-2014:
    • Three 10+ point comebacks, One 15+ point comeback, Zero 20+ point comebacks (28th in NBA)
  • 2014-2015:
    • Seven 10+ point comebacks, Five 15+ point comeback, One 20+ point comebacks (18th in NBA)
  • 2015-2016:
    • Two 10+ point comebacks, Zero 15+ point comeback, Zero 20+ point comebacks (29th in NBA)
  • 2016-2017:
    • Nine 10+ point comebacks, Three 15+ point comeback, Zero 20+ point comebacks (11th in NBA)
  • Data for 2017-present is above

It is a bit unfair to weigh blame on coach Brown during those years, however for the sake of this data, it’s fair to utilize.

Blown Leads

Now, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty. Let’s evaluate the number of times the Sixers blew a large lead. Definitions will stay the same as above, except they’re swapped with when the team was up at least 10, 15, or 20, and blew the lead.

For blown leads, a team would prefer to be ranked toward the bottom.

Since the Embiid/Simmons Era

  • 2017-2018:
    • Ten 10+ point blown lead
    • Six 15+ point blown lead
    • Three 20+ point blown lead
    • The Sixers ranked 8th in the NBA in blown leads
    • Their 11 close game losses ranked 17th in the NBA
  • 2018-2019:
    • Five 10+blown leads
    • Two 15+ blown leads
    • Zero 20+ blown leads
    • 24th in the NBA in comebacks
    • Nine close game losses ranked 24th in the NBA
  • 2019-2020 (So far):
    • Zero 10+ blown leads
    • Zero 15+ blown leads
    • One 20+ blown lead
    • Not enough data to rank in the NBA thus far
    • Three close game losses

Again, it is virtually impossible to really find the data on the number of times they solely blew a lead. This data is analyzing the times the team blew a lead and lost.

In the Brett Brown Era

  • 2013-2014:
    • Four 10+ point blown leads, Two 15+ point blown leads, Zero 20+ point blown leads (25th in NBA)
  • 2014-2015:
    • Six 10+ point blown leads, Three 15+ point blown leads, Zero 20+ point blown leads (19th in NBA)
  • 2015-2016:
    • 11 10+ point blown leads, Five 15+ point blown leads, Two 20+ point blown leads (1st in NBA)
  • 2016-2017:
    • 12 10+ point blown leads, Three 15+ point blown leads, Zero 20+ point blown leads (4th in NBA)
  • Data for 2017-presented is above

The Conclusion

It would be so unfair to allow utilize years where the Sixers were trying to lose against coach Brett Brown. So let’s just actually use when he had remote talent, starting in 2017.

  • Since 2017, the Sixers have essentially won 27 games decided by five or fewer points and lost 23 of such games.
  • During the same time frame, the team has 19 wins after trailing by at least ten points, and 27 losses after leading by at least 10 points.

Brett Brown is a great basketball coach. He developed players and utilized the time to also develop as an NBA head coach. Being a big Brett supporter, analyzing this data was really intriguing.

Sitting down and watching this team, almost every game feels like they’re blowing a lead in the third or fourth quarter. In hindsight, it really is not that bad.

However…

This Sixers team has so much talent. Understandably so, teams are going to goof up and blow a lead leading to a loss. 27 losses after leading by ten for a team that is supposed to be one of the East’s best is not a good look.

A coach should be judged by his ability to win games. Grit and passion come with this. If Brett Brown can not lead his team to where they keep the motivation going after gaining a lead, then he will not be the right fit for a championship.

Coach Brown deserves a title; he dealt with years of misery. But, the Sixers may never get over the hump to win a title unless he learns how to close out games, both with big leads or not.

The season is young, and Brett Brown should work out the kinks. This team is finals bound, and our city deserves a title.

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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