Part of me wishes I could be a fly on the wall in the Sixers team bus right now. Part of me is deathly afraid I'd have a massive coronary if I saw anyone celebrating. This was not a win to be cherished. This was another in what is a growing long line of piss poor performances.
Let's get the rotations out of the way, see if you can read this chart without laughing:
If I didn't know better, I'd think Eddie Jordan was coaching this game to keep it close. Keep those 10,714 people in attendance glued to their seats. You know, put on a show. Let's just look at the second half for a second. Jordan trots out the starting lineup, they play even with the Nets for the first 5:29 of the third quarter. Then he brings in his big off the bench, Marreese Speights and they actually extend the lead a little bit. The Sixers have built a 5-point lead by this point, and they may just be on the verge of pulling away. So how does a coach respond to this? Why, he completely abandons what's been working. IT'S TIME TO GO SMALL!!!!
It's understandable, I mean, it's not like this team has been out-scored 260 to 209 in the 105 minutes in which they've gone small this season. Who needs things like interior defense and defensive rebounding when you can put five guys who aren't afraid to shoot 20-foot jumpers at less than 45% on the floor at one time!
As fate would have it, the magical small lineups just didn't get the job done tonight. I mean, right from the get-go they coughed up the lead and then they were trailing the powerful New Jersey Nets. Obviously, this is the time to go even smaller! See, the small lineup needs some time to really get things going on the offensive end. So how about we go small for the next 11 minutes. Almost 25% of the game! Surely that's enough burn to get those mid-range jumpers to fall, and hey trading baskets and playing no defense is exciting basketball, right?
Shockingly, by the time Jordan begrudgingly put two bigs back in the game, the Sixers were trailing by 3 with less than 5 minutes to go. The big lineup (which, incidentally has out-scored opponents 701-667 on the season) somehow managed to play boring basketball over the final 4:56. I mean, they only scored 10 points while allowing 4. Who wants to watch that kind of basketball? The Sixers pulled out the win, despite the uncharacteristic poor performance of the beloved small lineups.
Seriously, though. One man, and I do mean a man, on that Sixers bus deserves a serious pat on the back tonight. Marreese Speights was an absolute beast tonight and without him, the Sixers probably lose this game by double digits. I couldn't be more impressed with Speights' effort on both ends of the floor. He's making up for poor defensive skills with unbelievable hustle. On the offensive end, he's the complete package. Inside, outside, above the rim, off the glass. He carries this team for long stretches, and he had to tonight when he was surrounded by a bunch of jumper-happy smalls.
Two things about Jordan's rotations and philosophy that are really disturbing to my eye.
- He apparently thinks Brand is either (a) done or (b) not a good fit for this offense. Maybe both are true, maybe neither is, but we're never going to find out if he keeps going down this road. Brand played 17 minutes in the first half, the Sixers out-scored the Nets 29-28 in those minutes. He started the third, and the starting unit played them even. Then Jordan went to his bench, went small, and the wheels fell off. How exactly could Brand have possibly made any of what was happening on the floor worse? Even if Brand was nothing more than a decoy on offense, don't you think he might've been able to prevent at least one of the six offensive rebounds the Nets grabbed in the 11 minute stretch?
- Jrue's stellar performance against the Suns buys him exactly 4 minutes of rope in the next game. I'm predicting 2 DNPCD's in the upcoming back-to-back.
I also wasn't aware the Princeton offense has no answer to a zone defense. I hope the other 28 teams don't figure that out. 5/20 from three, just spectacular. If curious as to whom Jrue's minutes were given in the second half, the answer is Royal Ivey. Ivey turned in a spectacular shutout in the box score. 8 minutes, 0 points/rebounds/assists/steals/fouls/turnovers. He did almost apply pressure to the ball one time, however, which is more than I can say for Lou Williams and Willie Green. Lou's turnstile defense is pretty much the root cause for all the defensive problems the team is suffering through. Well, Lou's inability to keep anyone out of the lane coupled with the insane "everyone's a helper!" defensive philosophy. If only we had a guard who not only wanted to defend, but was actually capable. If only...
Anyway, this is probably the most bile I've had to swallow after a win since I started this blog, and honestly, I'm nearing the low point. Eddie Jordan's grace period is slowly slipping away, each game is eroding my patience. If the Sixers are running the Princeton offense, I can't really tell, other than the fancy dribble-handoffs 40 feet from the hoop that are inevitably a precursor to a low percentage jumper from a poor-to-middling shooter. Here's a question for you, when was the last time the Sixers connected on a backdoor pass that actually resulted in a hoop? The last one that comes to mind was on a pass thrown by Andre Miller.
I'm going to cut this short now and try to get my mind off basketball for a couple of hours. Usually, I keep a pretty level head and even trend toward optimism where this team is concerned, tonight I just don't have it in me.
Player of The Game: Speights
Team Record: 4-4
Looking Forward To The Next Game On Their Schedule: Utah, on Friday night at the Wach.
Logically, I know we're only 8 games in and it's way too early to make any judgments, but I just don't like it when it seems like coaches make moves on a whim. And how long is it going to take for our defense to adjust to this new system?