The indignity of losing to this Toronto Raptors team is almost too much to bear. Shooting 36.8% from the floor against the 27th-ranked team in defensive efficiency is shameful. Any thought of how this team doesn't miss Andre Iguodala should be wiped away by this point. Without him, they just might be the worst team in the league. The problem: I'm not sure how far from the bottom they are even with him.
If you want the big picture, the Sixers lost this game because their bench was pitiful. Lou Williams was 0/7 in 12 minutes and didn't score a single point. Thad was 4/13 from the floor for 10 points. Speights worked his way back into the rotation, then quickly out of it. Songaila missed three shots in his five minutes and Tony Battie didn't exactly set the world on fire either.
As a group, the bench played 64 minutes and used 33 possessions (29 shots, 1 trip to the line, 3 turnovers) to score 14 points. As a group, the starters actually weren't that bad. They shot over 50%, got to the line, grabbed boards, but they didn't do nearly enough to provide the cushion needed to make up for that disastrous outing by the bench.
It seemed like a game of cat and mouse almost from the jump. The starters built a lead, the bench coughed it up. The starters trickled back onto the floor, recovered the lead, then the bench coughed it up again. The game was essentially even with 1:57 left when Doug Collins decided to send Tony Battie in for Thad Young. At the time, it seemed like a logical move, considering how badly Thad was getting torched by Bargnani on the defensive end. Unfortunately, from that point on, the Sixers didn't score another point.
From that point on, the Sixers had five possessions:
- Jrue misses a 9-foot jumper
- Brand turns the ball over (probably Jrue's fault, EB picked his dribble up, couldn't get rid of the ball, tried to hand it off to Jrue. Ball off Jrue's hands out of bounds)
- Nocioni turns the ball over (key possession, Nocioni decides to drive and try to hit Battie rolling to the hoop. Terrible pass, wondering why Nocioni is ever trying to make a play off the dribble, let alone in that situation)
- Jrue misses a 7-foot jumper
- Jrue misses 27-foot three
Meanwhile, Toronto had five possessions over the same span:
- Weems misses 5-footer
- Weems makes layup
- Weems fouled by Nocioni (makes 1/2)
- Calderon intentionally fouled by Evan Turner (makes 2/2)
- Calderon intentionally fouled by Andres Nocioni (makes 2/2)
Seven points on Toronto's final 5 possessions, zero for the Sixers. Ball game.
Jrue finished the game with 17 points, 6 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 3 turnovers, and up until the final two minutes, he was very efficient. Unfortunately, the last two minutes did happen and it wound up taking Jrue 16 shots (and three free throws) to get his 17 points. That's not efficient offense. It's a shame the game ended the way it did for Jrue, because he singlehandedly brought them back when he entered the game in the fourth. He scored 5 straight, assisted on a couple others and was really all over the floor. He tried to go back to the well to put the game away, but he just couldn't get it done.
Evan Turner continued his dominant rebounding and forgettable scoring. 11 points, 12 boards, 4 dimes and only one turnover. Brand scored a season-high 27 and was really a physically dominating force on the inside (9/11 from the line). He only grabbed 2 defensive boards, but spent most of his night wrestling with Reggie Evans to keep him off the offensive glass, so it's understandable.
Spencer Hawes had one of his better games, on paper, hitting 4 of 7 shots for 8 points. On the floor, he was as destructive as ever, on both ends of the floor.
Overall, I thought the Sixers did an extremely poor job of running the offense, especially in the first half. I counted at least a half dozen times where someone was just standing with the ball out past the three-point line waiting for something to happen, though I'm not exactly sure what they were waiting for. These plays invariably ended with a forced long two as the shot clock wound down, or an outright turnover. The best offense came from dumping the ball to Brand in the post early in the shot clock and letting him get to work.
Two really nice plays come to mind. One was a Jrue post on Jose Calderon. Jrue backed him down with a dribble or two, then just turned on him, elevated and hit an 8-foot shot right over him. They never went back to it. The other was off an offensive rebound. Jrue got the ball quickly, Brand immediately flashed across the lane, sealed off Reggie Evans and caught a bullet pass from Jrue right at the rim for an easy conversion. The ugliest play of the night was either the Songaila dribble-drive into a bricked layup attempt or the Songaila air ball from the free throw line, take your pick.
So 0-4 on the week. Two back-to-backs, both of them completely unreasonable quirks in the schedule, and what was once a salvageable season seems like a lost cause at 2-10. The life of a Sixers fan.
Player of The Game:
vs. Milwaukee on Friday night