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Halftime Update: Please Bring Brand Back In

Just a quick update to a game that is confirming the Sixers status as the most frightening possible first-round opponent. The Celtics are shooting 56 percent, the Sixers 35 percent, and yet Philly is down only one. Why? Three reasons:

  1. The Celtics have 13 turnovers
  2. The Sixers have 19 free throw attempts
  3. The Sixers are running and trapping like some crazy Rick Pitino college team, even doubling Celtics ball-handlers at mid-court to create all kinds chaos and generate easy looks the other way. We’ll have a more detailed look at this later.

What I’ll note now is that almost all of this happened when Tony DiLeo took Elton Brand out of the game with the C’s up 42-29 and just over six minutes to go in the quarter. Brand’s only played a half dozen game since returning from a shoulder injury, so it’s too early to jump to the tempting conclusion that Elton doesn’t fit into the Sixers frenetic style. But the early evidence isn’t promising. Celtics Hub has the numbers a click away.

I watched the two most recent Sixers games to get a flavor for how they look with Brand, and I used ESPN’s play-by-play logs to track how long each Sixers offensive possession took with and without Brand on the floor. Here’s what I found:

With Brand: 74 total possessions, average length of possession: 15.17 seconds.

Without Brand: 98 total possessions, average length of possession: 12.2 seconds.

That’s a significant difference. I should note this: I only tracked single possessions that resulted directly from an opponent basket, miss, turnover, free throw or timeout and ended with a Sixers basket, miss, drawn foul or turnover. I did not include bonus Philly possessions — i.e. second chances after offensive rebounds or non-shooting fouls. I wanted to measure only the length of possessions in which the Sixers would have full court transition opportunities.

In the two games, Philly had 36 possessions which lasted ten seconds or less and ended with something positive — a basket or a drawn foul. Brand was on the court for only 11 of those possessions. Brand played 26 minutes in one game, 18 minutes in the other, so you can’t chalk up the discrepancy in “ten seconds or less” possessions entirely to Brand’s limited playing time.

Is this a limited sample size? Yes, of course. But these numbers, combined with Philly’s Brand-less push today his negative plus/minus numbers in the last two games, are beginning to suggest something.

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