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A Fitting End

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Winning despite a bad coach. It's quite a thing in professional sports. The New York Yankees won a world series this season on the strength of a superior roster, despite incessant meddling from Joe Girardi. The Sixers, unfortunately, don't have that level of talent. After five games in a row of overcoming the Jordan handicap, the Sixers were finally buried by Fast Eddie tonight.
Here's your rotation chart, if you can stand to look at it:

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For all of you who want to blame Andre Iguodala and/or Elton Brand for this loss, be my guest. Both were subpar. Their play certainly didn't do much to help the cause, apart from some solid defense in the fourth quarter. So if your love for Eddie Jordan forces you to put the blame on players, fine, put it on those guys and stop reading right now.

If you're still reading, let's talk about Eddie Jordan. In the fist quarter, Jrue Holiday was a dynamo. It's not an exaggeration to say he was the best player on the floor, for either team. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was struggling, somewhat, so even with a superhuman effort from Jrue, the game was tied 20-20 with 2:39 left in the first. At that point, Eddie Jordan decided he needed to leave Willie Green in the game and remove Jrue for Lou Williams. At the same time, he pulled Brand for Thad. Over the next 8 minutes, the Raptors absolutely abused the Sixers, outscoring them 22-10. Jordan rotated Jason Smith and Jason Kapono into the game, and shuffled the deck chairs a couple of times. Note that he opted not to go with Marreese Speights nor did he call upon Royal Ivey, even though Jose Calderon was habitually sodomizing Lou Williams in every imaginable way.

With 6:42 remaining in the second quarter, Jordan finally made a pair of substitutions. He put Brand back at the four and Jrue back at the point. This unit stabilized things, closing the half on an 11-8 run and cutting the deficit to 9.

Before we talk about the third quarter, let's recap the first two. Jordan played Sam and Elton down low together with Jrue at the point for 16 minutes, the beginning of the half, when the score was pretty much even, and the end of the half, when the Sixers halted a run by the Raptors and actually cut into the lead a little bit. That combo was the only thing that worked, even remotely. Sam, Elton and Jrue were the key.

Obviously, Eddie Jordan went back in the locker room at the half, looked at whatever he looks at, tarot cards maybe, and decides "Hey, I should go small to start the second half." He comes out with a lineup featuring Iguodala at the four, Willie Green at the three and Royal Ivey at the two. A moronic idea that paid off with an immediate 9-0 spurt by the Raptors. Jordan's next move was to send Thad in for Willie and Speights in for Dalembert. A minute and a half later, Jrue's night was done.

Jordan kept Brand on the bench until the end of the third, then the Sixers went on the fabled run that fell tragically short. Brand actually contributed a great deal to that run (5 boards, 3 points, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 assist), but that's neither here nor there. The point is, Sam + EB + Jrue was the only combo that worked at all in the first half, and they played zero seconds together after the break. Jrue was the best player on the floor in the first quarter and he played a grand total of 4:41 in the second half.

When his idiotic experiment failed miserably to start the second half, his reaction wasn't to go back to what worked in the first half, it was to go even smaller. Focus even less on defense. Somehow, that was expected to end the run.

If you want to kid yourself and think the Sixers had a chance to win this one late, then pat Lou on the back. He was completely unconscious in the fourth quarter, making shots he really had no business taking, until he coughed the game up after tying it, of course. Toronto engaged the cruise control way too early, Lou got hot, the Sixers played a little D. That's the comeback in a nutshell. Willie was late to contest a corner three, the ref blew a questionable whistle, 4-point play. End of game.

Let's get back to blaming Iguodala and Brand again. Those guys sure looked tired out there tonight, didn't they? I mean, it was the second night of a back-to-back, so I guess that's kind of understandable. That's not something you can blame on Eddie Jordan, right? Unless, of course, you take into account that the Sixers held a twenty-point lead for basically the entire second half against the T-Wolves and Jordan decided Iguodala needed to play 21 minutes in the second half and Brand needed to play 18. Eddie Jordan is an unmitigated disaster of a coach and he needs to be gone. Yesterday.

Is it Eddie Jordan's fault the Sixers lost this game? How the hell can you tell? I feel like nothing he does is based on any kind of sane logic. It's all whim, and it's all grounded in his flawed philosophies. On this night, under these circumstances, they probably lose this game regardless. Wins and losses don't mean as much to me any more. All I want to see is the right guys on the floor, playing the right kind of basketball, and that happens so rarely these days. Even over the five game winning streak, how much did we see of the starting lineup? How many important minutes did we see Jrue or Dalembert playing? It's disheartening as a fan, and I have to assume it's even more disheartening as a player.

Player of The Game: F Lou. Jrue is the player of the game, and his numbers would've illustrated that if he hadn't gotten yanked after only 21 minutes.
Team Record: 20-32
Up Next: Iverson starting in the All Star game. This league is so legitimate.