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Sixers Amaze Me In Another Loss

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Nine made threes. Career game for Lou Williams and clearly his best of the year, on both ends. Elton Brand continues his resurgence in a big way, four more blocks, four more steals, 8/14 from the floor, 6/7 from the line. Only three made threes for Memphis. Still, somehow, a loss. The reason is clear as day, we'll explore after the jump.

I added two new columns to the rotation chart for tonight, defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds allowed. Take a look, then we'll discuss:

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Six. The Philadelphia 76ers collected exactly six defensive rebounds the entire second half. They gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the final 24 minutes. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous. Pitiful. Repugnant. Embarrassing. I'm out of adjectives, they just sucked. (I didn't include team rebounds, mainly because most of them look bogus in the play-by-play. These numbers are much worse when you include the team rebounds).

Think about that for a second, six times the Sixers played solid enough defense to get a missed shot, and they collected the defensive rebound. Six text-book stops, there were others on turnovers, but straight defense, only six times did they complete a possession and get the ball back. This is just baffling to me. The third quarter, which saw a one-point lead dissolve into a seven-point deficit was marred by seven offensive rebounds for the Grizzlies to go along with three defensive rebounds for the Sixers.

I'd love to sit here and criticize Eddie Jordan for going small, and in fact I will a little bit, because when the small lineup continued to struggle on the glass, he never went big again, just to see if it would work. But the fact of the matter is the big lineup was no better than the small lineup (8 defensive boards, 8 offensive allowed with the big lineup. 9 defensive, 9 offensive allowed for the small lineup).

If you want to split hairs, I wouldn't have had Thad on the floor for the final 5:43 of the game. The Sixers were in a tough situation because not only were they getting killed on the glass, Rudy Gay was basically raping them at the same time making unbelievable shots. The ideal lineup, if you insist on going small, would've been to put Iguodala (the best defensive rebounder of the smalls) at the four, let him play closer to the basket on defense and secure the boards, but they couldn't do that with Thad out there. Iguodala had to guard either Gay or Mayo. If Jordan had gone with either Ivey or Jrue instead of Thad in the lineup, preferably Jrue because he's a strong rebounder, you could've matched up like this:

  • Brand on Gasol
  • Iguodala on Randolph
  • Carney on Gay
  • Holiday on Mayo
  • Williams on Conley
That would've given you a much better chance of grabbing defensive boards than what we wound up with:

  • Brand on Gasol
  • Thad on Randolph
  • Carney on Gay
  • Iguodala on Mayo
  • Williams on Conley
As fate would have it, Thad blew a couple key rebounds down the stretch. But as I said above, the rotations really didn't matter a whole lot, this was a team-wide failure on the glass and I'm not quite sure why.

On the grand scale, I think the team's defensive rebounding problems stem from two things. (1) Small lineups with gross size mismatches at multiple positions, (2) Horrible on-the-ball defense which sets off a chain reaction of helping, over-helping and helping some more. You wind up with guys in no-man's land when shots go up, rather than everyone being in contact with their man to body up. Quick aside, when I was a freshman in high school, my coach would run hours of rebounding drills, literally hours. His mantra was that if every defensive player did his job boxing out, the ball should literally bounce before it was picked up by the nearest defender. Each man's first responsibility is to put a body on his man, and keep him away from the glass.

Anyway, back to tonight's game. As I said before the jump, Lou played his best game of the year and I really don't even care all that much about the 31 points. He was picking up his man in the back court and applying pressure on the ball all night long. Yes, he got blown by a couple times, but that was by no means the problem tonight. If Lou can defend like he did tonight, the team defense will be infinitely better.

A few of the offensive boards were unlucky bounces, Sammy out-jumped Randolph for one board, with good position, but the ball tipped off his fingers and landed right in Gasol's lap for a dunk. I'm fairly sure at least three of Brand's blocks were collected by the Grizzlies as offensive rebounds. But for the most part, I think it was just poor technique. People either weren't being physical enough in blocking their men out, or they weren't even bothering accounting for their men. It was a team-wide collapse that wasn't addressed. If you want to criticize Eddie Jordan for anything tonight, take a look at the standard he's holding Jrue Holiday to, then see if he applies it to anyone else on his roster. The answer is no (actually, the answer is not anymore, since he doesn't have the liberty of benching Elton Brand for most of the second half now that Speights is out).

Speaking of Jrue, giving a 19-year-old kid four minutes every couple of games with the concrete understanding that if he doesn't do something spectacular, he's going to get yanked, is no way to (a) build his confidence and (b) develop him as a player. Jrue comes in trying to force the action because he knows he has limited minutes to make an impact. On the defensive end, that's a great thing. On offense, not so much. You wind up with the kid taking 5 shots in 4:33 and getting the hook, never to return. How about giving him one chance, preferably at the start of a quarter, to get his feet wet. Tell him he's going to get a decent run, no matter what, take some of the pressure off the kid and see what happens. It would also help if he had a better front court to work with than Primoz Brezec and Jason Smith.

Tomorrow night, the Sixers will travel to Cleveland to play the ass end of their fourth back-to-back of the year. Here's the workload for their key players heading in:

  • Andre Iguodala - 43:22
  • Lou Williams - 39:43
  • Elton Brand - 37:50
That would be a lot easier to swallow had they taken care of business in the first game.

I thought about what I wanted to say in regards to Thad, but I don't have any words. He looks completely lost, I don't know if it's playing the three (I don't think so), the new offense (possibly), his defensive struggles carrying over to the offensive end. I'm just not sure. Right now, Rodney Carney looks like the best small forward on the roster who isn't currently our starting two guard. Thad is a smart kid, he's an exceptional athlete and he's got all the requisitie skills to be a very, very good three in this league. More than that, we've seen him do it. We've seen him dominate, and not for a small stretch either. He carried this team for a couple of weeks last season. I think Jordan should probably move Carney into the starting lineup for the time being, they should bring in the shooting coach Thad worked with last season and spend all their free time working on his fundamentals. Get the jump shot down, and it'll open up his drives to the hole. Get him relaxed and his handle will improve. It'll take a deft touch to find a way to remove him from the starting lineup without crushing his confidence, a deft touch I'm not sure Jordan possesses, but it would be in the best interests of the team as whole, both short and long term, to get Thad squared away sooner rather than later.

Player of The Game: Lou Williams
Team Record: 5-7
Up Next: LeBron and the Fat Man

Oh, and yes, the Sixers did just lose to the Grizzlies, at home.

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Wow, I completely forgot to mention that my player of the game also made the stupidest play of the game. A play that was probably the tipping point. With 4:55 to go in the fourth, and the Sixers trailing by six, Lou picked up a steal and raced up the court for a three-on-one break. Instead of making the simple pass to the wing, he decided that was a good time to try a behind-the-back pass to Thad on his left. Rudy Gay stepped in front of the pass and about 20 seconds later the lead was 10. If he makes the simple pass, the Sixers wind up with a dunk, maybe even a three-point play. Worst-case, it's a four-point play and momentum has swung. Instead, the hole was dug significantly deeper and they never could climb out of it. Stupid, stupid play.

Thanks to Tom Moore's column for the reminder. Check it out for Jordan's post-game comments which infuriate me (a) because he's calling his team out in the press, (b) because he's taking zero responsibility for the state of the team and (c) because there's some truth to the comments, whether I want to admit it or not.