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Shredded Expectations

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There's nothing to do but tip your cap to the Philadelphia 76ers after they game they just played in Boston. Down 15 points, undermanned, facing a red-hot team on the road and they refused to quit. Refused to let up. Refused to lose. Easily their best game of the season. Finally, the Sixers can say they've beaten a good team.

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Before we get into the contributions from the bigs, which were unbelievably huge, I want to recognize the mammoth effort three players in particular put forth in the second half. Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Willie Green played every single second after halftime. Not only did they not take a breather, but they soundly out-played Boston's trio of Pierce, Allen and Rondo, on both ends of the floor, and set the table for Elton Brand's tip in.

  • Holiday started 0/7 from the floor, then hit a banker for three with 53 seconds left in the third quarter. It was an ugly shot, but it fell and the lid was taken off the hoop for the kid. His confidence was back and he drilled a jumper the next time down the floor from the baseline and another from the opposite baseline to start the fourth quarter. Seven big points to go along with a number of excellent helpers. I thought Jrue's defense was a little bit shaky on Rondo tonight. He was lagging way off him, and picks were finding him a little too easily, allowing for much more penetration from opposing points than we've seen from Jrue in the past. Still, when you look at their lines at the end of the night, the kid held his own against one of the best PGs in the league. A quick nod to Eddie Jordan, believe it or not, when Rondo was killing the team with pick-and-rolls, Jordan switched to the matchup zone for a couple possessions. It took Boston out of that P&R game. Good in-game strategy there by Jordan, even better that he didn't stick with the zone long enough for Boston to figure it out.
  • Willie Green was...good? He took bad shots, he lost Allen a couple times early, but overall, I'll say it. He played a solid game. His 7 points and 3 dimes in the third quarter were huge as the Sixers overcame a lackluster first half to make a game of it.
  • Iguodala spent the first three quarters locking Paul Pierce down (PP finished with 9 points on 4/12 from the floor). AI9 went into the second half shooting a dismal 1/10 with 3 points. In the second half, Iguodala exploded for 14 points on 6 shots. He drained two threes and continued to stifle Pierce on the defensive end. His only hiccup after the half was a costly turnover with 2:20 left in the game. Can't have that.
  • I have to say it one more time. Those guys played 24 extremely tough minutes in the second half, and they were really difference in this game. Great job.

There was a moment when I thought this game was over. The Sixers scratched and clawed their way back and took a three-point lead (89-86) with 4:33 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Rondo worked another pick-and-roll, got to the hole, hit the layup and drew a foul on Dalembert. Rondo missed the free throw, Garnett grabbed the rebound and hit Ray Allen for a wide-open three, he nailed it. A three-point lead turned into a two-point deficit on one possession. That could've been a back breaker. But the Sixers showed a resilience that's been missing all year. They locked down Boston for the next two minutes, thanks mostly to Elton Brand's defensive work, and when Ray Allen scored with 2:11 to give the Celts 93-91 lead, Iguodala answered immediately with a three-point play on the other end. Those two minutes were a statement stretch for this team, punctuated by a tough conversion and the free throw by Iguodala. I think this was probably about the time that Boston realized they were going to have to fight for this win.

As for the bigs, well, I'm just going to let their stats speak for themselves:

  • Brand - 27 minutes, 7/12 from the floor, 9/10 from the line, 8 boards, 2 blocks, 23 points, +11
  • Speights - 22 minutes, 6/16 from the floor, 5/8 from the line, 10 boards, 17 points, +9
Jordan did go big for long stretches tonight, usually with Brand at the five and Speights at the four. I believe this was a direct reaction to Thad having problems with Garnett at the four, and the Sixers having a ton of trouble on the glass in the first half. Again, a good decision by Jordan, but that's where the good news ends with our puzzling coach.

Finally, Jordan used dead balls and timeouts to make offense/defense substitutions during the crucial end-game possessions. The only problem? He was making stupid offense/defense substitutions. In the final two minutes, Jordan had three or four different opportunities to get his best defensive unit out there for a crucial stop. Each time, this is the unit he chose:

  • Jrue Holiday (correct choice)
  • Willie Green (gulp, correct choice tonight)
  • Andre Iguodala (correct choice)
  • Thad Young
  • Marreese Speights
I'm still sticking with the theory that a small lineup is probably the best way to execute Jordan's foolish defensive system, so I won't go nuts about Thad at the four, especially when consider Kevin Garnett's notorious aversion to taking important shots under any circumstances (He didn't get one attempt in the final 2 minutes, even though he had a huge mismatch in Thad). The big problem I have is with Speights at the five when you NEED a stop. The kid played a solid game tonight, but he's the third-best defensive center on this team, at best. Elton Brand or Sam Dalembert absolutely, positively must be the center on those final possessions. I'm not sure if this is an example of Jordan "coaching by feel" or if he's truly clueless, but this makes two nights in a row that he's made the absultely incorrect decision with his personnel for key situations. It didn't hurt tonight, but that wsa probably more luck than skill. In the final 2 minutes, Boston grabbed 3 offensive rebounds against the small lineup, and Ray Allen nearly won the game after the Sixers were unable to secure a rebound, nearly wasting Iguodala's tremendous effort defending Paul Pierce.

Overall, this was a better coached game by Eddie Jordan, but 9 times out of 10, those defensive substitutions (or lack thereof) will cost you the game against a good team.

Player of The Game: Elton Brand. Not bad for a guy who can't start in the league, huh?
Team Record: 7-19
Up Next: The Clipppers, tomorrow night at 7:30pm. The DF.com field trip!

Looking back, the only bummer of the night was the early foul trouble for Jrue Holiday. Two of the fouls called on him in the first 15 minutes of the game were B.S. star vs. rookie whistles, in my opinion. He didn't pick up another foul the rest of the game. Jrue definitely needs to work on his shot selection, and I also think Jordan should try running a play to get the kid an easy look early in the game. Once he hits a shot or two, he's a different player on the offensive end. I'd make it a priority to get him off on the right foot.