Pistons at 76ers: Bulletproof Tank-ing


  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (26-46) at Philadelphia 76ers (15-57)
  • Date: March 29, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD Plus

What to look for

The Philadelphia 76ers own tanking.

In perhaps one of the most impressive displays of throwing away a season, the 76ers have lost 26 games in a row. Defeats were not sufficient for this Philly team though, they had to do it big.

During the losing streak, the 76ers are losing games by 17.1 points per game according to NBA.com. The front office has done everything in its power to ensure Philadelphia does not win games.

It’s honestly an incredible tank job when we take an in-depth look at the numbers.

On the season, the 76ers outscore teams by 13.7 points per 100 possessions in the clutch (defined as last five minutes of the game with scoring margin within five points). That’s the fifth-highest figure in the entire league per NBA.com.

Confused? So was I initially.

The data indicates that Philly loses games on average by double digits, but when they get into tight games, they have the ability to pull them out. The reason is actually simple: The 76ers just play how they play.

Indeed, late in games, Philly goes to their normal plays instead of opting for isolations like most teams. As a result, they often get high-percentage looks while defenses worry about stopping either Michael Carter-Williams or Thaddeus Young.

On the other end, opponents abandon their game plan and go to one-on-one plays with the hope of conquering a bottom-third defense. However, even the worst defenses in the league can manage against isolations.

Management probably realized this, and decided to blow things up at the trade deadline despite the fact they had already shoved a stick of dynamite on the roster in the 2013 offseason.

The 76ers traded away Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to the Indiana Pacers, and they jettisoned Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Philly received a few draft picks coupled with Byron Mullens, Danny Granger and Earl Clark in those deals. Clark and Granger were waived.

Coincidentally, Philadelphia’s crunch time numbers flip flopped after these moves. The Sixers were a top-three clutch team (based on differential of offensive and defensive efficiency) prior to the trade deadline, but since February 20, they are among the five-worst clutch teams in the league per NBA.com.

The only reason their overall numbers are still high is because Philly has only managed to be close late in the fourth quarter for a total of 12 minutes (!) since making all the swaps.

Getting rid of some key pieces has resulted in the team’s inability to make games competitive in the final period. This makes for an incredibly “interesting” contest tonight against the Detroit Pistons.

Detroit has embraced tanking, although it appears as though they stumbled into it. Both teams are trying to lose, but one can only wonder which team will truly shoot itself in the foot.

Consider this nugget: Opponents outscore the Detroit Pistons by 32.9 points per 100 possessions in the clutch, by far the worst figure in the NBA.

As a result, we are left to conclude that Detroit should win going away. However, if the contest is close, the Pistons are worse than the 76ers in final minutes of games, which probably means the Philly losing streak might come to an end.

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Tags: Philadelphia 76ers THN-PHI

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