Someone has to say it. Brett Brown coached a hell of a game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Brett has been the subject of heavy criticism since being hired as the Sixers head coach, specifically in the last two years or so. Following two unsuccessful playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019, all eyes have been turned towards the veteran coach this season.
After being projected to win the East by most experts in the off-season, criticisms of Brown obviously got even worse when the Sixers began to perform below said expectations. Heading into the trade deadline last week, many fans pointed to the hypothetical firing of Brett as being the biggest “upgrade” the team could make.
Now I’m no Brett Brown sympathizer. Some of the Sixers’ biggest issues can in fact be traced back to the head coach. However, it’s always important to give credit where credit is due.
Against one of the best coaches and best rosters in the league in Doc Rivers and the LA Clippers, Brown put on an absolute masterclass. He fooled Rivers at every turn, making adjustment after adjustment which led to a near-perfect Sixers win.
With all that said, just what exactly did Brown do that was so special on Tuesday night? What specifically did he do which left some of the great basketball minds of today’s era completely perplexed? Let’s break it down:
Benching Al Horford
Everyone had been calling for this for weeks, and it was obviously the right decision. However, it’s not just that simple. Sitting down one of your highest-paid players and telling him he’s been benched for Furkan Korkmaz of all people isn’t an easy conversation to have. With the front office most likely pressuring Brett against the move as well, he handled it with perfection.
The starting lineup looked much improved with Horford out of it, and Horford himself had a fantastic game off the bench.
Quick Adjustments on the Fly
Speaking of Korkmaz, he’d been one of the hottest hands in the league heading into the game on Monday. However, after missing his first few open shots, you could tell he was having an off night. Brett responded almost instantly, opting to run with newly acquired Glenn Robinson III in the second half.
The move immediately paid off. GR3 scored the first bucket of the second half and finished the game with 6 points on 50% shooting.
If you watched the game, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Utilizing his two best players, Brett drew up these incredibly effective post-up/screen sets. With the ball being entered to Ben Simmons in the post, Joel Embiid would then come over and set a ball screen. Simmons would come off the screen and either completely abuse the mismatch created by the switch, or he would just dump it off down low to Embiid for an easy layup.
Doc Rivers and the Clippers had zero answers for the set, all night long. The duo of Embiid and Simmons combined for 52 points. One of the best games the two have played together all season.
Late Game Composure
One of the biggest complaints surrounding Brett has always been his inability to “close out games” as a head coach. With the Clippers game still competitively close late in the fourth quarter, Brett had to take charge and find a way to jump ahead.
And jump ahead the Sixers did. By swapping out Horford for Matisse Thybulle with around four minutes to play, Brett sacrificed size for spacing and on-ball defending. The move worked to perfection, as the Sixers jumped out to a 10+ lead in the closing minutes.
Thybulle played a crucial role in continuing to lock up a very frustrated Paul George and he even hit a dagger three with under two minutes to play.
This key win by Brett and the Sixers by no means erases some of the struggles this team has faced in 2020. The team still massively underperforms on the road and currently sits in the 5th seed. However, the poise displayed by Brett on Tuesday should be a huge confidence boost to a locker room looking to make a serious run after the All-Star break.
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports