The Sixers used a horrible start to the first quarter, a disastrous end to the first half and consistently poor defensive rotations to submarine what was little more than a few spirited stretches of play in their 87-103 loss to the Magic. (game capsule).
Here's your rotation chart. I highlighted the terrible opening and then the back-breaking 10-0 run to end the first half. The starters came out hot in the third, but it went to hell when Collins went to the bench:
If you take a look at the game capsule from the last time these teams met, and compare it to tonight's you'll see a stark difference in the eFG allowed and the defensive rebounding rate. It's almost as if the Sixers were so concerned with getting beaten on the defensive glass, they strayed too far from shooters, opening the door for Orlando to hit 15 of 25 threes and basically destroy each and every comeback effort. It would appear as though that was the case, but honestly, it was just lazy defense that sunk the Sixers tonight. Lazy defense, bad matchups and sloppy play.
Ryan Anderson torched the Sixers for 14 points in the first quarter, 11 of those came before Collins subbed Thad in to chase him out to the three-point line. Lavoy Allen was simply incapable of handling that assignment, and it was clear to Orlando where they could attack. The Sixers showed a lot of moxie coming back from an early 16-point deficit (only to allow that 10-0 run) and then coming back again in the second half to pull within four at one point, but it simply wasn't meant to be. Each time they made a run, they shot themselves in the foot either with a poorly-timed turnover, a slow rotation resulting in a wide-open three for the Magic, or both, which happened on several occasions.
This was probably the worst game Jrue's played in a couple of years. He started off attacking the rim, but he was clearly intimidated by Howard's presence. When he did shoot in there, he was timid with the shot, looking for a way to squeak around Howard, rather than going up strong, or going into Howard's body to draw the contact. His shooting wasn't nearly the big problem with Jrue's game tonight, though. He coughed the ball up five times, the fourth and fifth came on charges and the fifth was also the final straw. Collins sat Jrue down for the last time with 10:30 left in the fourth and you could see him lean over to his assistant coach after pulling Jrue and saying, "Jrue has five trucking turnovers." At least I think that's what he said, my lipreading skills might not be quite up to snuff.
Iguodala caught fire early in the third and the Sixers seemed to have a legit shot at coming back, but the threes just kept raining down on them, and Iguodala's heat check came at the wrong time and lasted about 3 shots too long. Throughout the game, Lou was their best source of offensive, which really is nothing new. Thad had energy, and did a better job of sticking with Anderson than Lavoy and Brand, but it wasn't nearly enough. Turner had a big chance when Jrue sat down in the fourth. He ran the point, and proceeded to run the offense right into the ground with incessant over-dribbling and ill-advised jumpers.
Brand did an excellent job on Dwight Howard, with help, and the team really limited Howard. If you went back and looked at the tape, I'd bet Howard scored about 12 of his 17 points on Voose, and Voose did absolutely nothing to slow him down. He essentially watched Howard push him under the hoop and convert on at least four really easy looks. The thought of fouling a 49% free-throw shooter never seemed to occur to him.
The key to beating this team is now, and will always be daring them to give Howard 30 shots. Put a big on an island with Howard and use every one of the fouls at your disposal on him whenever he gets close to the hoop, but don't double him. Stick with the shooters on the outside no matter how much damage Howard is doing, because Van Gundy gets bored of going to Dwight and the team is constantly looking for threes. Tonight, the Sixers were way too focused on Howard, and they only used the get-out-of-jail-free card of hacking him when he catches too close to the hoop one time.
Overall, a disappointing if not unexpected loss. Orlando has been shooting the lights out from downtown, that trend continued and the Sixers did their best to give the game away with uncharacteristic turnovers. The fact they were even in the game at any point in the second half speaks to their resolve, but resolve without defense isn't all that comforting.
It only counts as one loss. Get back at it on ESPN Friday night.
Player of The Game: Lou. 21 points on 13 shots and 7 dimes to only 1 turnover.
Team Record: 20-10
Up Next: vs. DAL, Friday night on national cable television.
Jrue's Goal: A terrible failure tonight. 0 FTAs to 5 Turnovers. He's 1/2 since the inception.