This will be as much of a diatribe on the issues facing the Sixers as much of a recap of the Nets game, because the loss and the issues are inevitably intertwined.
As much as we wanted to believe that everything would be okay again, that feeling of an impending letdown fell over all of us as soon as the first quarter ended. The Nets struggled to start, but eventually led the Sixers by 6 at the end of one quarter. Despite Elton Brand scoring the first 8 Sixers points (going on a 8-2 run by himself), the Sixers managed a 10 point quarter from everyone else, leading to a below average offensive night – the Sixers scored 89 points. This against a Nets team that is among the worst defensive teams in the entire NBA, who was also missing a very good defender in Gerald Wallace and played Gerald Green regularly at the 4 position. Not good.
Meanwhile, against a frontline that wasn’t much to deal with, the Sixers fell flat. Spencer Hawes shot a mostly awkward 1-7 – his one made shot was a 17-footer, while he missed 5 shots near the basket (to his credit, he did attempt 6 free throws). Elton Brand scored only the eight points I mentioned above. Nikola Vucevic played 11 minutes, which hints to a return of inconsistent playing time for the rookie, and netted only 2 points on 4 shots. Thaddeus Young scored 13 points, but stopped scoring after the third quarter. So predictably, he played the entire fourth quarter, which included a hilariously bad turnover when he had the opportunity for a wide open dunk in a halfcourt set. That score would have tied the game with less than two minutes remaining. Instead, Green hit a three, and the Sixers trailed by 5.
The lack of scoring and production from the bigs highlight one the team’s two biggest weaknesses – a big who can score in the post (the other, obviously, is a go-to scorer on the perimeter). It’s not like this weakness has just arisen. Ever since Brand’s injuries/age came about, he hasn’t been a low post big; instead, Brand’s deadly in pick-and-pop situations but gets few looks near the basket. And when there’s little spacing on the floor, it’s hard for Brand to score much. Hawes can’t finish inside at all, and his jumper isn’t quite as good as it looked earlier this year, rendering him mostly ine. Vooch has some potential if he can get stronger, but that’s no sure thing. And Young is still a 4 in a 3’s body, who can’t be relied upon to start because he’s not big enough. The Sixers bigs didn’t take advantage of such a talent disparity in their favor over their counterparts – the first big off the New Jersey bench was little-used Jordan Williams, for heaven’s sake..
However, the Nets showed they have three perimeter players who can take advantage of mismatches: Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, and Green. Most of those mismatches involved Lou Williams, who was inexplicably on the floor for important defensive possessions last night. The three Nets have height and strength advantages over Lou, who “can’t defend anybody.” Avery Johnson and the Nets gameplanned for attacking Lou’s defense. Green and Brooks combined for 45 points on 17-28 from the floor. I’d wager that about 25 of those points came when Lou was defending one of them.
I don’t necessarily blame Lou, though, because he wasn’t the guy who put himself in position to fail. That’s a coaching issue. The best coaches put their players in the best positions to succeed for both themselves and their teams. There are some obvious examples around the NBA, like Brandan Wright on the Mavericks or Kyle Korver on the Bulls, where coaches hide a player’s weaknesses and exploit his strengths to the best of their abilities. Is there anyone, besides maybe Andre Iguodala, who fits this description on the Sixers? I don’t think so. In the case I mentioned, Lou played with other smaller players, like Jodie Meeks and Jrue Holiday, for long stretches. Lou wasn’t having a particularly good night on offense, and it’s not like he’s the optimal defender for Deron. So why is he out there then, when he’s almost destined to fail?
It wasn’t always this way, either. At this point last year, I praised Doug for his use of Lou Williams. Now, it seems he’s not doing as good of a job at managing game situations.
In the end, the Sixers fell, and the coach blamed turnovers. Never mind that, with a bunch of turnovers in the last game against the Nets, the Sixers also had 16 turnovers (as astutely noted by Evan Turner postgame). The offense was the issue. We made one three pointer. We took too many off balance shots near the rim, too many contested mid range shots, too many bad shots overall. Turnovers can be a bad thing, but arguably the league’s best offensive team (Oklahoma City) is the WORST at taking care of the ball! It’s not always bad to have turnovers – we’re so sensitive to them that we willingly run a junk offense.
At this point, the Sixers have a two game lead over Milwaukee for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Our schedule’s easy enough, but it looks like we’re not good enough to take advantage. And with a second home loss to New Jersey, it looks like the Sixers are not really deserving of a playoff spot at all.
Tags: Andre Iguodala Brandan Wright Deron Williams Elton Brand Evan Turner Gerald Green Gerald Wallace Jodie Meeks Jordan Williams Jrue Holiday Kyle Korver Lou Williams New Jersey Nets Nikola Vucevic Spencer Hawes Thaddeus Young