shooting under 40% as a team. It just isn't going to happen. The fact that the Sixers had a three-point lead with 2:40 left to go means this is a game they should've won, but from that point on the Sixers would hit only 1 of 6 shots while the Heat would score on every possession but one.
After the jump we'll talk about the shooting, substitution patterns and defense, or lack thereof.
Let's start with Iguodala. I've been keeping track of where his shots have been coming from for the past three games, and it's alarming. Over the past three games, he's hit a total of 5 jumpers. Against the Nuggets he only attempted 1. This isn't just a case of his jumper going cold, it's a case of him losing all confidence in the shot. He's the type of guy who isn't going to force things if they aren't there, but if he isn't even a thought from the outside the team becomes much easier to defend. Not to mention the fact that his selfless play leads to Lou Williams attempting 19 shots.
As for Lou, he continues to kill this team. It's funny, because if you knew nothing about the game, like most opposing team announcers, you'd look at his 22 points off the bench and think he was a pretty potent weapon. Of course, when you realize it took him 19 shots to get those 22, and the fact that he had 1 assist in 30 minutes of action, and the key turnover with 1:53 remaining in the game, well, then you'd know the Sixers would've been better off if Lou had never taken off his sweats today.
On defense, it was ugly early, very ugly. Sam Dalembert was dominated by Jermaine O'Neal in the first. So dominated, in fact, that Tony DiLeo went to Theo Ratliff before Sammy even picked up his requisite second foul in the first. Theo came in early in the third for Dalembert as well. For the game, Theo was +4, Dalembert was -10, and those weren't coincidental numbers.
Forget about the bad shooting and the poor interior defense for a minute, though. Forget the first 45 minutes of the game, actually, and let's focus on four possessions that won the game for the Heat. With 2:51 to go, Andre Miller hit a pair of free throws to push the Sixers' lead to 87-84. On the ensuing possession, Dwyane Wade blew by Iguodala on the perimeter, sucked the defense to him, then threw a lob to Jamario Moon. Andre Miller fouled Moon to break up the alley-oop, but Moon hit both free throws.
The next time down, Wade blew by Iggy again, this time Speights made a nice play to cut off the lane, but was called for a block. Wade hit both free throws.
The next time down, the Sixers made an adjustment. Udonis Haslem set a screen for Wade at the foul line, this time Speights jumped out on Wade and Iggy fought around the screen to apply a double to Wade on the right wing. Unfortunately, Haslem was left wide open at the foul line for an easy jumper, which he hit. Thad should've been the guy to rotate to Haslem, but he never took a step in the right direction.
The next time down the floor, the Sixers left Iggy on an island with Wade, Wade blew by him, Speights again tried to draw the charge, but Wade slipped him and hit an uncontested layup. The Heat went from 3 down to five up in 4 possessions, 1:51 off the game clock. That was your game.
So, I know you're going to have people saying, "That's why we need a superstar," and while that's true to an extent, it's a futile explanation. The truth is, Tony DiLeo didn't have the correct personnel on the floor for the key possessions late in the game. Royal Ivey had a miserable game offensively, he was 0/3 from the floor. He didn't contribute statistically in any other areas either. Zero's across the board. Of course, the one thing he did extremely well, was defend Dwyane Wade. He completely shut Wade down every second he was on the floor. I realize Tony was leaving Lou on the floor because he's the "offense off the bench" guy, and you need scores down the stretch, but you need stops even more. As soon as it became apparent that Iguodala couldn't stop Wade, and it was really apparent after the second of the four plays I listed above, Tony should've gone to Ivey.
I'll never understand why Lou is immune to punishment for poor play. Of course, when your other option at the two is Willie Green (0/9 from the floor, plus a foul on a Dwyane Wade three-point attempt) you're kind of screwed either way.
Two bright spots for the Sixers today, Andre Miller and Marreese Speights. Miller's calf looked just fine most of the day. He finished as the team's first 30-point scorer of the season. 21 shots is too many for Miller to be taking, but not when he's the only guy who can hit one on the entire team. He also had 9 boards, 2 assists and zero turnovers.
Speights' defense was shaky early, especially on Beasley, but in the second half I thought he played an excellent all around game. He helped from the weak side twice on Wade, getting there in time on both occasions, even though Wade would draw a foul on one and slip past him on the other, he was in the right place at the right time. He played solid positional defense on O'Neal, but had a silly foul on a short jumper. And he closed out and double the ball hard on a pick and roll, the rotation was pitiful and it ended in an open jumper, but again, Speights made the right play. He was also a monster on the boards down the stretch. He had 4 boards (3 offensive) in the final 12:00, he also chipped in with a steal and 10 points.
This is a game the Sixers could've won, and probably should've won considering the position they found themselves in late in the fourth, but it wasn't one I was expecting. In fact, I had them losing all three of these games after the break
. Indy has played them tough all year, Denver is too strong, and this one was a toss-up that I thought they'd drop. 27-27 is disappointing, but not unexpected right now. The key is going to be how they respond. They have three must-wins coming up in a row. First at New Jersey on Monday (I'll be in attendance), then at the Wizards and finally at the Knicks. Three road games against very bad teams. They have to take all three, anything less is completely unacceptable.
Player of The Game:
Andre Miller. I was kind of hoping they'd go the entire season without a 30-point scorer, but so be it. Miller was a man tonight and any thought of him being selfish by playing simply for his consecutive game streak should be immediately forgotten.
@ New Jersey on Monday