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Defense Keys Win, To Jordan's Chagrin

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The Sixers made it 6 wins in 10 games last night against the Sacramento Kings, and the formula wasn't all that complicated. After the jump, we'll take a look at the rotations, the contributions, the trends and the quotes of a destructive head coach.

There's one thing that's been responsible for the Sixers recent success (6-4 in their last ten games), defense. The problem is, our coach either doesn't realize that or he's so wrapped up in his precious offensive system that he simply can't see it. Here's a quote after last night's game from Martin Frank's blog:

"We've just been working on it (defense). We spend a lot of time on it, and maybe that's why our offense is suffering a little bit ... I don't like our offense to struggle like it's been doing somewhat. But the defense was imperative that we improve."

I read that as Eddie Jordan saying, "Hey, my boss told me we had to get better on defense, so that's what I'm doing. Just wait 'til I get my ball back, then we'll go right back to the way we were doing things." You can read it however you choose.

Anyway, here's your rotation chart. You already know what pisses me off about it:

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The Sixers played two stretches of really great basketball in this game. From about the 3:22 point in the first quarter to the 6:50 point in the second. And then from 10:06 to go in the fourth until the end of the game. Over that 18 minutes and 32 seconds of game action, they allowed 22 points and scored 40. What's the common denominator? The lineups. For all 18 of those minutes, the Sixers played big. They had two bigs in the game, and at least one guard who was capable of defending a paper bag.

In the first half, Jrue was absolutely stifling the Kings guards and he was running the hell out of the offense. In the fourth quarter, Andre Iguodala took over on Tyreke Evans, and I do mean took over. These big lineups were keying the offense by getting stops, creating turnovers and getting the team into the open floor.

If reading that last paragraph gave you a sense of deja vu, it's because this is what we've been talking about forever. This is the potential of this team. This is the direction they need to be moving in. This is how they can compete, I believe, in the long run. If only everyone would buy in. And by everyone, I obviously mean Eddie Jordan.

Jrue had a bigger impact than anyone on the first half of the game, on either team, and he didn't take his warmups off in the second. If you think back to a post I wrote not too long ago, moves like this are what worry me most about Jordan's tenure as the Sixers HC. What kind of message does it send to the kid if playing exceptional defense and running the team on the offensive end earns you nothing but splinters?

I don't know what possessed Jordan to go big for the entire fourth quarter, but when the game is over he spends time lamenting how his precious offense is being hurt by this silly focus on defense (Which is crap, by the way. The Sixers were better than their season average on offense last night, and they've been better than their season average in 7 of the past 10 games).

Anyway, I've had enough of this coach. Let's get to the players. I'm going to start with Andre Iguodala, our "non-leader" who had to leave the game with a sprained ankle in the first quarter. Went to the locker room, got his ankle x-rayed, re-taped and came back on the floor 7:10 off game time later. He wouldn't sit again. In 41 minutes, Iguodala scored 12 points (on bad shooting), grabbed 10 boards, handed out 7 assists, to go along with 3 steals and two blocks against only 2 turnovers. He also manhandled whoever he was guarding on the defensive end all night long, even on a gimpy wheel. Forget about the injury for a second and look at the production. This is the invaluable thing about Andre Iguodala. Even on a bad shooting night, he's still the best player on the floor, affecting the game in every facet.

Sam was a beast, yet again. 7/7 from the floor for 17 points, 12 boards and 3 blocks in only 28 minutes. Brand only needed 8 shots to get his 14 points and while the defensive rebounding numbers were mediocre (4 in 30 minutes), he was the guy who was stifling the Kings on traps out on the perimeter. He finished the game with 4 steals and a block. Thad broke out of his shooting slump with a 9/14 effort for his 20 points. His rebounding was pitiful, but he played more of his minutes at the three. He did block a pair of shots.

Lou played a horrible, horrible offensive game in just about every facet, but the effort was there on the defensive end. Iverson was steady, as usual, 17 points on 14 shots and 6 assists to 2 turnovers. Maybe too many minutes, but he was a plus when he was on the floor.

Big picture, this game was decided by the defense of the Sixers' big lineups. How many of the 26 losses would've gone the other way if Jordan had used the big lineups more? No way to tell. In fact, I'm not even convinced he's learned his lesson yet. I mean, look at the Knicks game, or any of the four they've lost in this ten-game stretch. How often did he use the right rotations in those games?

One final note, Sacramento did indeed use a zone defense late in the game. The Sixers beat it by hitting a couple of threes, and using their own defense to key transition buckets. The first part can't be counted on, but the second part can.

Player of The Game: Dalembert. He's the anchor and really playing like an All Star right now.
Team Record: 13-26
Up Next: @ Minny on Monday afternoon.
by Brian on Jan 16 2010
Tags: Andre Iguodala | Basketball | Jrue Holiday | Sixers | Winnner |