Despite my highly Irish name (my middle name is Patrick, so that’s the clincher), I consider St. Patrick’s Day just another on the calendar, except that ham and cabbage is the dinner (ugh) and millions are drunker than usual that night. Considering it was also a Saturday, and I had to be at work at 9:00 the next morning, I wasn’t in position to do anything else with my Saturday night.
So forgive me if I’m angry that I got rewarded with a sad Saturday night performance from the Sixers. I don’t think it was a matter of giving bad effort. They tried hard – they were just beat due to poor execution and coaching decisions.
I’ve long been a fan of Jrue Holiday obtaining a scorer’s mentality. I have not been a fan of his doing so while also hijacking the offense. Holiday, en route to a career high 30 points, took 27 shots. 27. Twenty-Seven. TWENTY-SEVEN! He did so while getting to the line 4 times, one being a technical free throw. By my count, he had 5 field goal attempts at the rim, plus two floaters. By the virtues of mathematics, that would make me conclude he took 20 jumpers.
Now, jumpers aren’t always bad, so long as you are (a) open and (b) capable of hitting them. The latter isn’t an issue – Holiday is a good mid-range and three point shooter. The problem was many of those looks were contested, and just as many were not a part of a set offense. Whether is was jacking up threes in transition or just after getting a pick, the looks were not ideal and not the type that the Sixers generally settle for. It would be at least a bit understandable if Derrick Rose were the opposition, as trying to make him work on both ends would be a goal. But when C.J. Watson is the opposing point guard? It’s not understandable at all.
Meanwhile, back to 10 days ago, the Sixers thought it to be a good idea to start Evan Turner. They redefined his role, making him the primary initiator of offense, and it worked beautifully. Career high nights in rebounding and scoring soon followed, and Evan led the team to impressive victories. Turner’s shooting during those games was not sustainable – you don’t go from awful to all-NBA overnight – but you can, you know, stick to that strategy. Instead, Turner ceded control of the offense to Holiday, who went wild in looking to score 1-on-5 on the Bulls defense, which is second in the league in opponent’s scoring (to our own). From experience, the staff should know that putting Turner in a corner and off-the ball is not the most effective way to utilize his talents. I mean, they’ve coached him the last two seasons and seen the results. It should be obvious by now.
But they did do that, and Turner went 2-8 and was largely ineffective, and the Sixers had just 16 assists on 33 field goals, because they had one guy controlling the ball and looking for his own shot. It’s not Sixers basketball. It’s not this team. And it’s not how Evan Turner rolls.
And finally, one thing I noted in my preview was that the Sixers needed to control the defensive glass. The Sixers got outclassed on the boards by 15. They struggled the entire second half with getting defensive rebounds. So when it mattered, down the stretch, the Sixers went with a Thaddeus Young – Elton Brand 4-5 combination, without Turner. You wonder why the Bulls have possessions with 3 offensive rebounds – we put our worst defensive rebounders out there at the big spots and gave them no perimeter help! They couldn’t finish off defensive possessions because they stood no shot on the boards.
The entire game didn’t quite seem so bleak. When the Sixers had the Bulls down in the first quarter, the reasons were clear. They forced the Bulls into contested mid-range jumpers and grabbed the defensive rebounds. They also failed to score a point on the fast break or in the paint. The Bulls offense went nowhere. After the first, however, the Bulls scored 78 points. Also when the Sixers held a clear advantage, they attacked the Bulls defense inside and with open jumpers as a result of ball movement. They had a 14-0 points in the paint advantage and a 12-0 fast break advantage. That’s what you need to do against a good defense – move the ball and attack the paint. They stopped after that. The Sixers scored 56 after the first quarter.
So that’s what happened, for all you party people out there that didn’t watch. The Sixers didn’t play their game after the first quarter, and got crushed by a team missing its best player. And there was no reason for it.