I consider it a special treat to have had the chance to watch LeBron James play in a home-and-home because usually I don't get to see so much of his game. I occasionally catch a game here and there, but I almost never watch wire to wire. Over the past three days, I got to do that twice. I came away with no question in my mind that he's not only the best player in the game, but he's also the best passer.
There, no that I've gotten that out of the way, let's dig into this steaming carcass of a team we call our own.
After watching the game
, and feeling a tad sick to my stomach, I took a step back, ate dinner and thought about the game with a little objectivity. From the box score you'd think the same things popped up to bite the Sixers in the ass again. They couldn't shoot the three (1/12, I'll do the math for you, 8.3%), they turned the ball over too much (17 turnovers). Those seem to be the common thread running throughout all 14 losses so far this season. But when I stopped and thought about it, I realized something.
The Sixers actually did something very, very well tonight. There's something to build on from this game and we'll dive right into it after the jump.
Before we get to the good, let's get the horrendous out of the way.
The Sixers were without the services of Lou Williams and Theo Ratliff tonight, which apparently threw Mo for a loop. His rotations were nonsensical at times, he barely got Speights into the game (3 minutes), he played Willie for 37 minutes. And probably the most egregious gaff was to leave an obviously hampered Elton Brand in for 38 minutes of work. The Sixers will travel home tonight to take on the Bullets tomorrow night at the Wach. Iguodala played 46 and Miller logged 41. How fresh do you think they're going to be for that game?
One more pitiful stat: Not one Sixer, not a single one, was positive in +/-. That is the first time it has happened this season.
Now, the positive. Before the game, I decided to keep track of Elton Brand's touches in the offense. Not only how often he got the ball and what he did with it, but how and where he got the ball. Check this out:
- Low post, pushed out by Ben Wallace, ball came late. Missed shot.
- In transition, under the hoop. Fouled.
- In the lane. Sealed his man under the hoop. Missed shot.
- In the lane. Sealed his man. Missed shot.
- In transition, under the hoop. Fouled.
- Low post, back-to-the-basket. Kicked out for an assist.
- Low post, double comes. Kicked out for a made three.
- In transition, under the hoop. Shot blocked.
- In transition, under the hoop. Made shot.
- Low post, turnover.
- Pick and pop. Missed open jumper.
- PIck and pop. Catch too far from the hoop. No play.
- Pick and roll. Short jumper in the lane. Missed.
- In the lane, under the hoop. Made layup.
- Baseline, wide-open jumper off penetration. Miss.
- O-rebound, follow. Fouled.
- Baseline, wide-open jumper off penetration. Make
- Low post, power move on Ben Wallace. Blown layup.
- Drive, from foul line to the hoop. Missed layup.
- Under the hoop, sealed his man. Blocked
- Baseline, wide-open jumper off penetration. Make.
- In the lane, sealed his man. Blown layup.
Within ther offense, Brand got the ball 18 times. All but two of those times (bolded above) he got the ball in what I consider a good spot on the floor. A spot where he can be counted on, usually, to convert at maybe a 50% clip, maybe more. This has been the first big problem with the Sixes offense. For a while now, they've been getting him the ball out of his comfort zone. Too far away from the hoop in most cases. Thas was not the case in this one.
In fact, I think this was probably the best game the team has played to date as far as maximizing Brand's impact is concerned. Of course, even with all of those golden opportunities, Brand could only convert on 4 of 13.
The reason this is a big deal, and a step in the right direction is that this was against one of the best defensive teams in the league. If Brand plays to his potential (and I'm not even talking his best season potential, I'm talking the type of basketball he played prior to the hamstring injury) the Sixers probably win this game.
This game was exactly the reason why they needed Brand so badly. They were forced into the half court for most of the night. Instead of taking the air out of the ball, they went to their big man in the post, and not only did he get himself to the spot where he needed to be, his teammates got the ball to him when he had the position. The only thing missing from the equation was the conversion.
One more positive to come out of this game. Early on, the Sixers were forcing turnovers and getting out on the break. Four times Brand was up the floor in a position to finish off a play. Integrating him into the running game is the next step after they figure out how to get him the ball in premium spots for high-percentage shots.
While the result was demoralizing and watching the game was downright painful, there is a reason to think this team might just turn things around. If EB can get quality touches like this against a tough defense when he's right physically, he's going to put up big numbers.
I don't want to end this without mentioning Willie Green. He carried the offense in the first quarter. I suppose that probably should've been enough to earn him the heavy minutes he played, but take a look at his line in its entirety. 8/13 from the floor, 1/3 from 3, 2/2 from the line, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 37 minutes of work? He even spent some of that time "running" the point. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Willie is a streaky scorer who can get hot and carry you for short bursts, but even when he's shooting the lights out, he barely contributes in any other area. At best, you break even with him on the floor, and that rarely happens. There's a reason why his net effect on the team's +/-
is the worst on the roster. Starting him at the two guard is not the answer to this team's problems.
Speaking of problems, Thad Young needs to be on the floor for more than 20 minutes. The kid was 5/9 from the floor tonight and he was one of few who could put the biscuit in the basket. Not to mention a renewed hustle that we haven't seen much of lately.Player of The Game:
Iguodala. 7/14 from the floor, 7 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers.Team Record:
Washington, tomorrow night. Here's my bold prediction of the day. If the Sixers lose tomorrow night, Mo might be done as the coach of this team.
Check out Bullets Forever
for a Wiz fan's perspective. By the way, that's definitely in my top five sports blog names list.