If you want to sum up last night's win in two words, I'd go with defensive effort. The bench was outstanding, there were some eye-opening individual performances, but the Sixers won this game because they got a superb effort on the defensive end from just about everyone who stepped on the floor. Oh, and Scott Skiles might have had something to do with it as well.
In the preview, I spoke at length about Andrew Bogut's massive mismatch against pretty much every front court player on the Sixers roster. Well, it never materialized. The Sixers used a ton of their 1-2-2 zone to blanket Bogut and Scott Skiles' brilliant offensive mind couldn't figure out a way to get a shot within 16 feet against it. By my count, they went to Bogut in the post twice the entire game. (The Bucks shot 11 for 41 from beyond 16 feet, including 0/12 from three).
The Sixers offense was downright pedestrian, but that was to be expected against the league's number two defense coming into the game. They got a ton of points in transition early to build their lead, then relied on the defense to hold on late. Milwaukee made one run late in the game, but they clearly didn't have enough time to score the needed points with their pitiful offense.
If you look at the numbers, the Sixers didn't force a whole lot of turnovers (14), they didn't do a particularly good job on the defensive glass (71.7%), they fouled a whole lot (30 fouls, 31 FTA for MIL), but they did make the Bucks take terrible shots for whatever reason. The Bucks wound up shooting a pathetic 33.8% from the floor.
Jrue did a good job on Brandon Jennings (3/13 for 12 points), Turner played some excellent D on Salmons (3/9). Only Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette had any success at all on the offensive end for Milwaukee. Gooden hit a bunch of long twos (which is exactly what you want if you write up a defensive game plan) and Maggette went to the line an ungodly amount (10/11 from the stripe). Getting to the line is Maggette's game, and it's really the only thing Milwaukee wanted to do and succeeded at.
The two stars of the game on the offensive end were Lou and Thad. Lou was much more "Good Lou" than "Bad Lou," scoring 19 on 13 shots and 6 FTA. Thad was unbelievable, and would've been perfect had he not attempted a single jumper. Thad was 8/8 inside of 10 feet, 0/5 outside of 10 feet for an 8/13 total. He also got to the line 8 times (hitting 7). 23 points total for the kid.
As a team, the Sixers didn't settle for many long twos (17 long twos, 18 attempts at the rim), they got to the line and they took fairly good care of the ball. Their raw offensive production was paltry (101.52 offensive efficiency rating), but that was actually better than Milwaukee has allowed on the season, so it's not as bad as it looks. The starters as a group were pretty inefficient, led by Jrue who needed 12 shots and 2 FTA to score 10 points. Jrue did fill up the stat sheet with 6 boards and 5 assists, but he turned the ball over four times as well. Not a good ratio at all.
The thing I don't understand about the Sixers offense is why - when Andre Iguodala is out especially - does Evan Turner only get 6 shots in nearly 30 minutes of work? They ran a couple of plays for Turner in the post, but not nearly enough IMO. He was actually hitting his shots last night, but they rarely used him as anything more than a decoy on the offensive end. He did have 6 assists, but I want to see him utilized more in the offense. Spencer Hawes had his best game of the season, and I'll just leave it at that unless some Hawes apologists come out of the woodwork.
The effort was there tonight, good enough to pick of their third win of the season. Would it have been good enough against anything but a pitiful offensive team with a coach who seems to be on the verge of losing his roster? Who knows, let's just take the win and hope the team can build on it.
Player of The Game: Thad. Not only did he score 23 super-efficient points, but he was also hustling all over the floor and pushing people around. 6 boards in 39 minutes is nothing to write home about, but he also had three assists and a handful of hustle plays that swung momentum. Great work by Thad.
Team Record: 3-10
Up Next: @ WAS on Tuesday night
Two more somewhat related notes:
- Speights has completely lost his shot, but he had a monster game with 10 boards off the bench and a couple charges drawn in only 17 minutes. You'd have to think Collins will reward that type of effort.
- By my count there were 14 offensive fouls called in this game, just a ridiculous amount. I've never seen anything like it.