In the NBA stats don’t count for much.
Regardless of how much a team scores, rebounds or assists it is win loss record that — of course — determines how far a team goes in any given season.
The Sixers offer a curious case study in stats.
At 29-25 this season, they appear to be slated for a playoff spot. And in the trenches of the Eastern Conference, they could wind up finishing anywhere between No. 4 and No. 8.
But take away the win loss record and look at the team’s production.
Philadelphia gets more rebounds per game than any other NBA team. They have the third most assists and score the seventh most points. And on defense they have a top 10 point differential while sporting some long-armed defensive juggernauts and the fourth best team defensive rating. And they did all of this while playing the NBA’s toughest first half schedule.
“Taking control of the game is what we’ve been doing,” Joel Embiid said of the team’s current win streak. “We have been taking those leads and keeping them. You want to win home games.”
Philadelphia has an All-Star starter (Embiid), a borderline (should be) All-Star reserve (Ben Simmons) and a youthful roster with budding role players (Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington). Heck, the No. 1 overall pick from last draft Markelle Fultz really hasn’t even played yet (that’s another story entirely). And yet, they are just 29-25 and in the seventh playoff spot.
Their current play has been changing the narrative, but the team has underachieved.
Philly turns the ball over more than any other NBA team — more than 15 percent of the time they have the ball. They have the worst bench in the NBA, with every single non-starter on the team sporting a negative plus-minus (Embiid leads the team at plus-314, the 10th best in the NBA) and the fifth fewest points from bench players. They also have notoriously blown more than their fair share of big leads this season.
Monday night against the Knicks, a 108-92 win to stretch the current win streak to four games, is a perfect example of the Sixers’ reliance on Embiid. Playing just 13 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, a 12-point lead evaporated to just two points after 12 minutes.
In the second half, Philly was able to break loose, building a sizable lead thanks in part to a monster night from T.J. McConnell, who off the bench tallied a triple double (10 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and six steals).
“It was amazing,” Embiid said. “I’m happy for him and I’m glad that he did it. If we want to go where we want to, he’ll be one of those reasons. He comes in and plays with great energy, he hypes the crowd up. Defensively, he was great and he moves the ball well.”
Marco Belinelli, recently signed with the Sixers and expected to make his debut later this week, should help the Sixers off the bench on nights when McConnell isn’t playing out of his mind for 37 minutes. But the numbers say the Sixers are playing well enough to be among the East’s best teams. They just have to turn the positives into wins.