The image atop this post makes me feel exactly like tonight's double-overtime loss to the Raptors did: Completely amused, when I know I should be alarmed. Seriously, take a closer look at that photo. Toronto's backup center has the goofiest, fish-in-a-barrel grin on his face. Freebie rebounds don't come against every team, after all. And then look at Elton Brand, "Hmmn, it's either try for the rebound or try to scare him into dropping it." Obviously, Brand chose the latter. More coherent thoughts to follow.
I'm pretty sure you can mark the date and time. October 12th, 8:45 p.m. That's when Jrue Holiday overcame whatever was hanging over his head and suffocating his game. Over the past five quarters, Jrue is 10/16 from the floor, with 14 boards, 16 assists, only 2 turnovers and he's scored 26 points. Dare I say those are top-five PG numbers?
Evan Turner's offensive passivity is still alive and well, but there were a few signs of assertion. He had a couple of nice drives to the hoop, but still needs to figure out what is going to work against NBA bigs, and more importantly, what moves aren't going to work. He appears to have zero confidence in his jumper right now, which wouldn't be a bad thing if he was using more of his touches to drive, but he's just not. The good news regarding Turner is that he just may be the best rebounder on the team. It's definitely between Turner and Iguodala right now, with Jrue falling one rung down the ladder. Turner gets great position on the defensive glass and has a weird, deathly effective technique when he elevates for the ball. He goes up with his splayed out, sort of clearing out the air space around the ball and creating a funnel, then he just sucks the ball in. Like I said, odd but effective.
The starting bigs were pretty awful, again. Thad didn't see the floor in the fourth quarter, and Brand may as well not have (though Brand did come up with a big block at the end of the fourth quarter). The bench bigs were pretty terrible until Speights went down with a hamstring injury. When he hobbled into the locker room, Craig Brackins entered the game and spent the next 22 minutes eating a meal off Jrue's playmaking. Brackins scored 15 points on 12 shots and seriously looked like Speights, minus about 60 pounds and plus a decent amount of quickness. His defense was pretty bad, and in the grand tradition of Sixers bigs, he can't rebound, but he was in the right place at the right time on offense, and he wasn't afraid to put the ball up when Jrue got it to him in a good position. That's more than you can say for the other bigs.
Overall, the team is still hurting, and we saw the same phenomenon (tight to start, loose to finish), but the team is making small strides while Jrue and Turner seem to be making giant leaps. If things continue down that road, I'll be ecstatic.
Andre Iguodala was missing in action the entire night, and only logged 27 minutes of playing time. Apparently, he really is taking it easy this preseason. I'm not really that concerned, though. He's not going to have a problem blending in with Jrue and Turner. I'm not so sure I can say the same about the other two starters tonight, though.
1-4 now in the preseason, but I'm going to look at the silver lining from tonight's game. Jrue's back, and Turner just might be on his way (13 points and 12 boards for Turner tonight, by the way).
The Sixers won't lace 'em up again until next Tuesday, at Cleveland. That's a lot of practice time.
Player of The Game: Jrue Holiday. Outstanding triple double: 18/11/12/3 steals/2 turnovers.