SACRAMENTO, CA – Embrace the 3-point line, as Brett Brown might say?
So far, the data shows the 76ers have been doing just that, on both sides of the court. And as the team goes for its sixth straight win Thursday against the Sacramento Kings (10:00 PM EST; NBC Sports Philadelphia +, 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network), it’s hard to overlook the impact that the long ball – scoring it, and defending it – has had on the club’s early success.
For starters, here’s what stats.nba.com showed Thursday morning. The Sixers boast the third-best 3-point shooting percentage in the NBA, at 39.9, while their 30.5 defensive 3-point field goal percentage is lowest in the league.
Sticking to the offensive end for a moment, a couple other nuggets are worth noting. The Sixers, again, as of Thursday, were second overall with a 42.4 catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage. They also sat fourth in threes per 100 possessions (11.7), and sixth in total triples (123), despite playing at least one game less than the five teams ahead of them.
Zooming in on the squad’s current five-game spurt, and you’ll see that some of the 3-point shooting data gets even better. Dating back to October 28th, when the streak started in Dallas, no team has shot better than the Sixers from beyond the arc, at 43.9 percent (69-157). Furthermore, they’ve hit the third-most 3-pointers per 100 possessions (13.1) in the NBA amidst this stretch.
“We’ve gone overboard for all of our years trying to coach that,” Brett Brown said Wednesday, when asked about the Sixers’ 3-point shooting, “and I think we’re starting to reap some benefits.”
For context, since the start of Brown’s tenure in 2013-2014, the Sixers have ranked seventh in the NBA in 3-point attempts, and 10th in 3-point makes.
Through 10 games this season, Brown believes the collision of long-held coaching practices and enhanced personnel can explain why the Sixers’ 3-point performance has been equal parts potent and efficient.
Yes, the team’s staff continues to preach 3-point fundamentals, such as footwork, preparing for passes, and spacing. But now, Brown has the luxury of simultaneously deploying a pair of attention-getters in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. That dynamic hasn’t hurt, especially for the likes of JJ Redick, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, who have combined to hit 50.0 percent of their 3-pointers (45-90) during the Sixers’ current surge.
“We’re doing some things that are working well,” Redick said Wednesday. “Our [player] movement and our ball movement has allowed us to space the floor and get open shots.”
In particular, it’s been Redick’s movement that’s seemed to spring Saric. Three times the Sixers’ past two games, including twice Tuesday at Utah, the Croatian has knocked down uncontested looks from the outside thanks to pick-and-pop action initiated by Redick.
“I think Dario’s finding a rhythm, and that’s been really good,” said Redick, who last week, started to “get on” Saric about the need for the two of them – in tandem – to take advantage of 3-point opportunities on the second side of the floor. “It’s important for our team that he plays well and aggressive. I think it’s no coincidence that as he’s played well, we’ve won. He gives us sort of an X-factor.”
“You really feel like when you’re watching those two guys, they’re smart, they get basketball,” Brown said of Redick and Saric. “Those two guys personify to me people that have that passion and truly love their job. The connection doesn’t surprise me.”
On the defensive end, Covington, a premiere wing-stopper, cited the Sixers’ attention to detail as a reason for the low perimeter efficiency of the team’s opponents.
“We know teams are going to want to shoot a lot of threes,” he said Wednesday, “and Coach made a big emphasis on running guys off the line, not giving up easy shots, and contesting a lot of shots.”
While the Sixers’ league-best defensive 3-point shooting percentage would suggest an airtight unit, Brown thinks the group has been fortunate to catch some breaks, and is capable of doing more.
“I’m not reading too much into that right now,” Brown said of the Sixers’ 3-point percentage defense. “I feel like if we talk in the next 10 games, and that still is the number, I will backpedal and say we must be pretty good at it. I’m not thinking like that right now. I still think there are areas where we need to improve.”
Nevertheless, there could be worse places to be than at the top.
“I feel like our offensive 3-point mentality and success so far is ahead of our 3-point defense,” said Brown. “It’s a huge part of our sport, and I feel like we’re giving both areas the proper attention.”
With a roster full of youthful prospects and a couple seasoned veterans sprinkled in, the Sacramento Kings (2-8) endured a rocky start to the year, falling in seven straight games before breaking through Tuesday for an impressive 94-86 home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. D’Aaron Fox, one of five Sacramento rookies, was chosen fifth overall in this past June’s draft, and ranks second on the team with an average of 12.4 points per game. The Kings added Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, and George Hill in the off-season as well.
• Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ / NBC Sports app
• Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network