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Eddie Jordan's new rotation scheme, which essentially boiled down to a token starting lineup for about 12 minutes/game and then 36 minutes of the same maddening rotations, was exposed tonight in its third game of existence. Believe it or not, though, my post tonight is actually going to focus mostly on smart coaching moves.

Let's start with a quick look at the rotations:

game44rotations012610.gif
OK, now for the smart coaching decisions. Home-and-home games are kind of like a mini-playoff. During the season, coaches rely on past experience and scouting reports to formulate their game plans, but still a lot of it is guesswork. The most they face any one team is four times, and they could be facing a very different team in the first and fourth games. When you back games right up on each other, coaches have a chance to see a team's strengths, weaknesses and evaluate what works and does not work against them, just like in the playoffs. It's an advantage for a halfway decent coach, and a tremendous handicap for a bad coach.

Jim O'Brien watched Andre Iguodala muscle up on Danny Granger in Indiana, force him out of his comfort zone and induce seven turnovers. He saw Jordan's reliance on ridiculously small and defensively-challenged back courts. He made a mental note, then formulated a game plan coming into tonight's game. He made three key moves:

  1. He inserted Luther Head into the starting lineup, removed Roy Hibbert and slid everyone down one position.
  2. He took advantage of the small back court whenever Jordan went to it, especially down the stretch by getting a big guard into the game.
  3. He utilized a zone defense to shut down the lane for long, long stretches of the game.
The shift to the starting lineup switched the matchup from Andre Iguodala on Danny Granger to either Elton Brand or Thad Young on him. The result was an excellent game from Granger (11/20 from the floor for 26 points). You'd think this would be suicide considering the pounding Brand delivered on Saturday, but O'Brien effectively hid Granger in the front court by putting him on Dalembert (which at least partially explains why Sammy had 13 boards in 21 minutes, it doesn't explain why he only played 21 minutes, though). For the most part, though, Indiana used the zone to clog the lane and immediately double Elton Brand whenever the opportunity presented itself. The only guy who figured out how to get the ball to Brand in the post all night long was Jrue Holiday, who played a paltry sixteen minutes.

Even though the Sixers handled the small lineup pretty well with their big lineup (39-38 on the game in only 17 minutes of game time), Eddie Jordan's response was to go small. The main problem with this approach was that Philly's small lineup is really, really small. The Pacers have some decent size at the guards, so small vs. small led to a few big mismatches, and O'Brien exploited them time and time again. Dahntay Jones scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, mostly by taking Lou Williams down to the post and abusing him. Lou couldn't even put up a fight. Essentially, while the Sixers were desperately trying to come back, and their offense was actually clicking (thanks in large part to Iguodala finally attacking the rim), the best the Sixers could do was trade baskets.

Needless to say, I was impressed with the adjustments O'Brien made on Sunday and within this game. Jordan's reactive adjustments couldn't have possibly been more detrimental to the team. It's a familiar story, and his post game comments were nothing short of disturbing.

Player of The Game: Let's go with Iverson. His scoring carried the Sixers for a couple of stretches.
Team Record: 15-29
Up Next: @ Milwaukee on Wednesday night
 
by Brian on Jan 26 2010
Tags: Another Loss | Basketball | Indiana Pacers | Sixers |