There's a big but to go along with that statement, however. Elton Brand was a nonfactor in this game, and never saw the floor in the fourth. At the time, I thought it was because he didn't have it tonight, and played heavy minutes last night. After the game, however, when I checked on my fantasy team I saw this update:
Brand sat out the entire fourth quarter of Wednesday's loss against the Lakers with a strained right hamstring.
Spin: Brand will be evaluated on Thursday. More updates to come as we learn additional information about the extent of the injury.
Not good news at all. After the jump we'll talk a little about what losing Brand could do to this team, as well as tonight's game.
Obviously, losing Brand would be a huge blow to this team. They desperately need to figure out how to play with him, actually, that trumps winning games in the short term. Now, if Brand does miss a couple of games, I expect this team will play better. That doesn't mean they're better off without him, it just means they'll get back to the type of basketball they were playing last year. Iguodala, Thad and Lou will probably slide back into their comfort zones. Questions will be raised about the acquisition of Brand, you know the drill.
Here's the thing, though. The Sixers were a good team in the second half last year. They were a good team playing very good basketball. They could probably make the playoffs, or least come close, on a yearly basis with that roster playing that style of game. That's not good enough. Elton Brand was brought in to make them a very good team. A team with a legitimate shot at going deep in the playoffs. They need to learn to become that team. They need to keep the best of what they were last season and improve upon their weaknesses. Reverting because Brand is out with an injury could help, if they can find their comfort zones and then incorporate him into the running, defending part, but nothing short of time on the floor with him is going to help their half court execution. Sadly, even that might not help.
Cross your fingers that this injury to Brand isn't too serious. In fact, cross your fingers and hope he'll be on the floor Friday night in Detroit.
Back to tonight's game. Usually 21 shots is way too many for Miller to take. Tonight, that wasn't the case. Brand couldn't get good looks against Gasol, and the Lakers were making a conscious effort to shut him down. This left gaping holes in the lane and Miller took advantage. Honestly, he had a great all around game: 26 points, 8 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover. That's a stellar line. He doesn't deserve any criticism, especially not after logging 82 minutes in two days.
A guy who has been much-maligned over the past week or so also deserves a pat on the back tonight, Sammy. I thought he played excellent defense on Bynum, crashed the boards, and really made an effort to be a part of the offense. He had two assists on nice interior passing to cutters, and it should've been three but Thad blew a layup. He did a good job on the offensive glass and generally had a positive affect on the team in his 30 minutes of work. The loss of minutes didn't seem to make him sulk tonight, it seemed to motivate him.
Mo's early substitution pattern destroyed what was a nice start for the Sixers. As soon as Theo and Willie came in things started to get ugly, they only got worse when Lou came in with 3:45 left in the first. At that point the score was tied 21-21, by the end of the quarter the Lakers had a 6-point lead. Lou did play much better in the fourth quarter, but that was strictly due to his shot falling. He didn't run the team, he didn't run the offense, he just got his own shots up and made a few.
Speights had his worst game as a pro, blowing a dunk and committing 4 fouls and a turnover in only 6 minutes of work. I was a little surprised we saw DNPCD's for Rush and Evans. I thought Mo might expand his rotation a little bit considering it was the second night of a back-to-back, not to mention Speights' horrible night and Brand's injury.
Tonight's game aside, I think we're beginning to see Ed Stefanski's influence on the team. Marreese Speights' increased minutes last night were probably the first sign of an edict from the GM, much like Thad's expanded role was handed down to Mo from a higher power last season. Here's a quote from Stefanski given to reporters before tonight's game:
“Mo is coaching, the players are the players and they all have to figure it out with me,” Stefanski said before Wednesday’s game against the Lakers. “We talk and communicate daily to try and straighten this out. All of us, including everybody in that locker room, are not happy we’re 8-10 right now.”
I'm taking Stefanski's hands-on role in the team's on-court play as a very good sign. He was the impetus behind the up-tempo, hard-nosed defensive team that exceeded expectations last season. I have a feeling that if this team doesn't start playing to their potential soon, he's going to have the balls to make a change that will help the team, rather than a change for change's sake.
Iguodala and Thad both had strong games in heavy action. They combined for 36 points, 13 boards, 5 dimes, 3 steals and only 3 turnovers. Iguodala again spent a lot of time at the three tonight.
The +/- worksheet has been updated, check out Willie and Theo's performance from tonight's game. Also, it's been decided that Friday night's game will be the first live blog of the season. I'll get home from work early and kick it off at 6:45. You can set a reminder for yourself here at the bottom of the post.
Player of The Game: Miller
Team Record: 8-11
Up Next: Live blog, @ Detroit 7pm tip.