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Have We Hit Bottom Yet?

The losses just keep on coming, and each one seems worse than the last. Tonight's loss featured some of the worst defense you'll ever see. Some of the worst lineups the Sixers have ever trotted out there. A coach who has gone beyond losing his roster, he's alienated and weakened them as individuals and after the jump I'm going to blow off some steam. Make sure you check out the slideshow I put together to illustrate exactly how deplorable this defense has become.

Let me set the stage for you. After leading by seven points to start the fourth quarter, the Wizards went on a 24-11 run in the first 7:59 of the fourth quarter. With 4:01 remaining and the Sixers trailing 90-96, Eddie Jordan made a defensive sub, putting Samuel Dalembert in the game for Marreese Speights. He stuck with the back court of Willie Green and Lou Williams. A minute-and-a-half later, with the score 92-96, Dalembert blocked a shot, handed the ball to Andre Iguodala who started up the floor. He attempted a 40-foot alley-oop pass to Lou Williams which was way too hard and way too high. Earl Boykins collected the loose ball, pushed it up the court, then set up a play with the ball in his hands. Click here or on the thumbnail below to see what happened on that play. It should tell you all you need to know about the Sixers defensive fundamentals and the priorities Eddie Jordan's system has set.
defensivebreakdown1222093.gif Elton Brand is the only player who did the proper thing on that play, he shifted to the outside of the screen, putting himself in position to hedge and or trap Boykins when he came off it.

The first breakdown came when Lou Williams, you had Lou Williams giving Boykins way too much space in front of the screen set by Jamison way out on the floor, essentially, Lou shied away from the contact (maybe because he's soft. Maybe because he shouldn't be playing yet because he broke his jaw less than a month ago, maybe because he doesn't have a clue, maybe because his coach doesn't care about defense, maybe about all of the above). Lou's lack of pressure opened up a clear lane for Boykins prior to the screen, he drove right through it.

The second breakdown came from Sam Dalembert, who was more concerned with giving an elbow to Arenas who was streaking through the lane at old-man speed. For some reason, Sammy kept watching Arenas even after he cycled out of the lane.

The third breakdown came from Willie Green, who failed to fight through the traffic in the lane (and there really wasn't much to fight through), instead deciding to stand four feet in front of the rim and watch Arenas on the baseline.

The fourth breakdown was Andre Iguodala who left his man on the weak side of the floor and further flooded the lane. You have to give Igudoala a modicum of credit because at least he was watching the ball, but honestly there's no defensive system in the world where a shooting guard on the weak side of the floor should be responsible for protecting the rim in that situation.

So, as the last lane shows you, Iguodala was the only one in the general vicinity who had any idea that Lou had been completely torched off the dribble, but he couldn't get in a position to do anything about it because not only was Dalembert standing under the rim watching Arenas, Willie Green was doing the exact same thing right next to him. Both guys with their backs completely turned to the play. They blocked Iguodala from cutting off the driving lane, Boykins went right to the tin uncontested and pushed the Wizards lead back up to six.

This isn't the only boneheaded thing the Sixers did, here's a short list of the highlights:

  • After making offense/defense switches on several possessions (Dalembert for defense, Speights for offense), Jordan completely abandons the idea with 45 seconds remaining. Dalembert grabs a rebound off a Gilbert Arenas miss, the Sixers trailing 101-98. Instead of calling a timeout and getting Brand back in for Dalembert (Speights couldn't be subbed out because he was shooting a free throw on the prior offensive possession), he has the Sixers push the ball up the floor against a set defense.
  • On that possession, Andre Iguodala dribbles the ball down the court and launches a contested long two (foot on the line), clanging it. Terrible shot in that situation, with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.
  • The Wizards secure the rebound, with 34 seconds remaining and the Sixers still down by three, Eddie Jordan instructs Willie Green to foul Caron Butler intentionally.
  • Butler hits both free throws and Jordan again decides against making the offense for defense substitution to get Brand back in the game.

