Jrue, Evan, Thad...JET? Eh, I'm not sold, but let's run with it for today. Those three guys all showed up last night, and the Sixers needed every last bit from them in their battle against the Pistons and their merciless parade to the foul line.
Let's start with Turner. Efficient scoring. His threes + attempts at the rim were more than his long twos (a key indicator for him, he took 12 long twos in the first game against the Celtics). He somehow didn't get a technical despite outbursts several times at questionable calls, on both ends of the floor. Most important, when the Sixers needed big defensive boards down the stretch, and the bigs couldn't put a body on anyone, Turner went up in traffic and came down with the ball. 10 defensive boards in 40 minutes, just stellar work. 7 dimes to one assist and I haven't mentioned it to this point, because it can't possibly last, but if he can keep hitting that corner three. A shot that's always there off Jrue's penetration...man, that's a weapon. In fact, if you noticed Jrue yelling at Turner during the game last night, it was because he didn't get to that corner on a play when Jrue diced up the D. The play ended with a pretty high-low action to Thad for a layup, but Jrue clearly wanted Turner camped in that corner. Turner was my player of the game, though I happily had three viable candidates.
Thad Young is a flawed player. He doesn't rebound enough for his position (even if he's undersized). He has no right hand whatsoever. His free throw shooting has been abysmal this year. That being said, you don't like basketball if you don't love watching him play the game. The big question about moving Thad into the starting lineup was whether he'd be able to handle the added strain of starter's minutes. You wondered if he could possibly keep his energy high for 35+ minutes/game. Well, the answer so far is an emphatic yes. If you look at the play-by-play from the fourth quarter of last night's game, Thad was down for 1/1 from the floor with three steals and a charge. Sure, it sounds active, but it doesn't even begin to tell the story of his contribution in the quarter. On the defensive end, the Sixers were starting every possession with Thad and Hawes down low on the blocks, each with a foot in the lane. When a big went to set a screen out high for the ballhandler, no matter which big it was, Thad went with him to blow the play up. He'd switch onto whoever was setting the screen, keeping Hawes as far away from the action as possible.
On the offensive end, when Jrue was busy dissecting the Pistons defense, it was Thad setting the screen. The Sixers ran the exact same play at least four times in the fourth quarter. Jrue had the ball out high, Dorell flashed across the floor at the foul line and Thad came up to set the screen for Jrue. Constant motion, wreaking havoc on the defensive end, setting screens. Thad's pretty much all over the floor whenever he's out there. An opportunistic scorer who always seems to come up with a big conversion when they need it. A guy they can go to occasionally on the blocks. If only that motor could translate to rebounding as well.
And Jrue. Last night the prevailing notion when it was all over was, "What could he do if he was playing with Bynum in the pick-and-roll?" When Jrue is on like he was in the fourth quarter last night he's deadly. When he's using that pick-and-roll to probe until he gets to around the foul line, then he's got the other team at his mercy. He uses his strength to get into the paint, if the small is still on him, he creates the space to hit a 12-footer. If the big is on him, he uses his dribble and maybe a spin move to get to the rim clean. If they're both on him, he makes the right play, usually hitting Hawes in the hands with pass that would be a dunk if his center had a pulse. If teams don't have the personnel to aggressively trap the pick-and-roll way out on the floor, Jrue will just pick it apart. And the important thing to keep in mind here is that the roll isn't a weapon, at all. Thad's a decent jump shooter, but far from deadly, and he's really too small to be effective in the roll. Hawes can't finish over point guards at the hoop. Jrue is the only threat involved in these plays, there are two defenders there, both focused on stopping him, and he can still do whatever he wants. What if he's got a beast setting the pick for him? A guy who can finish over people on the roll? How are teams going to stop that? Just get healthy, Bynum.
For the record, the worst shot of the fourth quarter for Jrue was probably the one that sealed the game. He didn't use the screen, let the big retreat then instead of attacking his man, he settled for a contested jumper, but it dropped. That's what hero shots are all about, I guess.
A couple interesting things from the game last night. First, that six-point possession made me want to gauge my eyes out. Second, both Hawes and Allen picked up their fourth foul in the third quarter. Instead of going to Kwame, Collins put both of them on the floor at the same time. Crazy. Funny how quickly Kwame has fallen out of the rotation. I wish Wayns would follow him. Also, Nick Young is nowhere near 100%.