Believe it or not, there's one positive thing about the horrible basketball we're witnessing on a nightly basis from our beloved Philadelphia 76ers. These posts basically write themselves. I find myself with more to say about the sad state of this once proud franchise than I have the time to type. Tonight's stupendous loss, their eighth in a row, was no different.
Everyone (and by everyone I mean traditional media and casual "Yay, AI's back" fans) will focus on two numbers after this game. The number eight, for the losing streak the Sixers are on, and the number three, for the savior of the 2009-2010 Sixers. Those numbers don't mean jack to me, though. The only number that matters to me is 133. That was the Sixers defensive efficiency rating in tonight's game, and it's unbelievably pitiful. I don't think I've ever seen a defensive rating that low in a game that wasn't a complete blowout, where a team just gave up like halfway through the fourth quarter. The Sixers were actually trying in this game. They have become worse than a laughing stock on the defensive end, it's just sad at this point.
Here's a look at the rotations:
If that rotation chart doesn't have you laughing, try this on for size. The team's answer to not being able to defend anyone is to sign a 34-year-old diminutive guards who is infamous for playing no defense, handing him the keys to the car by guaranteeing him playing time, and their long-term plan for this season is to put that guard next to Lou Williams in the back court, another guard who couldn't defend that guy to the right. After being dominated on the glass continually all season long, Eddie Jordan's plan is to go smaller, significantly smaller. Makes sense right?
But that's a discussion for another night, tonight we're going to talk about this disgrace of a game. I'm handing out report cards for the players, based on defense only because frankly when you defend like this, offense doesn't even matter. You already know who what grade the coach earned.
Andre Iguodala - F. Kevin Durant abused Iguodala all night long. He didn't have a prayer of keeping him out of the lane, he lost track of him several times. Durant didn't score all 33 of his points on Iguodala, but most of them came right in AI's face and he shouldn't be sleeping well tonight, not at all.
Elton Brand - F. Nick Collison owned you on the offensive glass. Yes, you had to leave to help when Willie Green et al were getting burned off the dribble, but you absolutely have to find a way to get a body on your man. Collison shot 9/9 from the floor, mostly against Brand. Unacceptable.
Sam Dalembert - D-. Didn't get enough minutes to earn the F, mostly because Eddie Jordan thought it was too important to keep Willie Green on the floor for 41 minutes in a small lineup. Didn't have much of an effect on the game when he was in there. (He would've been a C-, but all bigs lost a full letter off their grade for grabbing only 55% of available defensive rebounds, and allowing 18 offensive boards. Epic fail.)
Thad Young - F. Torched by Durant whenever he was on him. Lost Jeff Green multiple times, personally breaking him out of his shooting slump from the outside.
Willie Green - F-minus. Green gets the lowest grade because he was continually torched by one of the worst offensive players in the league. If you want to know what the league thinks about Willie Green's defense, consider this: The OKC Thunder came out tonight ignoring Kevin Durant in the first quarter. Instead, they went to Thabo Sefolosha (7.1 points/36 minutes on the season. A 40% shooter from the field) isolated on Willie Green. Thabo responded with 7 of his 12 points in the first quarter, all a result of Willie Green's defense. It got worse from there. If you followed the game thread, you saw that Willie was directly responsible for 19 points being scored by his man. That doesn't include the multiple times his man blew right by him, drawing the defense and kicking out for an eventual wide-open three. This, friends, is the guy who led the Sixers in minutes tonight. The guy who has led the team in minutes for the past two games, as a matter of fact.
Jrue Holiday - A Plus. The rookie is the only Philadelphia player who should be able to look himself in the mirror tomorrow morning. He had a tough cover all night long in Russell Westbrook and he completely stoned him. I mean, shut him down. Westbrook shot 1/11 from the field, the one make being a contested pull-up jumper from about 20 feet. But forget the shooting numbers, they could be deceiving. What I want to focus on is how Holiday controlled Westbrook's penetration. All night long, Holiday got beat one time. It was on a pick-and-roll, he correctly bounced under, got tangled up with Dalembert, Westbrook reversed course and drove the lane on the same side he started on, got to the hoop, then kicked out for an open three in the corner. That was it, that was his one blip in 37 minutes of defensive work. A lot of people are going to look at Westbrook's line, see the 15 assists and try to somehow blame Holiday for that, but 13 of those assists came on jump shots, and only one of those jump shots was a drive and kick. The rest were simply guys getting stuck on picks or completely losing their men on the perimeter. Westbrook passed the ball from the perimeter to the perimeter to a wide-open man for an easy shot. That's not on Jrue, not one bit. Westbrook made it into the paint two times all night against the kid, the fist time, Jrue muscled him up, didn't need any help, and forced him to take a fallaway jumper from about 8 feet away, he bricked it. Add in the two steals and a couple big hustle plays and I feel 100% comfortable with the A+ grade for the kid's defensive efforts tonight.
The Bench - F. Jason Smith's butter fingers continue. Carney had no prayer of stopping Durant. Royal Ivey barely broke a sweat, but I'm lumping him in anyway. Jason Kapono deserved to have his name mispronounced by the Thunder color man the entire night, he was a joke.
I haven't mentioned offense because the offense was more than fine tonight. In fact, they were stellar considering they were facing the #4 defense in the league. The Sixers offensive efficiency rating in this game was 120.5, OKC had held opponents to a 101.5 rating up until this game. The offense was great all game long, which I'm sure tickles Eddie Jordan pink.
The problem remains defense and rebounding. To be more specific, defensive principles, defensive accountability, defensive personnel and defensive execution, in that order. It's a ludicrous system that's designed to dare people to hit open threes. It's a ludicrous system that reacts to every pick and every dribble drive with an endless stream of rotations that cannot possibly be sustained through more than one or two passes. It's a system that is made even weaker by pumping up the minutes of the team's worst perimeter defenders.
Think about this for a second. Every half-court possession for 34 out of 48 minutes of tonight's game started with the ball in Russell Westbrook's hands. All but once, Jrue Holiday won that initial battle, yet still the Thunder had no problem scoring 117 points on only 89 possessions. And still, no one even utters the word defense when critiquing this team. All anyone wants to talk about is how Allen Iverson is going to get after it when rejoins the team on Monday.
I've got some sobering news for you. Even if Allen Iverson plays at the level of his MVP season. Even if he scores 35 points a night, never turns the ball over and gets everyone involved on offense it's not going to make one bit of difference. This team is too bad defensively to beat any team with a pulse, the only wins they're going to get are against the (other) truly awful teams on the league, maybe with a few wins over mediocre teams who happen to have a bad shooting night thrown in as well. And one last bit of bad news, the Sixers are getting worse and worse defensively, they aren't getting better.
Player of The Game: Jrue Holiday
Team Record: 5-77
Up Next: @ Charlotte on Saturday night.
Make a note, Derek Bodner and I will be holding our second SixersBeat radio show tomorrow night at 8pm. I think we've got some of the kinks worked from our inaugural episode, so listen live, call in, listen to the replay, subscribe to us on iTunes, whatever. Click on the link for all the info and to listen to last week's episode. If you have any topics you'd like us to discuss, let me know in the comments below.
Oh, and just in case Ed Stefanski is out there reading, here's a personal message:
Fire Eddie Jordan. Please.