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Bucking Every Trend

You could look at this win as temporary stay of execution for Eddie Jordan, which is undoubtedly a horrible thing for the franchise. You could look at it as 48 minutes of possible development/evaluation down the tubes (10 minutes for Jrue, 19 minutes for Thad). I'm going to choose to look at it as a glimpse of what this team is capable of, once Eddie Jordan is gone.
The math here is very, very simple.

Big Lineup
  • 29 minutes, 57 seconds
  • 69 points scored
  • 52 points allowed
Small Lineup
  • 18 minutes, 3 seconds
  • 35 points scored
  • 41 points allowed
Brand and Dalembert were on the floor for 8:24 seconds together. In that time the Sixers out-scored the Blazers 25-13.

Part of this win can be chalked up to questionable decisions by the Blazers on the offensive end. LaMarcus Aldridge spent the entire night with either Sam Dalembert or Elton Brand guarding him. Brandon Roy had Andre Iguodala draped all over him, with rare exception. Meanwhile, Andre Miller, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless and Martell Webster had clear mismatches, being guarded by either Allen Iverson or Lou Williams for long stretches. How did Portland decide to divvy up their shots? Aldridge and Roy combined to take 36 of the team's 83 shots with middling results. Andre Miller and Martell Webster only attempted 14 shots despite the astronomical mismatches they enjoyed.

Speaking of Brandon Roy, superdupersuperstar, who had the better game last night, he or Andre Iguodala?

  • 9/20 from the floor, 3/8 from three, 3/7 from the line, 24 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 turnover. Defended either Lou Williams, Royal Ivey or Allen Iverson all night.

  • 6/13 from the floor, 2/4 from three, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers. Defended Brandon Roy all night.

It's only one game, but this is pretty much an ongoing trend when these two teams meet. Iguodala outplays Roy with regularity.

Let's take a closer look at Iguodala's game: of his nine assists, four went for dunks, two for layups, one for a baby jumper and two for longer jumpers. This was a signature Iguodala game, and honestly, it's the type of game he's going to be playing if/when he's the cornerstone of a true contender. He only attempted 13 shots, he picked his spots, didn't force the action with his jumper. Instead, he pressured the defense with drives, drew multiple defenders and found his teammates for easy conversion. He played tough defense, cleaned the glass and most-importantly, took care of the ball. The only thing missing from his game was multiple trips to the foul line (he didn't go at all). These games suddenly become possible when you get efficient scoring from elsewhere on the roster.

I have to admit, Allen Iverson's presence has changed things for the better on the offensive end, and not for the reasons you'd think. It's not that he's an efficient scorer (he was last night, 19 points on only 11 shots, plus a stuffed stat sheet 19/5/4), it's that he plays a smart floor game and his presence means two things. (1) The PO is scrapped for offensive sets that actually make sense with the team's personnel (2) With the PO out the window, Jordan actually plays smarter lineups. Don't get me wrong, smarter teams are going to thoroughly abuse the Sixers on the perimeter whenever Iverson and Lou are in the back court together, but it's no coincidence that we saw more big lineups than small last night in Iverson's first game back.

Iverson makes Brand better (mainly by getting him the ball), he makes Sammy better (by getting him the ball for easy conversion). Take a look at the post I wrote yesterday about how the team/system is failing to get Brand the ball where he needs to succeed. Now look at this breakdown from last night's game on Brand's made field goals:

  • At the rim: 5 makes, 3 assisted (other 2 were offensive rebounds and put-backs)
  • 0-10 feet: 6 makes, 4 assisted
That's it. 11 makes inside of 10 feet, 7 of them were assisted. Elton Brand was a beast last night, he was aggressive and efficient, but he didn't do it on his own. He was able to produce like this because his teammates got him the ball where he needs it. He didn't spend his 30 minutes running around 25 feet from the hoop executing stupid dribble hand-offs. He also didn't have to beat his man off the dribble from 20 feet out. Kind of makes you wonder what he'd do on a nightly basis if he was a starter in a system that actually made sense. Of course, he isn't going to be playing against cupcakes like LaMarcus Aldridge every night, so you can't expect production like this all the time.

On the bad side of the ledger I've got a few entries:

  • 10 minutes for Jrue. Honestly, the movement Iverson sets in motion of smart offense and involving the bigs is carried on by Jrue. He's the only other guard on the roster capable of running the team in this manner, and he did so last night. Until his jumper starts falling, though, he's going to be buried at the back of the rotation. It's a shame.
  • 20 minutes for Thad. This was actually a good move by Jordan. Thad played a horribly passive game, grabbing only one board in his 20 minutes. I would've preferred to see Lou's minutes cut and a bigger back court to facilitate the extra minutes for the overall big lineup, but Thad needs to get it through his head that he needs to bring the aggression on a nightly basis.
Overall, there are a few of things to take away from this road win. The Sixers can absolutely overwhelm teams on the inside with Brand and Speights. They can also at least limit teams on the defensive end, if those teams are willing to completely ignore the gross mismatches presented by the Iverson/Lou back court. We'll see how things shake out over the rest of the trip. Also, even when Brand dominates a game, Eddie Jordan will only mention him as an afterthought in his post game presser. Instead, he'll focus on Allen Iverson and Marreese Speights.

Player of The Game: Elton Brand
Team Record: 8-22
Up Next: @ Sacto, tomorrow night
by Brian on Dec 29 2009
Tags: Basketball | Eddie Jordan | Elton Brand | Sixers |