I came to a startling realization tonight as I was laughing this loss off over dinner with my wife. She asked me why I was laughing when in the past I've basically been catatonic after a game like this. I thought about it for a second and then the reason hit me, it's because I never, ever, not for one single second got caught up in their fourth quarter run. I never believed they'd win the game, not even when they scratched and clawed their way back to tie it at 102. It was a sad moment, definitely the low point for me since I started this blog and I'll explain how I got here after the jump.
The answer is simple, Eddie Jordan is a pitiful coach. Horrible, in fact. He makes asinine decisions and baffling comments. If you asked him what color the sky is, he'd say green (Willie Green). Time and time again he's put horrible lineups on the floor, depended on borderline NBADL players for big minutes and benched the only players on his roster capable of turning things around. I hold him accountable for all of this and more. He's taken a Sixers roster that was competitive in the league and turned them into the New York Knicks in less than 20 games. This is a list of his failures. My failure is that I let what Jordan has done to the team as a whole affect my belief in the guys who actually wear the jerseys.
If you've followed this blog for more than a week or two, you realize that I've always been more glass half full than half empty, and that's a tremendous understatement. I let Eddie Jordan break my will and that's unforgivable. To be honest, Ed Stefanski had a big hand in this as well, with the whole Allen Iverson fiasco and his decision to hire Jordan in the first place. I shouldn't have spent the fourth quarter expecting the other shoe to drop because the fourth quarter wasn't about Jordan. When it got to that point (down 9 with 2:30 remaining), Jordan couldn't do anything about what was happening on the floor. He put his small lineup in, but Iguodala, Dalembert and Thad were out there and they had something to say about how this game was going to end. The Princeton offense was abandoned, the passive, over-helping defense was gone as well. It was simply athletes on the floor, dare I say, getting after it in a way that Eddie Jordan neither understands nor condones. They pressured the ball mercilessly, they trapped, they did everything they could to suffocate Dallas, get stops and get turnovers.
On offense, they used dribble penetration instead of pointless dribble hand-offs thirty feet from the hoop to get good looks for each other and instead of contested 20-foot jumpers they got layups and wide-open threes. It was more playground than chalk board and it was good for a 12-3 run to tie the game. I should've been up on my feet for it, but instead I was stuck in the Eddie Jordan vortex, expecting every made shot to be met by a made shot by Dallas because, let's face it folks, that's just exciting basketball. The players deserved more from me tonight as a fan, not that it matters to them, but it matters to me.
Anyway, the point is I'm going to try harder to separate my loathing of the brace-licker from my feelings about the team. They didn't choose their coach, they didn't choose this idiotic system on both ends of the floor and I think they've finally said enough is enough among themselves. All they can do is go out there and bust their asses every night to win basketball games, and that's exactly what they've been doing.
Here's a look at your rotations and a fun split to follow:
In case his boneheaded play that may or may not have cost the Sixers the game (I think the shot was long, and I'll never admit otherwise), Sam Dalembert is the main reason the Sixers were even within striking distance in the fourth quarter. Over the past two games, Sam has played 67 minutes, grabbed 33 rebounds, blocked 6 shots, swiped 4 steals, and dished 4 dimes. That's domination. He was especially effective in the fourth quarter of both games. This made me think back to the effect Dalembert had on the two Nets games in the fourth, which led me to wonder exactly how good the team had been with Dalembert on the floor for the final 12 minutes. Check out these splits:
- The Sixers have played 216 minutes in the fourth quarter of games
- They have scored 437 points in those 216 minutes.
- They have allowed 458 points
- Sam has played 69 fourth quarter minutes
- With Sam on the floor they have scored 153 points (2.22 points/minute)
- With Sam on the floor they have allowed 125 points (1.81 points/minute)
- Sam has sat for 147 minutes in the fourth quarter
- With Sam on the bench they have scored 284 points (1.70 points/minute)
- With Sam on the bench they have allowed 333 points (2.00 points/minute)
- Sam has only played in the fourth quarter in 10 of 16 games
- Sam has only played more than 5 minutes in the fourth quarter in 6 of 16 games
Now, what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, the first one is obvious. Jordan has chosen to go without his best rebounder and shotblocker for the majority of the fourth quarter in 67% of the team's 18 games. Sam has played 32% of the team's fourth quarter minutes to this point of the season. Those are simply facts, I'll let you decide if they speak to Jordan choosing offense over defense. Of course, the offense has been much better in the fourth when Sam has been on the floor as well. If I had to guess, which I really don't because I've seen it with my own eyes, the reason is Sam's defense and offensive rebounding. He blocks shots to start breaks. He makes people miss shots to start breaks. He cleans the glass to start breaks. When he's on the bench, there is much less of this going on. Are these stats available to Coach Jordan? How could they not be? Does he use them? How could he and still choose "offense" over defense every single time?
Jrue Watch: Jrue had his first really bad stretch since taking over as the starter in the beginning of the fourth quarter tonight. First, he was called for stepping a travel while driving baseline, then he lost his dribble and turned the ball over in tight quarters on the perimeter. The next time he touched the ball, he took JJ Barea down on the blocks and scored over him easily. A few plays later, he switched a screen at the top of the key, leaving Thad on Barea, who hit a three (this is questionable as to whose fault it was, but you don't want to switch there if you can avoid it at all). Jrue tried to exact revenge for the defensive mistake right away, but lowered his shoulder and was whistled for the charge. When Dallas got the ball back, Barea and Dirk ran the same P&R but this time Jrue was overly concerned with fighting over the pick so he jumped it too early, leaving Barea a clean lane to the hoop, he drove and finished. Jordan called a timeout and yanked Jrue and Willie Green was moved to the point with 8:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, he wouldn't return.
I don't have a problem with how Jordan handled this particular instance. Jrue was clearly out of it, trying to do too much to make up for mistakes and he needed a breather. It's important to note, however, that those five points made 9 he allowed all night. Kidd got two in transition over him early on and Kidd hit about a 20-foot jumper over him in the first as well. That's it. Prior to the horrendous start to the fourth, he had 4 assists and 1 turnover in 22 minutes of work. Keep those numbers in mind.
The guy who replaced Jrue at the point scored a season-high 23 points on 8/16 shooting, he also grabbed 8 rebounds which is insanely out of character, and didn't turn the ball over once. Those are very impressive numbers. Now consider that Willie also played the most minutes of anyone on the team (38), and in those 28 minutes he didn't hand out a single assist. Not only did he not create for anyone else on the team, his defense was porous at best. By my count he allowed at least 25 points simply by being beat by his man or losing him on rotations. That doesn't include the 4 shooting fouls he committed, which led to 8 made free throws (one of those fouls and two of the made free throws were complete BS on a Dirk flop). Point being, this was probably the absolute best you can ever hope to expect from Willie if you give him 38 minutes and he was still a net negative of at least 8 points when you factor in his defense. Just imagine what that number is like in a game where he plays more like himself.
If Allen Iverson isn't signed by the time the Sixers take the floor on Wednesday night, I expect Willie to replace Jrue in the starting lineup at the point.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Elton Brand's game. 21 points, 10 boards in 25 minutes of work on 8/12 shooting. Eddie Jordan was the only one who could stop him, by first removing him from the starting lineup (Yay small ball), and then limiting his minutes to 25. For the record, if he was really bringing Brand off the bench to keep his minutes down, he could've done that from the starting lineup as evidenced by how he used Jrue against San Antonio and how he used Brand for about 8 games earlier in the season. It's too bad Jordan hates Brand's guts, or he might actually be the centerpiece of a productive half-court offense.
Iguodala continues to press and make questionable decisions in transition, but again he showed up for the run in the fourth (5 points, 2 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals in the quarter), including hitting the game-tying three, and possibly hitting the game winner, but we'll never know.
Thad came on strong after a slow start, Kapono and Carney couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (0/5), 16 minutes is 15 too many for Ivey (1/5 FGA), Jason Smith did his best Primoz Brezec impersonation, batting rebounds out of bounds like it's nobody's business.
At the end of the day, it was another gut wrenching loss. Probably not lost by Jordan, but again, the team didn't defend, which is obviously not only his trademark, but his preferred method of play.
Player of The Game: Dalembert
Team Record: 5-13
Potentially Game-Killing Substitution of the Night: After starting the third quarter on a 17-9 run, Jordan yanked Jrue with 5:56 to go in the third in favor of Royal Ivey. The teams swapped baskets for the remainder of the quarter, basically all momentum was killed. A+ for you, coach!
Up Next: @ Charlotte on Wednesday night
If you're keeping score at home, all members of the Atlantic Division who don't play in the most racist arena in the world have now dropped an astounding 32 games in a row and the Sixers are 1-9 in their last 10 games.