There was a theme to Wednesday night's win over the Bulls. It played itself out time and time again, and honestly, it has a lot to do with why the Sixers find themselves 14 games under .500 with only a week to go until the All Star Break.
The theme is covering up mistakes with talent. In this game, the Sixers front court was absolutely dominant, and for the final quarter and overtime they continually covered up for a tremendous mistake made by their head coach, which led directly to a steady stream of mistakes made by the back court.
Jrue Holiday played 31 minutes in Allen Iverson's absence, and it's a good thing he did. Unfortunately, when the game was being decided, Jrue was glued to the bench and Eddie Jordan decided to go with Lou Williams and Willie Green in the back court. Those two couldn't get out of each other's way and the results were nearly catastrophic. Here's a split for you:
Rose with Jrue on him:
6/13 FGA, 0 FTA, 2 turnovers, 4 assists, 13 points.
Rose with anyone else on him:
4/9 FGA, 9/10 FTA, 2 turnovers, 5 assists, 17 points
Those numbers are lopsided, but they would've been considerably more so without Dalembert and Brand locking down the paint. Let's get to the rotations then return to the play of the front court.
Here's the stat line for the Sixers three starters in the front court: 28/50 from the floor, 4/9 from the line, 30 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, 6 blocks, 61 points.
I bolded one rotation in particular, with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter and the Sixers leading 91-90, Eddie Jordan called a timeout and made a substitution for defense, presumably. Derrick Rose had been burning the Sixers continually, sometimes with a high pick and roll, sometimes with simple penetration off the dribble that Willie Green was powerless to even slow down. Jordan's solution
to this problem was to take Elton Brand and Sam Dalembert out of the game, sub in Carney at SF, slide Iguodala to PF and insert Thad at center.
Think about that for a second. Dribble penetration is the ostensible problem, a problem that's been mitigated somewhat by the defensive works of the bigs. Jordan's solution is to take his two shot blockers out of the lineup and go uber-small. I'm sure he'll tell you the sub was made so he could switch everything on the P&R, but why would that be his solution? Why wouldn't he go with the one guard on his roster who did an excellent job on Rose? Short of that, why not go bigger, put Iguodala at the two and let him handle Rose (something he did perfectly with the game on the line later in the quarter)?
This game probably should've been a loss. If not for extraordinary efforts from Dalembert (whose minutes were limited), Brand and Iguodala, it would've been a loss. And that's what's been missing for most of the season, the players haven't been up to the task of making up for the asinine decisions made by their coach, and the inherent disadvantages created by his rotations.
I asked a question right after the game, and it sparked a ton of conversation. Was it a coincidence that Iguodala put up monster numbers in Iverson's absence? Personally, I don't think it was. If you look at the games when Iguodala has disappeared, Iverson has taken on a larger and larger role. His shots are going up, and more importantly, the number of possessions that start with him in an iso set are going up. I've been pleasantly surprised by Iverson's newfound team-first attitude and play since he returned, but that doesn't mean the team is best served to run everything through him. Iguodala is a better offensive player at this point in their careers, and more importantly, he's better at creating for his teammates. Are the Sixers best served to have AI9 taking 19 shots? No, absolutely not. But they do need to have the ball in his hand in the half court so he can probe the defense and find teammates for easy looks.
When Iverson gets back, he needs to the guy spotting up for mid-range jumpers on the weak side, not Iguodala. He's shooting them better than AI9, and if the ball starts in Igudoala's hands, Iverson's more likely to get an open look.
Player of The Game:
@ New Orleans, Friday night.