The Sixers followed up probably their best two quarters of basketball with twelve minutes more minutes of top-notch defense only to see their bench warmers limp to the finish in tonight's 17-point win over the Bobcats. (
Here's your rotation chart. The starters kicked it off, the scrubs completely let down in the fourth:
I don't want to spend much time on individual performances tonight, I'll save that for the POTG section below. Instead, let's talk about three things. How they built the lead, how they finished the game and what it all means heading into the second half of the back-to-back against the Pistons.
The first part is fun to talk about. The Sixers were simply at their best on both ends of the floor in the first half. They swarmed on defense, got out in transition, crashed the boards, and attacked the rim on the offensive end. Lou and Jrue got in the paint whenever they wanted and finished. Lavoy Allen's effort kept numerous possessions alive (even more than the five offensive boards he grabbed, because he got a hand on a couple of boards that were collected by another Sixer). The Bobcats did not look like an NBA team (probably because they really aren't an NBA team), and the Sixers really didn't take their foot off the gas on the defensive end until the fourth quarter began.
In the fourth, things changed quickly when Collins called upon Nocioni, Brackins and Elson to fill out the lineup. The Sixers got lazy, on both ends. They stopped denying penetration, they started fouling and never really stopped. Luckily, the lead was 30 before those guys got a chance to do their damage. The fact that the Sixers had the type of lead where they could essentially sleepwalk through the fourth is worth noting, but when we start talking about the next game, well, it's at least a moderate cause for concern.
We've talked about it before, but it's worth mentioning again. This Sixers team only becomes very good or even great when their energy level is very high. Who knows where the energy comes from, or what fuels it, but when it isn't there, they're very ordinary. Tonight's game was reminiscent of the Washington game on Monday. Build up a huge lead, play dead basketball the rest of the game. There's no way to prove the cause, but it certainly appeared the Sixers carried their effort level directly from the second half of the Wizards game to the first half of the Nets game, and they paid a huge price for it. It happened once this week, I can't begin to tell you how important it is the Sixers don't head into tomorrow night's game believing their headlines.
This is another game against a bad team, a team coming off an overtime loss with no rest and a team the Sixers have already beaten by 23 points this season. It would be way too easy to show up thinking they can win this game by simply going through the motions, like they seemed to against the Nets. Tonight, they had Collins' added, "We don't lose two-in-a-row at home" motivation. That won't be there against the Pistons either. I'm hoping the fourth quarter mess won't carry over to the Pistons' game, but I can't say I'm confident. I think it's important that even the garbage time units maintain the energy, if not the execution, of the starters and the regular bench guys. That didn't even come close to happening tonight.
Player of The Game:
Lou Williams. Lou led the team in scoring with 17 points on 12 shots, but he did more than that. His penetration was unstoppable all night, and he was making very good decisions with the ball. This was most definitely Good Lou, and when he's on like this, he can carry the offense. Jrue had the edge at the half, but cooled in the third quarter (he barely played in the fourth). Jrue finished with 15 points on 14 shots (and 2 FTs) to go along with 4 boards, 3 assists and 4 steals, but he coughed the ball up three times. Doug Collins seemed to be making a point with Jrue tonight. In the first half, he had a quick hook when Jrue didn't get the team into a set quickly enough. In the third quarter, he did the same, yanking Jrue after only 3:36 when he committed his second turnover of the game. Then Jrue was somewhat out of control early in the fourth, going behind his back in traffic and nearly turning the ball over. He recovered, but Collins immediately went to the bench again. (Jrue's first turnover really should have been an assist, he drove the lane, drew two guys and shoveled a pass to Iguodala, who wasn't expecting it. The ball squirted out of bounds). Overall, I thought Jrue played a pretty good game, especially in the first half. To me, it seemed pretty clear Collins was sending a message, and maybe he should at this point, it was just jarring to see. Lavoy Allen was also in the running for POTG based on his offensive rebounding. I couldn't, in good conscience, give it to anyone who played a major part in the fourth quarter collapse, though. I will say this, both Allen and Vucevic have already contributed more than I thought this entire season.
vs. DET, Saturday night
It's a weekend back-to-back, so expect a game thread/preview all rolled into one some time in the early afternoon.