The Sixers dropped another close game tonight to the Milwaukee Bucks on the back of two tremendous efforts from Brandon Jennings and Drew Gooden. Evan Turner's first start of the season was unspectacular, some familiar problems reared their ugly heads late, but it's never as bad as you think it is after a close loss. (
Here's your rotation chart. Note the second unit in the third and the late run in the fourth:
To me, this loss was different from the Bulls and OKC losses in that I think the Sixers really lost the game in the first half. They led through late in the third quarter, and very nearly came back to win it in the fourth, but after playing an emotional, hard-fought game against the Bulls the previous night, they needed to come out and set the tone in the first half. They didn't do it. They started slow and had to climb their way out to take a lead into the half, which took a lot of energy. They shook up their starting lineup and rotations, putting guys in unfamiliar roles, and most importantly, the Bucks never gave them a break. When I ran the numbers at the half, the game was being played at a 97.8 possessions-per-48-minutes pace, or roughly 9 possessions faster than their typical pace.
The Bucks pushed the ball up the floor, with Brandon Jennings leading the early-offense charge. The Sixers were on their heels and instead of taking their time on the offensive end and forcing the Bucks to play in the half court, they tried to match Milwaukee. It was an ill-fated plan, and when the game was decided, Lou Williams was the only guy who had any legs left. Prior to Lou's fourth-quarter explosion, the Sixers left a dreadful series of shots short, they weren't getting to loose balls, they were lazy in their rotations on defense, and they had to rely on Elton Brand for way too many minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. Drew Gooden made Brand look older than usually does, and that's not easy to do.
Kudos to Lou, who is the unquestioned player of the game, for picking the team up and nearly lifting them to victory. If one more finger roll finds the net we might be feeling a bit better right now. Jrue was simply terrible tonight, and his games are following a disturbing pattern lately. He starts off playing more SG than PG and puts a bunch of points on the board. Then he takes a back seat in the second and third quarters only to find his 20-footer isn't falling anymore when he tries to assert himself again in the fourth. There's little consistency to his play from quarter to quarter, and his role seems to be a messed up jumble. He also remains allergic to the foul line, which has gone from a concern to a damning trend. You can live with Jrue's up-and-down offensive game if he's defending, but he did a pretty bad job on Jennings tonight, after not having much luck with Derrick Rose the night before. The team needs more out of Jrue, and it might be time for Collins to adjust his role a little bit. Get him back to running the point for at least two quarters/game. Back him off his scoring responsibilities and let him set his teammates up.
Evan Turner's insertion into the starting lineup wasn't the reason they lost this game. Turner was atrocious from the floor and had a couple of really bad turnovers, but his rebounding was stellar. If he had only stopped shooting, he might have even been a net positive, but the missed shots got in his head and affected the rest of his game in a negative way in the second half. Jodie Meeks, for his part, looked pretty good off the bench. They got basically what they hope to get out of Jodie most nights in limited minutes off the bench. I wouldn't end the Turner experiment just yet. Let him have a crack at Ray Allen on Wednesday, but Collins needs to have the same talk with Turner he had with Thad last season. No jumpers.
Iguodala hit a couple of big threes in the second half, but overall he was as tired as Brand and Jrue.
The Sixers didn't have their legs, they let the Bucks run them in the first half, then they couldn't buy a hoop for the pivotal stretch in the late third, early fourth. The anatomy of a bad loss.
Player of The Game:
Lou is the unanimous selection.
Boston, on Weds.
0 to 2. Another fail (2-9-2 since inception).