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Knicks Take Sixers to O.T.

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The Sixers scored 141 points, they shot 60.7% from the floor, they out-rebounded the Knicks by 18 and they finished the game on a 17-0 run, yet I'm still having trouble mustering any kind of enthusiasm for this win.

I'm going to kick things off with legitimate reasons why we should be excited to see the Sixers climb over .500 for the first time this season.

  • Iguodala - 32 points, 11 boards, 7 dimes
  • Lou Williams - 27 points, 10 boards, 7 dimes
  • Speights - 20 points, 10 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks

Those three really had exceptional games. There were other somewhat-highlights, Brand looked good for stretches and scored 16 on 13 shots. Thad scored 25 on 14 shots. But for me, this game was not about the positive, it was about atrocious defense, highly questionable rotations and baffling lineups down the stretch which allowed this game to get into overtime.

Here's a look at the rotations (click to enlarge), more analysis below.

game3103109.jpg
I want to look at one particular split, then we'll add some perspective to it and it'll form the basis of my rant of the night.

  • Andre Iguodala on the floor: +19
  • Andre Iguodala off the floor: -5
  • Andre Iguodala at the 2 (37:52): +28
  • Andre Iguodala at the 3 or the 4 (7:26): -9
  • Andre Iguodala NOT at the 2 (either on the bench or at another position): -14

I didn't choose this split to tell you how important Iguodala is to the team, that's self-evident at this point. No, this split illustrates one thing, and it illustrates it very clearly. The Sixers got absolutely killed when they played small tonight. They were -17 when they had only 1 or fewer of Sam, Brand and Speights on the floor, and this trend started early. It's not hard to figure out why, I mean, the Knicks are an undersized team. They can't handle traditional teams on the defensive end, especially not teams who can exploit the size mismatches, which the Sixers did again and again tonight.

So what does all of this mean to a coach? Well, that depends how a game is going. If you're trailing a team like the Knicks, sometimes you're going to be forced to play their game in order to stop the mismatches they're exploiting on the offensive end. Their quickness is beating your size, essentially, so you need to go against the grain to limit that advantage. You have to play small to get defensive stops and get back in the game. It's a gamble, but you're losing, so you have to take it in order to overcome a deficit.

If you're winning, then obviously you're the team that's taking advantage of the mismatches. In this scenario, there's absolutely no way in hell you want to go small. Why would you gamble when you're up? When playing your game is obviously working? It just makes no sense.

He trotted out a lineup with Thad at the five twice! He played Iguodala at PF for 5 minutes. All told, of the 24 minutes played in the second half, he went with a small lineup for 12:18. In that 12:18, the Sixers were outscored 43-24. If you want to think Jordan went small because the Knicks were on a run and he wanted to match up better, you're wrong. In the 11:42 the Sixers played a traditional lineup (meaning, two of Brand/Speights/Dalembert) on the floor, the Sixers were even with the Knicks 28-28.

For the life of me, I can't fathom why Coach Jordan decided to start playing the Knicks game, and why he didn't deviate from it until overtime started. It was obvious what was happening on the floor. I didn't need to break down the rotations later to figure out what was going on, anyone could see it.

Jordan's hands were tied, a bit, by Dalembert's foul trouble, but Jason Smith never even took off his warmups. A DNPCD for your 4th big man on a night when you're starting center is in foul trouble and big lineups are dominating? I just don't get it.

I've read a few headlines and comments on Twitter about what a great game this was, I beg to differ. The Sixers had a horrible team on the ropes, down by 20+ in the 3rd quarter and they let them come all the way back to tie the game and send it into overtime. They couldn't stop penetration, Al Harrington was too quick and/or too strong for every single guy they put on him. This game was an absolute failure and I'm shocked the Knicks didn't go for the win in regulation.

Speaking of that final play, explain this to me. The Sixers have a two-point lead with 10.7 seconds remaining (Kapono missed the first, hit the second of a pair of free throws, then New York called a timeout). Jordan has a chance to set his lineup to defend for New York's final possession. This is the unit he sends out there: Thad at center, Iguodala at PF, Kapono at SF, Ivey at SG and Lou at PG.

I disagree with going this small, mostly because there was no one to protect the paint (Duhon wound up blowing by Lou for an uncontested layup), but I sort of get the philosophy. Jordan wanted 5 smaller, quicker guys out there to cut off the three for the win. But even if that was his thought process, what the hell was Kapono doing on the floor? Whatever your strategy is, prevent the three or play straight up defense, you absolutely must get your best defenders on the floor. Carney for Kapono in this situation, possibly even Jrue for Lou (although at this point, putting the rook in for the first time in the game, in that situation, isn't something you can expect). Jason Kapono had no business being on the floor, there's no defense for that decision, unless the coach just wasn't thinking at all, or he got comfortable with the guys who were on the floor at the time (for the record: Kapono was -15 in the fourth quarter).

Luckily, Jordan came to his senses by the beginning of the overtime period. He went with a big lineup, and they blew the Knicks doors off, essentially the same way they did in the first quarter. One more note on defense, Brand has serious trouble with quicker fours. This is going to be a big issue against a couple of the better teams in the East this season.

OK, now that I got that off my chest a couple of quick things about the offense. They were sick. Only Kapono, Willie and Carney shot less than 50% from the floor. The Sixers put 5 players in double figures, four of them had 20+. Iguodala became the first Sixer to break 30, in the 3rd game. This is significant because it took 54 games before they had their first 30 point game last season.

If you remember the stats I quoted in the preview (the Knicks 3-point shooting with and without Galinari), well, those numbers held up tonight. The Italian was 8/16 from three, the rest of the team was 6/24 (25%).

Player of The Game: Andre Iguodala
Team Record: 2-1
Up Next: Boston, on Tuesday.
by Brian on Nov 1 2009
Tags: Andre Iguodala | Basketball | Knicks | Lou Williams | Sixers |