So the Sixers had a 2-3 record on a 5-game road trip. Expectations for me going in had the Sixers at 3-2, which means the results are mildly disappointing. The developments on the road trip, however, are more important than the record, and may reshape the paths the Sixers will take as the season progresses in the last 12 games. Here’s one for each game:
- Tony Battie replaces Marreese Speights in the rotation.
Looking at it from the perspective of Doug Collins, you can see why this move would be made. Speights is talented and had progressed defensively earlier this season, but regressed as of late and cannot be counted on to make smart plays on either end of the floor. He can fill the point column up easily but we already have players who can do that coming off the bench. Battie plays smart defense most of the time, and he can actually defend true centers. He knows his role offensively, and won’t kill us there – but he won’t help us either.
For Speights, who worked his way back into the rotation twice this year, this has to hurt his ego a lot. He doesn’t seem like the guy who likes to be jerked around, not knowing what his role is. There were times this year that he improved defensively, but he can’t like that, for the third time this year, that he was benched. He should still get mop up minutes as well as minutes against teams who abuse the zone defense in my opinion, but I’m not sure that he even will at this point.
- Andres Nocioni outperforms Evan Turner during the trip, plays more during the final game.
Part of Noce’s playing more was Evan’s foul trouble throughout the game, but when he did play he was terrible. While Andres made some similar questionable plays (for example, any time he put the ball on the floor) he also hit a few shots and spread the floor, and wasn’t horrible defensively on Brandon Roy. While his over-rotated defensively, he did run the Blazers off the 3-line, which Evan failed to do.
This begs the question: will Evan see the same fate as Mo Speights, or will he be given another chance to remain in the rotation. While I like Evan’s game more than Noce’s even at this point, I can easily see Noce being the first guy off the bench to backup Andre or Jodie on Wednesday.
- Iguodala takes a game off versus a very good team.
Andre plays a lot of minutes every game, so it’s unsurprising that he would need a game off or two when dealing with a nagging injury. It’s surprising that he would take the game off against a dangerous Portland squad instead of a lowly Kings team who we can beat without him. Was Doug thinking that the game against Portland would be tough enough to win with Andre anyway, so that they should ensure that they win against Sacramento? I mean, other than having one extra day of rest this tactic confuses me. I’m not a medical expert, but that extra day had to mean a lot for the resting strategy to work.
- Jrue continues to be inconsistent.
Jrue carries this team when he plays well – but at this point he hasn’t proven that he’s consistent enough to be relied upon in key situations. That’s troublesome for this year only because he’s our third best player right now and disappears for key stretches. Sometimes he dominates the game, setting up teammates, shooting well from the perimeter, and playing tenacious defense. At other times, he’s turning the ball over, taking contested, low-percentage jumpers, and getting blown by on defense. These are the perils of playing a 20-year-old point guard 35 minutes a game and relying on him to be both the primary set-up guy and an ace perimeter defender.
His weaknesses were exposed when Andre left the floor, since he’s really the only person other than Andre who can create plays for others on the team.
- Thaddeus Young seems to be breaking out of his slump.
He did so in a big way against Portland, scoring 17 on 8-10 from the floor. His high field-goal percentage had been dipping recently, with a 33% FG% in his previous six games. He also grabbed 10 rebounds against Sacramento. He barely played in the Clippers game, and had been struggling to contribute without scoring. On Saturday, though, he found his shooting form, hitting 6 jumpers (including a 3). With a lack of scoring punch in our starting 5, we need Young to contribute efficiently.