Outgunned and down their best player, the Sixers went into Oklahoma City tonight prohibitive underdogs. They limped out with their sixth loss in eight games, but the guys who suited up deserve to board their charter flight to Dallas with their heads held high.
Let's start with the charts:
The Sixers continue to play very good offensive basketball. As a group, they're still sharing the ball very well (25 assists on 39 made field goals). Surprisingly, they're rebounding the ball very well, on both ends of the floor. They basically out-played the Thunder in almost every facet of the game. The almost being the free throw differential. For the second time in three games, the Sixers were absolutely killed by sending their opponents to the line.
My guess is this problem will plague them for the entire season, and it probably comes down from the coach. The Sixers will be outclassed on the inside by just about every team in the league. They can't defend the rim, so it's better to send guys to the line with hard fouls than let them pump up the crowd with a string of easy dunks. Now, this philosophy isn't responsible for all the fouls, obviously, but sprinkle in a couple per quarter and suddenly the touch fouls on the perimeter turn into jump shots. Add in a superstar who consistently gets the benefit of the doubt on the other side, and things could get ugly - like they did tonight.
The theme of the night tonight was good and bad. Let's just go down the line:
Play of The Game
- Doug Collins: BAD - Honestly, I thought this was a poorly coached game. Collins did a fairly good job with his rotations, but there were a number of little things that made it much harder for the team to climb back into it. From early on, it was obvious the Sixers absolutely had to have Jrue on the floor to have any chance. When he picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, Collins should've switched him off Russell Westbrook and onto Thabo Sefolosha. He could've take it easy on the defensive end and stayed on the floor. Instead, Collins left Jrue on Westbrook, and he picked up a quick fourth foul. Collins made the exact same mistake two more times: at the beginning of the fourth, when Jrue quickly picked up his fifth foul, and again in the waning moments, when Collins left Jrue on Westbrook and Jrue had no choice but to commit his sixth foul to stop the clock. Even without the foul trouble, Jrue was having a hard time with Westbrook. Add in the fouls, and he couldn't offer much more than moderate resistance to Westbrook's drives. The team would've been better off defensively with Turner on Westbrook, and Jrue would've remained on the floor to run the offense. One more bone to pick with Collins. Twice, he called timeouts at key junctures of the game and had a chance to set up a play. Both times, he called Andres Nocioni's number. Both times, Nocioni wound up driving and throwing up ugly runners that had no prayer of going in. Nocioni is an afterthought on the offensive end. Plays should've been run for Jrue, Brand or Turner. In that order. The first time, maybe you're trying to catch him by surprise. The second time, I just don't get it. GOOD: Lou Williams absolutely killed the team tonight. Collins was forced to go with Lou for more minutes than he maybe would've liked to, considering his play, but Collins did get him out and go with Meeks when he had the opportunity.
- Elton Brand: GOOD - Brand was a beast on both ends tonight, and really showed more energy than some of the young guys. He was calling for the ball, no matter what matchup he had, and delivering pretty regularly. BAD
- Lou Williams: BAD - Lou was death to this team tonight. When defenders aren't biting on his pump fakes on the perimeter, he's at a loss. He pumps, then pumps again, then fires an off-balance jumper that has no prayer of going in. 2/11 from the floor doesn't begin to tell the story of how bad Lou was. GOOD - Lou did take part in an actual offensive set at one point in the third quarter, and it was a pretty play that got an open look for a layup.
- Evan Turner: GOOD - In the first half, Turner was looking for his shot, cutting without the ball, hitting his catch-and-shoot situations and finishing around the rim. BAD - In the second half, with Jrue in foul trouble rotting on the bench, Turner needed to take on the scoring load. He didn't. Not even close. The offense stalled out as he dribbled the ball on the perimeter looking for something to happen off the ball, instead of making it happen like Jrue did so well.
- Jrue Holiday: BAD - Six turnovers, six fouls and 31 points for Russell Westbrook. This is what happens when you expect a 20-year-old point guard to be the focal point of your offense and stop the penetration of one of the best penetrating point guards in the league. GOOD - When Jrue wasn't fouling or turning the ball over, he was not only effectively running the offense, getting his teammates wide open looks, but he was getting anything he wanted on the offensive end as well, against one of the best defensive PGs in the league. Jrue used his dribble to get into the lane time and time again. He finished with both hands, used screens to get open jumpers, knocked them down. Ran the break, ran the offense. He basically carried this team offensively for the entirety of his 33 minutes. If you take away a couple of the careless turnovers, this was a stellar offensive game for him. Unfortunately, some of those turnovers came at pivotal moments in the game and they really cost the Sixers.
- Jodie Meeks: GOOD - Meeks absolutely caught fire in the second half. 17 points and much-needed three-point shooting helped close the gap in a hurry when the Sixers were making their furious comeback. Nothing bad for Jodie tonight.
- Spencer Hawes: It was as ugly as ever, but Hawes did actually produce a little bit tonight on the offensive end. Two sissy hooks, a jumper, a couple free throws, and he wasn't a negative in +/- on the game (I believe the first time this season he wasn't). So good for Hawes.
: The Sixers got the ball in transition late in the fourth, Jrue had the ball in the middle of the floor for a 3-on-2 break, he dribbled into the lane, a couple feet inside the foul line, sucking the defenders in to him, then turned around and found Meeks, who was trailing the play, for a wide-open three. Jrue recognized the hot hand, recognized the situation (down by 6, needing to get it to a one-possession game), and found Meeks who canned the three. That's a veteran play, and a big shot by Meeks. One of many.
Player of The Game:
@ Dallas, Friday night