Apparently these idiotic coaching decisions have finally pushed Elton Brand to the breaking point. Check out this post from Martin Frank. My favorite portion:

Without naming anyone, it was clear that Brand was referring to Marreese Speights when he said: "Certain guys didn't box out, didn't rebound. Certain guys had a longer leash than others. They played longer and the mistakes showed."

Unless he was talking about himself, which is doubtful after Brand scored 18 points with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks, Speights was on the court for the first 8 minutes before Jordan replaced him with Samuel Dalembert. Jordan said afterward that he wanted to leave Speights and Brand on the court together to take advantage of mismatches offensively. But the defense was so awful that he had to put Dalembert in.

I bolded, italicized and underlined the portion that is most damning, in my eyes. With his team being essentially bent over on the defensive end, Jordan is lamenting the fact that he can't put his best offensive combo on the floor.

I can go on and on, and I will. Eddie Jordan decided to pull Lou Williams from the starting lineup at the last second, presumably because he needed some more practice time to knock the rust off. Then he proceeded to leave Williams in the game for the final 9:31 of the game and play him a full 14 minutes more than Jrue Holiday. Speaking of Jrue, he's the starter in name only. Jordan limited him to 14 minutes in the first half, then yanked him from the starting lineup at the beginning of the third, only playing him 4 total minutes in the second half. He is far, far below both Willie Green and Lou Williams in the pecking order right now. It's a shame, too, because Jrue and Elton Brand led the charge that brought the Sixers back from a double-digit deficit in the second quarter. Brand with his tenacious defense and Jrue with his near-perfect orchestration on the offensive end. In no way did the kid deserve to be benched for 20 of the 24 minutes after the break, and if this coach can't realize that Lou Williams getting torched by Earl Boykins is something he can solve, or at least dampen by putting his best perimeter defender into the game, he's a lost cause.

Here's tonight's rotation chart, if you can bear to look at it.

I do believe Brand's comments above were directed at Marreese Speights, and I don't want to make excuses for Speights, but I firmly believe he's playing injured right now. The other night, he was favoring the knee he injured (twice) earlier in the season, and tonight he had a bit of a hiccup in his stride the entire night. Something isn't right there and he should be examined and probably shut down until he's 100%.

Check out this split. In the second quarter, the Sixers attempted 21 shots, 17 of them were jumpers. They made 11 of those shots, but didn't attempt a single free throw the entire quarter. Eddie Jordan looks at that quarter as a success, I mean, they shot over 50% from the floor. What he fails to see is that his offense, his rotations and his priorities are turning the Sixers into the most passive team in the league, and for every hot shooting quarter they have like the 2nd, they're going to have 10 quarters where their "shooters" will miss 70% of those jumpers and the Sixers will get demolished.

I've been beating this drum for a while now, the press is starting to catch on, the front office has to, absolutely has to be scratching their collective heads after tonight's game. Eddie Jordan's days on the Sixers bench absolutely must be nearing an end. I don't know how anyone who cares about this team in the least can see what's going on out there on the floor, read what he's saying to the press, see what usually soft-spoken and classy veterans are saying to reporters and think anything other than, "Eddie Jordan needs to go." It's unfathomable to me that the discussions aren't taking place. Tony DiLeo should polish up his whistle, or maybe Aaron McKie should start thinking about how he's going to implement the triangle when he takes over. Frankly, I don't care who the replacement winds up being, I only care that he gets here soon. As in, before the Ice Capades trip is over soon.

Player of The Game: Willie Green. Just a solid effort all around for Willie tonight. He played the most minutes of anyone in the back court and he really deserved them. He couldn't shoot to save his life in the second half, but he wasn't taking many shots either, and he kept up the defensive intensity as well.
Team Record: 7-21
Up Next: @ Utah on Saturday

I'm sure I missed a ton of things from this game, and I apologize, but I'm still seeing red three hours after the game has ended.