There's plenty of blame to go around for last night's home loss to the Knicks, but when you wade through it, the defining aspect of the game was the zone the Knicks played and the Sixers failure to bust it.
Essentially, Mike D'Antoni spent most of the night daring the Sixers to take jumpers, and the Sixers spent most of the obliging him by missing from the outside. Two things kept the Sixers alive in this game offensively: Offensive rebounding (they grabbed an astounding 40% of available offensive boards) and fast break points (they finished with a 25-8 edge on the break).
By my count, the Sixers score 28 second-chance points, added to 25 fast break points that's 57% of their scoring in essentially open floor or broken defense situations. If you're good at reading between the lines, that means they did jack against the Knicks' set defense, and you really didn't need the stats to tell you that.
Way too many jumpers by guys who really are not good jump shooters (Iguodala was 0/6 from three, why he took 6 threes is beyond me. I could understand it if he was hitting them, because they were leaving him open most of the night, but after the third miss, he should've just driven the ball). The starting lineup scored 48 points on 20/51 from the floor. Allen Iverson and Andre Iguodala didn't attempt a single free throw between them.
As much as I love to rail against Eddie Jordan for his offensive lineups, you'd think tonight might've been a time to dust off Jason Kapono and send him out there to take advantage of the Knicks' sagging zone, at least for a couple of minutes, but he was a DNPCD.
The Sixers enjoyed moderate success in three ways against the zone:
- Allen Iverson finding wrinkles at about the 20-foot mark, elbow extended. He was draining jumpers from the there throughout.
- Speights imposing his will against the zone. Working mostly off the dribble against whatever Knick was guarding him, Speights powered the ball to the hole for layups, or shot over his man. He provided a much-needed offensive spark in the 4th quarter.
- Jrue probing the zone at the top of the key and feeding Brand in the low post. They ran this play three or four times before Jrue was yanked from the game. Brand wound up with good looks on two of the passes, hitting one of the shots. The other two were turnovers, but I liked the plays
Otherwise, it was a series of ill-advised jumpers until Carney got hot from deep in the fourth.
I'm going to talk for a second about Jordan's boneheaded lineup, mainly because video of it should be kept and replayed at his impeachment hearing. If you weren't watching, the Sixers took the lead with 26.1 seconds left on the clock, 92-91. The Knicks immediately called a timeout to draw up a play. Eddie Jordan didn't make a single substitution during the break, instead sending out a lineup of Allen Iverson, Rodney Carney, Andre Iguodala and Sam Dalembert. The Knicks ran a pick and roll play with David Lee setting the screen for Chris Duhon, Lee leaking to the baseline where he received the pass on the move about 12 feet from the hoop. He took a dribble or two, got to the rim where Speights was late on his rotation, and didn't bother to contest the layup. The Knicks took the lead for good.
Allen Iverson is this team's worst perimeter defender. Marreese Speights is this team's worst interior defender. There's no gentle way to put that, but it's a fact. With one defensive possession essentially to decide the game, Eddie Jordan chose to leave his two worst defenders on the floor, the Knicks figured out a play to exploit both of them, and they won the game.
Can you pin this loss directly on Jordan? Well, probably yes because of what he's done to the team up to this point, but I don't think it's really fair to say that one substitution (or lack thereof) definitely lost the game. It certainly didn't help, but there's a decent chance the Knicks score on that possession even if Jordan brings Jrue in for Iverson and Brand in for Speights. The point is, Jordan didn't give the Sixers the best possible chance to get the stop on that possession, and that's absolutely his job in that situation. Put the team in the best possible position to win.
I thought Jordan brought Speights in at the right time, that was a really good coaching move, in a vacuum. I thought he was quick with the trigger on Jrue in the fourth quarter, but I understood the move. He gave Carney the extra burn he earned on both ends. On the Eddie Jordan scale, this wasn't a horribly coached game, it was just marred by a terrible decision at the worst possible time.
If you're looking to assign blame for the loss, I'd probably start with the shooting of Brand, Thad, Iguodala and Lou (combined 8/37 from the floor, 4/6 from the line).
If you need some good news, Jordan's late-game gaff probably won't go unnoticed by the press, nor the front office, so you can count another strike against him. Indiana beat the Suns, so the Sixers are all alone in 14th place in the East (if you're hoping for the high lottery pick).
Player of The Game: Without a doubt, it's Sammy. I can only imagine how the guy feels, and to be able to put that out of his mind and truly dominate a basketball game for 31 minutes is truly amazing. Sammy finished 6/8 from the floor for 12 points, with 21 rebounds (7 offensive), 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block.
Team Record: 12-26
Up Next: vs. Sacto on Friday night, supposedly, Kevin Martin will make his return.