This team has been riddled with problems from the start. There were psychological problems, philosophical problems and physical problems. Now that we're 22 games in, some of those things are beginning to work themselves out.
Tonight, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala both took long strides toward regaining their form from the second half last year while philosophically, I think the team took a giant leap backwards.
After the jump we'll talk about Mo's new lineup, EB's disappointing showing, Iggy's monster first half, Lou's killer fourth and the 12 and a half minutes that cost the Sixers the game.
Let's start with the horrendous and work our way back to the somewhat positives. I had an extremely bad feeling about this game as soon as I saw the starting lineup. Mo's panic button move, inserting Willie Green into the starting lineup for Thad Young, is a horrible idea. I understand the logic, a little bit, Thad has been struggling a little bit, Iguodala may feel more comfortable at the three. It was still a horrible move for a couple of reasons.
First, no team with Willie Green in its starting lineup is a legit playoff team. It's as simple as that. Willie got off to a hot start this year in his role off the bench, but he's been ice cold for weeks. The problems Andre Iguodala has had at the two are strictly limited to his ability to shoot from the outside. Willie Green is no better and beyond that, he does not contribute in any other area of the game. If Iggy is your starting shooting guard he's going to give you defense, rebounding and assists even if his shot isn't falling. With Green if he isn't hot he's killing you on both ends of the floor.
This seems like a desperate move to get back to what the Sixers did last year, and while it's a noble intention, this is not the way to do it. I'm disappointed in Mo, and I think this move, if he insists on repeating it, will ultimately lead to his firing.
Since wer're on the subject of horrible coaching, let's talk about the two stretches of time in which the game was lost. The opening 6:31 of the second quarter and the opening 5:59 of the third quarter. During those two stretches the Sixers were outscored 30-5. It's not hard to figure out why, in both cases.
Mo went with a lineup of Lou, Ivey, Thad, Donyell and Theo to start the second quarter. I thought he'd learned his lesson earlier in the season, but apparently not. This team's offense isn't exactly electric when he has the Andres and Brand on the floor, but when they are all on the bench it's positively putrid. This has been true since the opening tip of the opening game and it's still true now. Mo's insistence on sending out lineups like this at the beginning of the second has killed momentum in nearly every game he's done it. This game woudl've gotten out of hand early if not for Iguodala's miracle finish to the second.
In the third, the blame needs to fall on Elton Brand's shoulders, and indirectly on Mo again. In the first half, the Sixers ran one successful play for EB, that's it. They got him the ball on the low block with Ben Wallace on him, he moved Wallace back a little bit, then hit a lefty baby hook. It was a simple move, and not one I think Wallace could've stopped. They never ran that play for him again. They never even attempted to get him the ball on the low blocks again.
Instead, Mo insisted on running the exact same pick and roll, or pick and pop play at the top of the key for the entire third quarter. The Cavs did an excellent job of defending it, mainly because the guards weren't capable of knocking down an open shot to save their lives, but Mo insisted on calling it. The few times that they actually got the ball to Brand, he coughed it up. It was a terrible stretch for Brand, who blew a couple of shots, travelled, dribbled the ball off his foot and handed one to Ben Wallace. It was almost comical watching the Sixers run the exact same play over and over again and getting absolutely no results from it. By my math, the Sixers opened the third quarter 0/10 from the floor and 3/6 from the line. It's really a shame too because they ended the first half with all the momentum.
EB was showered with boos when he came out of the game in the third and again when he returned in the fourth. Not a good sign. He looked like he's still hurt, or maybe getting back into the swing of things very slowly. He better have a miracle recovery tomorrow, because they face this same team in Cleveland on Friday.
Now, for the good. This was, by far, the best game Andre Iguodala has played all year. He played very good D on LeBron, as good as you can expect anyone to play. He was hitting his jumper, taking smart jumpers and going to the hole with authority. The main thing about his drives is that he was looking to finish, rather than draw fouls. That's a huge factor for him. His final line, 11/16 from the floor, 1/2 from three, 4/4 from the line, 9 boards, 5 assists, 1 steal and only 2 turnovers, wasn't deceiving. He played an excellent all around game. His disappearance in the second half was due in part to Mo's shoddy play calling and also the fact that Cleveland starting sending doubles at him. He did a good job of finding the open man on those doubles, but the recipients of his passes rarely converted.
Finally, let's give a nod to Lou. He scored 11 of his 22 in the fourth quarter and really sparked their running game with some tough finishes in the lane. He wasn't forcing his offense, and he kept his turnovers down. He's beginning to resemble the Lou from the end of last season, which is a very good thing for this team.
So, to sum things up, we've got Iguodala and Lou rounding into shape, meanwhile EB is hurting (physically, and hurting the team) while Mo's desperate moves are taking this team down a dark path. It sucks when the bad outweighs the good, and that's definitely where we are right now.
Here's my prediction. If the Sixers don't go 3-2 over the next 5 games (Cleveland, 2 against Washington, Milwaukee and Indiana), Mo won't be around to coach the game at Boston on December 23rd.
Player of The Game: Andre Iguodala
Team Record: 9-13
Up Next: @ Cleveland, Friday night.