The morning after a devastating loss either brings hope for a new day, or constant nagging second thoughts about everything you had hoped would be true. This morning brought nothing but the latter to this fan. Advanced stats etc. from Game 1 after the jump.
Here's our handy new advanced stat tracker, enjoy, but don't look too closely at the defensive numbers.
Let's take a step back and think about what happened last night. I came up with a list of things that truly concern me after game 1:
- Offense over defense: In our conference call with Eddie Jordan shortly after he was hired I asked him if he'd base playing time on offensive performance over defense. He hemmed and hawed and didn't really answer. My concern is that Speights' offensive explosion last night will be looked at through that filter only, and not through the filter of a -12 in +/-. Speights wasn't the only guy to blame on defense, and as I said before, the effort was there. Jordan didn't overtly do anything out of order at the C position (other than sitting Sammy with 2 fouls for all but 1 minute of the second quarter), but Speights is not ready to be the full-time center on this team, mainly because the Sixers don't have enough overall offensive talent to allow teams to score in triple digits regularly and be a winning team.
- Center of the offense: Even when the team was playing well, in the first 12 minutes, far too much of the offense was dependent on Sammy. I'm all for giving him token touches, but he shouldn't be handling the ball more than Elton Brand, I don't care how gimpy Elton Brand is. Sammy attempted 8 shots in 15 minutes of work. Brand attempted 7 in 25. That's out of whack.
- Brand on offense: The aggression was there on offense early, but was the lift? I don't know. I didn't see enough of him to make an honest appraisal, but I'm still not feeling comfortable about what I've seen. The team should've gone to him on the blocks with Ryan Anderson checking him, and they should've punished Orlando for using Howard to double 10-15 feet away from the hoop. They did neither.
- Brand on defense: Ryan Anderson was 4/7 from three and I don't think he even had a hand in his face for any of the 7 attempts. Brand's interior defense was fundamentally sound, and made an impact, but he was loathe to follow his man outside the lane. This will be an issue against any team with a four who can extend to three-point range (a trend in the league these days). Brand needs to be able to defend inside and out on players like Anderson (and Rashard Lewis) especially.
- Defensive philosophy: I've now watched 48 minutes of regular season basketball, 96 minutes of preseason hoops in person and I still have no idea what their defensive philosophy is. More importantly, I don't see how it's changed to correct the flaws from last season, namely three-point defense. The Magic are the best 3pt team in the league, and last night they were especially hot (55.2% on 29 attempts), you don't expect a team to hit that high of a percentage even if every attempt is wide open. The problem isn't the result so much as the anecdotal evidence. For most of those shots they were wide open. Help and doubling came from the wrong people, at the wrong times and the rotations were slow, sloppy or nonexistent. Randy Ayers is supposed to be a defensive guru, he has the personnel, so what's the problem?
- Rotations, rotations, rotations: The Sixers' depth is questionable. Even if it was a little more clear exactly how the bench players will produce, I still don't want to see five of them on the floor at the same time in a close game. One of Andre Iguodala, Thad Young or Elton Brand must be on the floor at all times. No exceptions until someone really steps up from the bench or one of these three proves he can't handle the responsibility.
- Slow down Iguodala: He started last season in the same frenetic way. Trying to do too much, not letting the game come to him. He's going to be fine. He's going to be more than fine in this role, we just need him to settle down and play his game. We aren't going to win many games with him shooting 3/11 from the floor and making poor decisions with the ball.
- Go small: Coming into the season I was worried Jordan would rely on a small lineup too much (with Brand at the 5). Last night, he used it for a total of two-and-a-half minutes. That's unacceptable, especially considering what was happening in the flow of the game. With Anderson torching the Sixers from the outside, he should've found a way to get Thad to the 4 to stick with him. He could've used Kapono or Carney as the extra "small" and been much better prepared to rotate on the perimeter. Perhaps he didn't want to stick Brand on Howard, but Howard only played 28 minutes, there was ample opportunity to at least try this out. Orlando doesn't have much size at the four, the small lineup could've matched up well.
- Kapono shoots, that's all he does: Granted, the game was out of hand anyway, but in the fourth quarter on at least three occasions, the Sixers got out on the break with Jason Kapono trailing the play. Each time, they drove the ball into the lane (the correct move). Each time, Jason Kapono found his way to the three-point line, wide open (the correct move). Each time, Orlando packed the lane with every available defender (the correct move). Each time, the Sixer controlling the ball tried to score one-on-two or one-on-three at the rim (the incorrect move). When Kapono is in the game and you get the ball on the break, he should be your number two option. Number one is an uncontested dunk, number two is Kapono for an open three.
- The big three: In Washington, Jordan was able to spread the shots out between his three most-productive players. For the Sixers, that should be Iguodala, Thad and Brand (until further notice on Brand). I didn't see enough of a effort to work the ball to those guys in the offense. This was the first game, and I seriously question how much of the offense has been properly installed, so you can't kill Jordan yet. But this is definitely something I'm going to keep an eye on.
That about covers it. Leave your thoughts and concerns in the comments.