If you're looking for a celebration for that win, you're going to have to look elsewhere. It took a monster effort from Elton Brand, in 42 minutes of work, to squeak out a two-point win over a hapless Bobcats team, at home. That's really not something to celebrate.
There are two things to celebrate from this game: (1) Elton Brand's dominating performance. (2) The completely uncontrollable set of circumstances that forced Eddie Jordan to actually play Brand down the stretch: (a) Speights' injury, (b) Brand's unbelievable performance in the first three quarters, (c) Sammy's early foul trouble/poor play throughout. If a, b and c don't happen, we probably don't see Brand on the floor for the fourth quarter and almost certainly spend the night talking about things like finding a new coach and trading for Monta Ellis.
So we finally saw what we've been waiting for about 16 months to see from Brand, a game-changing performance, and it was just barely enough to knock off second-worst offensive team in the league. The Sixers did not play well in this game. The small lineup did not suddenly figure things out, and Jordan's rotations didn't solve any problems. Charlotte shot 7/24 from three and most of those looks were wide open. The Sixers did a better job than I expected on the defensive glass (73%), but still not good enough. Without Brand's six blocks, we're probably looking at a loss. Without Brand's three steals (it really should've been four, but for some reason they gave it to Iguodala), we're probably looking at a loss. Without Brand's seven offensive rebounds, we're probably looking at a loss. His play masked a hell of a lot of problems tonight, and even with Brand playing at this high level, this would've been a loss to even a mediocre team.
Here's a look at tonight's rotation chart, check out the run Jordan gave Jrue in the second quarter.
Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Obviously, Holiday was a DNPCD, with Jordan instead opting for the uber-effective GreenIvey back court in the second. The only time I saw Holiday tonight was when the Sixers were pushing a promotional offer called "The Holiday Package." How many teams build ad campaigns around a guy who can officially change his first name to DNPCD?
I'm not going to blast Jordan for using small lineups tonight, because his hands were pretty much tied. No Speights, Sam either fumbling the ball all over the place or in foul trouble. He didn't have a choice unless he wanted to overextend Smith. I do find two things Jordan did completely unacceptable, though.The first is obviously 18 minutes for Willie, seven minutes for Ivey and zero minutes for Jrue. For the record, since Jrue's excellent game against the Suns, in which he played 15 minutes and was lifted for no good reason at the end, he has played a total of 11 minutes and 56 seconds over the next four games.
The second thing Jordan needs to be taken to task for is not realizing what's happening on the floor. With 30 seconds to go, desperately needing a stop and in a timeout Jordan sent the following lineup into the game to get that stop: Elton Brand, Thad Young, Rodney Carney, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams. Or, to put it another way, His 2nd best center (although he played like a beast tonight), his third best defensive power forward, probably his best defender at the the 2 and 3, and the absolute worst defensive point guard he has on his roster. One stop, he goes with those guys. Most likely because those guys were really "getting after it."
He also has a problem realizing that even though a lineup may be scoring, if they're giving up more points on defense, they aren't really helping you. This is his biggest weakness as a coach, as far as I'm concerned. Pay close attention, even if the team is falling further and further behind, as long as they're putting some points on the board, he'll stick with them until the buzzer sounds. He did it tonight with that final lineup, the lineup that coughed up the lead and was trailing by three points with 1:41 left in the game. Luckily, Brand made a few huge plays, Andre Iguodala grabbed a monstrous rebound and raced up the floor with the ball before Jordan could call a timeout and draw up a play for a 20-foot jumper, and dished to Lou Williams for the game-winner.
This blind spot of Jordan's could've easily cost them the game tonight, against a better opponent, it would have. He did the same thing against the Knicks in regulation, if you recall.
Anyway, if this game truly did signal the return of Elton Brand, then you can't help but feel great about it. If he has to produce like this to earn second-half minutes every night, well, I'm afraid we're going to see a few more fourth quarters without Brand on the floor.
Player of The Game: Elton Brand, 8/17 from the floor, 3/4 from the line, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3(4) steals, 6 blocks and only 1 turnover in 42 minutes.
Honorary Mention: Rodney Carney. He was all over the floor tonight, just 100% energy and really effective as well.
Up Next: Memphis, on Friday night.