After a solid start, the Sixers sputtered in the second quarter, but were definitely born again hard when they came out of the locker room for the second half. I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall in there for Eddie Jordan's halftime speech. The Sixers are back to .500 after cruising though the fourth quarter to a 99-86 win over the rudderless Milwaukee Bucks.
Let's start with the rotation chart, then get to the analysis:
Jordan's substitution pattern was night-and-day from the first half to the second. With 4:34 left in the first quarter he called on Speights, Kapono and Ivey for Williams, Brand and Dalembert. Personally, I thought at the time this was a terrible idea, considering the starters were really clicking and had built an early 6-point lead. Effectively, this lineup is small, without an interior defensive presence and extremely poor rebounding. He continued to toy with the lineup throughout the remainder of the first half, struggling to find a combination that could regain the offensive rhythm and defensive intensity the starters had enjoyed. It didn't happen and they were outscored by 12 in a 6-minute stretch in the middle of the second quarter. If you missed the game thread, let's just say that most of us were less than pleased at this point.
After the half, Jordan started with a move that I absolutely loved. The starters pretty much put the screws to Milwaukee in the first 7 minutes plus of the third quarter, thanks mostly to Iguodala and Brand. Then, Jordan tapped Speights as his first big off the bench, but he put him in for Elton Brand. This was the front court combo I wanted to see. Sammy's defense coupled with Speights' offense. That lineup went +6 over the next two minutes and change. Once Sammy went to the bench, the team was able to tread water for the rest of the quarter.
The game was out of reach for basically the entire fourth and we got a look at a closing lineup of Sammy, Thad, Kapono, Iguodala and Lou for the final 6:10.
The player execution and effort was obviously much better in the second half, I'm assuming due to a stern talking to from Jordan in the locker room and/or pure pride (they were playing the Bucks, after all. They must've been embarrassed by that first half), but Jordan did something very, very smart with his rotations in the second half. He kept in one defensive big (either Dalembert or Brand) for the majority of the second half. Check out these splits:
- With either Sam or Brand on the floor in the second half, the Sixers were +21 points.
- Without Sam or Brand on the floor in the second half, the Sixers were -2 points.
Speaking of Sam, he had 4 turnovers and two goaltends tonight (one of them was a bs call) and you know what? I'll take that game from him just about every night. He was on the floor for 35 minutes, grabbed 12 boards, blocked 2 shots, only committed 1 foul and scored 10 points on only 6 shots. The turnovers are troubling, but you can live with it when he's controlling the glass and protecting the rim.
And his front court partner in crime, Elton Brand, looked much better tonight than he did in the opener. 6/11 from the floor, 5/5 from the line, 6 boards, 1 assist, 3 steals and 2 blocks for 17 points in 31 minutes of work. I'm not sure if Brand looked more explosive, but he definitely looked more comfortable. The biggest change for Brand, though, was his touch. He was hitting his short jumpers and he made a few really nice passes out of the post to guys for wide-open threes. Most importantly, he was a game-changer on defense. 3 steals and 2 blocks from your PF is big. Again, keep in mind that this was the Bucks and a 65 year-old Kurt Thomas was checking him most of the night.
It's hard to believe I made it this far into the wrap without mentioning Iguodala, who had a typical Iguodala game, meaning excellent. 19 points on 12 shots, 9 boards, 7 dimes, 2 steals, a block and some of the nastiest defense Michael Redd has ever seen in the first half. Iguodala took over for a stretch in the third quarter, dominating the glass, driving coast-to-coast, dishing, hitting jumpers. This was another night where he was clearly the best player on the floor, and it still feels good.
Not a whole lot to say about anyone else, Thad was a non-factor, Lou didn't play especially well, but he didn't turn the ball over and he was recovering from the flu, Speights didn't have the offensive impact he had against Orlando, but I thought he played solid D when he was in there with the right group, which is more important. Willie Green continues to prove my point for me, he's now 1/8 on the season with 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 4 points.
Rodney Carney was MIA and I'm not quite sure why. Jrue Holiday played 7 unremarkable minutes in his pro debut, but did manage to score his first points on a nice dribble drive as the clock was expiring, finishing with a nice lefty layup in traffic.
Player of The Game: Iguodala.
Team Record: 1-1
Up Next: The Knickerbockers, tomorrow night. Happy Halloween.