The effort was better tonight. The results were the same, but the effort was better. I'd say about 80% of where it needs to be, which is much better than the 30% we saw against Utah. Forget about everything we've seen throughout the first 9 games, look at this game in a bubble and it's really not that much of a kick in the stomach.
The Bulls were well-rested and playing on their home floor. The Sixers were playing the back end of a back-to-back, and their fifth game in seven days. The odds weren't in their favor going in. Even if they were playing their best ball coming in, coming out strong and fading in the second half would be the likely conclusion.
So it's a loss, it's disheartening, recurring problems were still there (dribble penetration, at times. Open shooters throughout. Too much Willie, etc.) but overall, they performed about as well as could be reasonably expected. Here's a look at the rotations:
Let's get the Eddie Jordan complaints out of the way. In the first half, Willie should've been yanked almost immediately. He was a negative on offense (missing open men to brick three jumpers, and missing a gimme at the rim), on defense, Hinrich was abusing him. The game turned when Willie was the first guard off the bench, Jordan stuck with him for over 10 minutes and watched a 10-point lead turn into a three-point deficit. Personally, I would've liked to have seen him go to Jrue, but Carney at the two and Iguodala at the point or even Ivey for a brief run would've been a better decision.
The small lineup continues to disappoint. The 34 points the team scored in the 15 minutes they used the small lineup is enticing, but the 37 they allowed is downright dreadful. And this was a good night for them.
Down by 6 with 33 seconds to go, needing a three, Jordan doesn't put the team's only legitimate three-point threat into the game. Instead, he draws up a play that nearly results in a five-second violation, then gets Rodney Carney a contested look from 5 feet behind the three-point line. He doesn't even draw iron with the shot.
Again, Elton Brand got was given his run with the starters after the half, then disappeared for the rest of the game. On one hand, I thought this was the best Brand has looked all season long. He was active on both ends, hitting the short jumpers he had been missing, kicking the ball out of the post when the situation called for it and aggressively trying to back down smaller players. On the other hand, he scored 11 points on 11 shots. That's not very efficient. In this game, it was pretty much on par with the team's performance (88 points on 81 FGA). The more I see of Brand, however, the more I'm convinced that he's knocking the rust of being inactive for basically two solid years. The touch is coming back on his short jumpers, the quickness and strength is coming back in his post moves. He may never be what he once was, but he's going to be a productive player. He just needs the minutes.
This is important for a couple of reasons. Number one, the Sixers need him to be effective, and on the floor, if they're going to have any chance. Second, even if EB does come back to be a productive player, it may not be enough for this team. If that's the case, they need him to prove he can produce or it's going to be virtually impossible to even get 50 cents on the dollar if they need to move him.
I would've liked to have seen the ball run through Brand more often. I would've liked to have seen fewer jump shots, more driving to the tin. I would've liked to have seen more movement on offense. In fact, right now the Princeton offense the Sixers are running goes something like this.
- Bring ball over mid-court
- Dribble handoff from PG to SG
- Cursory look into the post, usually to Sam
- Dribble back to the top of the key, dribble handoff to Brand
- Dribble handoff back to the other guard
- Another quick look at the post
- Another dribble handoff
- 10 seconds or less left on the shot clock, guy with the ball tries to create while everyone else stands around on the perimeter
That is not an exaggeration. This happens on at least half of the team's offensive possessions in the half-court offense.
And now, a bit from the comments. We all had one of the keys to the Sixers season as the improvement of Andre Iguodala's jumper. Well, here's a look at how he's shooting from all the different zones on the floor (from nba.com):
As you can see, he's shooting the two-point jumper extremely well. The threes, well, they leave something to be desired. This doesn't include tonight's game. (He was 3/6 from range tonight, one was a tough, contested shot at the end of the game from about 5 feet behind the line. Another was a half-court heave that he nailed at the end of the first quarter).
That's all I have for tonight. The Sixers have three off days before they play an extremely winnable game against the Bobcats. Three days to rest weary bones and figure out how to right the ship. I've got plenty planned to get us through the off days, so stay tuned.
Player of The Game: Iguodala. He's doing way too much at this point (more on this later).
Team Record: 4-6
Up Next: Charlotte, on Wednesday.