Leaving the WFC on Thursday night, I actually felt a little bit hopeful about the Sixers. Without the benefit of replays or closeups or expert analysis, I thought Jrue played an excellent game. I thought the Sixers outplayed Miami for long stretches and Elton Brand soundly won his matchup with Bosh. Last night, I had a chance to watch the replay to see if those thoughts held up when I rewatched the game on DVR.
After writing my recap, reading the game thread, then reading the comments on my recap, I was left with a couple of questions. First, how good was Jrue's game? Certain people always seem intent on throwing cold water on anything positive, so I decided to break down Jrue's game by possession. Namely, I wanted to see who was guarding him, who he was guarding, how the team performed when he was on the floor vs. off the floor and his production in each matchup, offensively and defensively. Here's a high-level overview of the matchups.
- Jrue was on the floor for 74 of 84 offensive possessions.
- With Jrue on the floor, the Sixers scored 85 points on 74 possessions. An OFR of 114.86
- With Jrue on the bench, the Sixers scored 9 points on 10 possessions. An OFR of 90.
- Jrue was on the floor for 71 of 83 defensive possessions.
- With Jrue on the floor, the Sixers allowed 84 points on 71 possessions. A DFR of 118..3.
- With Jrue on the bench, the Sixers allowed 16 points on 12 possessions. A DRF of 133.33.
- Overall, the Sixers outscored Miami 85-84 with Jrue on the floor and were outscored 16-9 with him on the bench.
The overall numbers probably shouldn't surprise anyone. It was clear the team struggled with Jrue on the bench on both ends. So let's take a look at Jrue's individual matchups. First, we'll check out Jrue's defense. This is a look at who Jrue was guarding on each possession. For the most part, this is who he started the possession guarding, unless there was an offensive rebound and a reset, in which case, it's who he guarded after the reset.
- Guarding Bibby: 25 possessions. On those possessions, Bibby was 1 for 4 for three points.
- Guarding Chalmers: 6 possessions. On those possessions, Chalmers was 0 for 1 from the floor for zero points.
- James Jones: 6 possessions. On those possessions, Jones was 1 for 1 from the floor for three points.
- LeBron James: 2 possessions. On those possessions, James didn't attempt a shot.
- Dwyane Wade: 33 possessions. On those possessions, Wade was 5/7 from the floor, 5/5 from the line, with 3 turnovers and 15 points.
Jrue really had two bad lapses on the defensive end. The first was the Jones corner three. He was cheating off Jones, I guess putting himself in position to be able to help at the basket in case someone drove to the hoop, but he was just way too far off Jones. He got the ball off LeBron penetration and canned the three. The other lapse came when he was one-on-one with Wade and let Wade blow right by him to the hoop. He got all the way to the basket and got fouled. There was no pick, it was just Jrue getting beat badly.
Bibby, Chalmers, LeBron and Jones pretty much did nothing against Jrue. The Bibby three came when Jrue was helping on LeBron. There was no rotation. Wade definitely did damage against Jrue, but the numbers make the matchup look worse than it was. Two of Wade's hoops came on offensive rebounds and putbacks, and neither was Jrue's fault. On both of those shots, Jrue left Wade and put a body on Joel Anthony who, on both occasions, was about five feet from the hoop while Hawes was nowhere to be found. Jrue had to choose the lesser of two evils and he chose to put a body on the big man. The first shot was an airball which basically fell in Wade's lap. On the second shot, Wade came from the top of the key and took off from about a foot inside the foul line for the follow slam. Both plays were the result of having a stiff at the center position, and no fault of Jrue's. The other two dubious points came with 51 seconds left when Jrue was whistled for a shooting foul on Wade. TNT didn't show a replay of the play because, well, because he's Dwyane Wade and why would they ever question it when he gets fouled, but they showed a replay on the big screen at the WFC and Jrue was literally six inches away from Wade and never even came close to making contact with him on the play. It was a terrible, terrible call and really a crucial call in the game. Wade hit both freebies to push the Heat lead back up to 7. Take away those six points and well, Wade scored an extremely efficient 9 points on 3/5 from the floor, but he was hardly explosive vs. Jrue.
