Game Preview | What to Make of an Encouraging Start

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Scene Setter:

Essentially a quarter of the way through the 2018-19 season, are the 76ers (14-8) the team they ultimately hope to become?

No, says Brett Brown (and quite resoundingly, for that matter).

But there’s also the unignorable fact that the club is in a relatively good place, given how its 29 peers have so far fared.

As of Wednesday morning, the Sixers owned the sixth-best winning percentage (63.6) in the NBA, while ranking third in the Eastern Conference standings - just one game behind second-place Milwaukee (14-6), and four games back of first-place Toronto (18-4).

How does Brett Brown reconcile this modest, early success with his strong internal conviction that the Sixers have plenty of room for improvement?

“It’s an interesting question,” Brown said Tuesday, before shaking his head, “because I don’t feel that we’re at all at that stage where we sit in the standings.”

Through 22 games, the Sixers are right in the middle of the league pack in respect to the most basic of statistical measurables. Their offensive rating (108.7 points scored per 100 possessions) is 12th overall, and their defensive rating (108.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) 16th.

The team, however, boasts the top assist percentage (65.6) in the NBA, and sits seventh in pace (102.98 possessions per game). True to form from previous seasons, the group is also doing well in a couple of hustle categories (no. 4 7.8 deflections per game, no. 2 6.0 loose balls recovered per game).

Come April 10th, of course, victories will be the only metric that means much, and for now, the Sixers have positioned themselves towards the head of the pack.

Brown cautions there can be danger in assigning too much weight to records too soon.

“I think you can get tricked a little bit if that ends up your comfort zone, if you get greater peace of mind when you see where we are record-wise, and so I don’t go there,” he said. “It’s not like I force myself not to go there, I naturally don’t go there.”

Based on what Brown’s seen, he believes that better execution in general will be unlocked the more opportunities the Sixers have to play together.

From his own standpoint, Brown feels he still needs to get a handle on this year’s edition of the squad, from managing rotations and substitution patterns to making play calls.

Check back in around Christmas, which Brown considers the end of the first third of the season, and he said he might then be inclined to start putting a little more stock in the standings.

“I know what I know, and what I know is it’s early days for this team,” he said. “We have way more to grow and give.”

Opponent Outlook:

The New York Knicks (7-14) will be coming into Wednesday’s game at The Center kind of hot. Prior to suffering a 115-108 loss in Detroit Tuesday, New York had won a season-best three games in a row.

In David Fizdale, the Knicks are on their fourth different head coach in as many years. The team will continue to march on without Kristaps Porzingis (left knee) for the foreseeable future.

Tim Hardaway paces New York in scoring, with 23.0 points per game.

Follow Along:

Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network

Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia / NBC Sports MyTeams app

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