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Extra small 76ers lineups survive against Frank Kaminsky

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In what otherwise could have been a low intrigue column of notes and observations, I took a look at Philadelphia's success at playing four guards against the Charlotte Hornets and specifically Frank Kaminsky.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Kaminsky Struggling Against Extra Small Lineups

By coincidence this game marks something I wrote about in my last notes and observations following a game. That time around I highlighted Kaminsky trying to exploit any mismatch against Bojan Bogdanovic.

While explaining the subtext of this, certain happenings of this game against Philadelphia were foreshadowed: "Given the tendencies of the present day NBA though, teams might try putting a wing at the four spot when Kaminsky is on the court. The bet would be that the Wisconsin Badger would have trouble of keeping up on defense while a wing is athletic enough of sticking close to his 3-point looks on offense."

Presumably due to numerous injuries to front-court players the Sixers just had to go extra small during certain periods in the game.

Brett Brown chose to do so by playing four guards with Elton Brand or Carl Landry (and resting Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson, already masking as smallish fours) specifically when Frank Kaminsky was on the court.

And, you know what, coach Brown got it right. The 76ers went 12-7 during such small ball stretches, which mostly had Kendall Marshall guarding Frank Kaminsky.

Moreover, when Robert Covington did enter back in the game in the second quarter, he took on the assignment of Nicolas Batum. Marshall remained on Kaminsky who would go on to record a explanatory -8 plus-minus for the game.

The sole play of Hornets scoring because of Big Frank using the match-up to his advantage came on a signature slow drive involving a spin move:

Coach Clifford even started running staple set plays (almost exclusively used for Al Jefferson post ups) with Kaminsky in Jefferson's place.

None of those post ups resulted in points.

That's though not to say that Kaminsky was solely responsible for that being so. Such possessions served as a reminder of the capabilities an NBA defense has in this era. Quick perimeter guys are able to prevent the actual entry pass with diligent work off the ball.

What needs to be mentioned is that an old school type of mouse in the house, "hey, here's a mismatch, let's pound him down low in the post" game isn't the only solution to such a rotational maneuver.

The savvy Marvin Williams also faced certain guards against the Sixers, whether it was by design or after a switch, and smartly crashed the glass when the opportunity was there. Such effort created seven extra points for Charlotte itself.

Kaminsky hasn't shown that he has something similar in him. Whether there's a big or a guard on him, he mostly takes part in a possession as a floor stretcher. Crashing the glass in such a manner isn't a strength of his.

He certainly likes handling the ball and driving to the basket where he could hypothetically use his size against a smaller match-up. Yet he only ranks 169th in field goal percentage on drives among 179 players who average at least 1.5 drives per game, per NBA.com.

With the playoffs coming up in half a month, this might end up playing a part in the Hornets postseason run. It depends on the opponent(s) the Hornets will face, however, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone making this adjustment during the middle of a series.

Heck, why not try and give yourself an advantage or at least take a somewhat capable 3-point shooter at the power forward spot out of the series.

Moreover, odds are that it would be done with someone much more dangerous than Kendall Marshall as well. The opposing team wouldn't be hunting for Marshall losing Kaminsky for a long two any more.

Nicolas Batum's Bounce Passes, Triple-Double

I had originally planed to highlight the three bounce passes in the pick-and-roll for Cody Zeller by Nic Batum to celebrate his triple-double. Two of them came at the start of his great performance:

The Batum-to-Zeller connection is a somewhat common finish to a Hornets possession (Batum has assisted Zeller for 79 buckets this season, just ten less than the rest of the team combined), yet the slickness of it remains enjoyable.

However, they were overshadowed by the gem at 2:43 of this video where the Frenchman found the absolute perfect spot for the ball to bounce in between two Sixers defenders.

While we're at it, I would also like to clarify something said by Eric "Trivia Man" Collins. During the broadcast Collins mentioned that Nicolas Batum has tied Baron Davis by recording his second triple-double in a single season for the Hornets franchise.

Well, it has also been achieved by Kendall Gill (has two total for Charlotte) and Larry Johnson (five total).

The leader in this category is Anthony Mason who has had four triple-doubles in a season (seven total) while donning the purple and teal of the Hornets.

Steve Clifford, Slow to Pull the Plug on the Starters

Here are the amount of minutes played by the starters in last night's game with their average playing time for the season in brackets. Nicolas Batum - 37:35 (35.6mpg), Courtney Lee - 36:57 (30.0mpg), Kemba Walker - 35:41 (35.9mpg), Marvin Williams - 30:54 (29.1mpg) and Cody Zeller - 25:42 (24.7mpg).

Now, I won't necessarily declare this as a negative observation. Steve Clifford can have his reasons for maintaining the minutes of his core players despite the score. Per example, if we dive into coach lingo, it could be for continuity building purposes as the postseason is nearing in on us.

One also might point out that the Hornets hadn't played since Saturday and now they have two days off until the next game on Friday to shrug off any contemporary NBA resting tactics.

However, it's a fact that Clifford is slow to pull his starters in a lopsided match. Whatever the reason for that might be, starters clocking such heavy minutes against a 9-win Philadelphia 76ers team is noteworthy.

Last night the Hornets had their starting lineup in the game after a timeout with 2:28 left while Philly had already turned to their 12th men. Clifford's late realization prevented us from one extra minute of Troy Daniels's garbage time buckets and Tyler Hansbrough randomly getting on someone's nerves.

Just as it was the case at Milwaukee where the beginning of the fourth quarter featured Charlotte's best players on the court despite the score being 90:64. Both Lee and Williams exceeded their average playing time versus the Bucks, while Batum was very close to it.

76ers Taking a Franchise High of Threes

Philadelphia making a fast run and being within ten points in the third quarter might look a bit troubling. After all this is a Charlotte team which could finish with one of the best seasons in franchise history (that being - a second round appearance in the playoffs).

But that's just the way it goes when a team launches threes with such a regularity. Random hot spells of shooting will happen.

The 76ers set a new franchise high in 3-point attempts taken in a game with 44. Their 16 makes tied a previous record set this season at Houston. Their leading shot taker from downtown, Robert Convington, set a new career-high with 14 attempts (Convington made six of them).

Overall, this was the 31st time a team launched so many 3-pointers in a single NBA game, per Basketball Reference.