Jrue made a few other spectacular defensive plays that don't show up in the numbers above. One was when he tied Wade up on a strong drive to the hoop, resulting in a jump ball. Another was when he was switched onto LeBron and isolated in the post. He held his ground and forced LeBron into a bad fallaway. His best defensive play probably came in the second quarter. Jrue was on Wade, Miami went with a pick-and-roll with Wade and Bosh. MIA ran it perfectly, with Wade hitting Bosh rolling to the hoop, Jrue trailed Bosh, got the strip from behind and the ball went out of bounds off Bosh's knee.
Now let's take a look at Jrue's offensive night. This time, we're going to look at who was guarding Jrue, and how he faired in each matchup:
- Guarded by Bibby: 35 possessions. 2 for 7 from the floor, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 points.
- Guarded by Wade: 14 possessions. 2 for 3 from the floor, 2 for 4 from the line, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, 8 points.
- Guarded by Chalmers: 4 possessions. 1 assist.
- Guarded by LeBron: 21 possessions. 3 for 3 from the floor, 3 assists, 0 turnovers, 8 points.
Offensively, Jrue scored 16 of his 20 points with either LeBron or Wade on him. He scored those 16 points on 6 shots and 4 free throws. He also handed out 4 assists to zero turnovers. He struggled when Bibby guarded him, committing both of his turnovers and hitting only 2 of his 7 shots. This doesn't mean Bibby is a tough matchup for Jrue, or that Bibby is a better defender than Wade or LeBron. In this case, it means that when Bibby was guarding Jrue, he had plenty of help all night long. He wasn't left on an island with Jrue. Wade and LeBron really were, and Jrue took advantage of those one-on-one matchups, believe it or not. The thing Jrue needs to be able to do to really take over games is to take advantage of the pressure he can put on a defense when he has a mismatch. Miami is keying their defense on him when Bibby is on him, sending extra guys at him. Jrue needs to make quick decisions with the ball to find the open man. The team struggled because Jrue was struggling to exploit the added attention Miami was sending his way, in part. With Bibby guarding Jrue, the Sixers scored 37 points on 35 possessions. With anyone else guarding Jrue, they scored 48 points on 39 possessions. I guess we should hope Miami puts one of their best defenders on Jrue early in game four.
After watching the replay, I actually think Jrue's performance was a bigger deal. He put up the bulk of his numbers with two of the best wing defenders in the league on him, in the biggest pressure situation of his career. His defense was solid for the most part and spectacular at times. He rose to the occasion in a big way. If you need something to feel good about, this is it.
As for the rest of the team, well, Statman pointed out that I might have been unfairly hard on Iguodala, and I suppose I probably was. He spoonfed guys for a bunch of easy hoops with his penetration and dishing. My main problem with the game he played was that his shot selection, and sort of his lack thereof. Yes, he was setting guys up, but he also passed up really good looks on a number of occasions and the team wound up settling for worse shots. On at least one occasion, this was a direct result of the knee injury. Iguodala got the ball out on the break and had a clean angle to the rim. 99 times out of 100, that's a thunderous dunk, but he was a half-step slow, his angle got cut off and he wound up making an awkward dish to Jrue who was in a bad position under the hoop. Jrue got fouled on the play and wound up missing both free throws (his first two misses since March 28th). Two points turned into zero, though you obviously can't blame Iguodala for the missed freebies.
Also, Elton Brand really was a beast in this game. Not only with his exceptional touch from midrange, but his work on the defensive glass was exceptional. Brand grabbed pretty much every tough defensive board the Sixers wound up with (and there weren't many). The only bad thing about Brand's game was that the Sixers didn't recognize how hot he was, and they only got him 15 shots.
Joel Anthony is officially in Thad's head. I think they're going to have to get creative to free Thad. I'd try to use him in the pick and roll with Jrue, see if you can't get Thad switched onto a smaller guy or even get him the ball in space. It might even be a good idea to get Thad in there earlier than usual, see if they can get him some minutes against the Bosh/Ilgauskus front court before Spoelstra calls on Anthony.
Finally, it was great to see flashes of the real Lou Williams. He seemed more explosive, especially on the layup at the end of the third when he blew right by LeBron and got the Sixers a two-for-one. The lowlight of the night for Lou was going 1/3 from the line when he got Chalmers to bite on the pump fake from three. They really needed all three of those.
We've got another day to suffer through, then probably one last game. In the mean time, how 'bout them Knicks?