The Sixers did not play poorly for about 44 minutes of game action against the Heat. I would surmise they played quite well, considering they had no legitimate center for most of the second half.
I mentioned on twitter last night that the Sixers did not lose because of LeBron James. Sure, he had a great final line (28-6-5 with awesome shooting percentages), but the Sixers could have won if they kept everyone else in check. They failed in that endeavor. Chris Bosh had a great offensive game. Joel Anthony seemingly wore pogo sticks. The supporting cast hit nearly all of their open shots. All of those things factored into what became a blowout victory.
However, there’s two things I want to highlight (and propose short-term fixes for) which I believe are glaring holes the Sixers have, especially leading into a game against the long-armed frontcourt Washington brings. The first is Chris Bosh-ian performances becoming a trend. The second is rebounding. I’ll start with the latter.
The Sixers were out-rebounded by 21 against the Heat, which gave the Heat a lot more scoring chances than the Sixers. The result is a complete reversal from the Atlanta game, where the Sixers dominated the Hawks on the boards en route to a 14 point win. What changed? Before we get into that though, we can also note Spencer Hawes, the Sixers’ best rebounder so far this year, missed both games. Not an excuse for the swing of the pendulum. I’m also not going to chalk it up to a lack of energy on a back-to-back. The Sixers fought tough for the entire game, and while the Heat may have had fresher legs I doubt that was the deciding factor.
Instead, let me take you to an advanced box score of the game, via Basketball-Reference.com (you may have to click for the option – the link is on the page). Take a look at the rebounding percentages: for the lineup the Sixers put on the floor about midway through the quarter, the Sixers had a lineup that collectively grabbed roughly 21% of available rebounds during the game when they were on the court (Jrue Holiday-Jodie Meeks-Andre Iguodala-Thaddeus Young-Elton Brand). While this seems uncharacteristically low, the Sixers only have one above average rebounder in that lineup in Iguodala. So maybe it’s not that out of the ordinary. And on a related note, the Sixers’ chances started to slip when that lineup was out there.
If you remember all the way back to last year, the Sixers absolutely crushed teams with that lineup. NBA StatsCube Shaman John Schuhmann called it the “lineup of doom” – it used speed and a balanced offensive attack to offset whatever was thrown at them. But it does lack a dominant rebounder, and with Brand a year older it certainly may have taken a step back. Combined with a strong Miami team’s rebounding prowess, the Sixers stood no chance.
I do have some short-term solutions for this problem, though. For one, I suggest playing Evan Turner more while Spencer Hawes is out. He averages nearly 8 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, a better rate than anyone aside from Hawes and (for now) Tony Battie. Since Young isn’t much of a defensive rebounder and Elton is average at best, and the fact that this lineup will see a lot of time, I’d like to add Turner into that mix a bit more. And secondly, I’d like to see how the team works with a super small lineup, with Brand at the 5 and Iguodala and Turner at the forward spots. While the rebounding battle will be lost, the Sixers could force opponents to match up with their superior quickness and make it an even battle.
The other thing I want to address was Chris Bosh’s spectacular game. Bosh has always been a thorn in the Sixers’ sides, as we’ve never had anyone who could derail his game. He brings length and quickness, and the Sixers can only match one of those at a time with their personnel. Few teams have players that could stop Chris Bosh. The problem is the Sixers have problems defending lesser players too. They lack a big who can defend in the post as well as on the perimeter. Young is too small. Hawes is too slow. Brand is too old. Vooch is inexperienced, and also probably too slow. Battie isn’t much of anything. Lavoy Allen is barely an NBA player, but even he was given a chance on Saturday. This is more of a long-term problem, and something the team might have to address through free agency or a trade.
And no, Francisco Elson is not the solution.