Continuity, apparently, is not a cure-all in this abbreviated NBA season, or at least it wasn't on opening night for the Sixers (game capsule). The Sixers looked every bit like a team without the benefit of a full camp and preseason schedule as they bumbled their way through an ugly first quarter, then fell short in their valiant comeback attempt.
Here's your rotation chart:
Overall, the Sixers played a game very much unlike the standard they set under Doug Collins last season. Their defense was hit or miss, more miss, they did a terrible job rebounding on the defensive end and most importantly, they did not take care of the ball, not at all. It took a series of heroic shots in the fourth quarter by Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala to give the team a chance to steal the game, but one too many heroic shots ended the game with 5 seconds left.
Since it's almost 2 a.m., let's go with bullets for the things that struck me during the game and after:
- Collins only used 8 guys, and only used Meeks for 14 minutes. Jrue, Hawes and Iguodala all played heavy minutes, everyone else was right around 27 min. He's probably not going to be able to stick with an eight-man rotation for long.
- After giving up 12 offensive rebounds in the first half, they really buckled down in the second half. Their defensive rebounding rate was a pitiful 63.6% in the first half, 77.3% in the second half, and 69.1% for the game.
- The Sixers shot 12/15 from the line in the first half, 3/4 in the second. Portland shot 4/4 in the first half, 14/19 in the second. Make of that what you will, but keep in mind 6 of Portland's foul shots in the second came on intentional fouls to extend the game at the end.
- Spencer Hawes' rebounding was simply atrocious in the first quarter. He gave up a handful of offensive rebounds that turned into instant points and was consistently out of position. As the game wore on, though, he did a very good job and was actually fighting for rebounds in traffic, something he rarely did last season. His passing was excellent all game. 10/14/9/2/1 on 9 shots is a line you'll take from him every night, though it would've been nice to see him get to the line at least once.
- Elton Brand looked sluggish to me, hopefully he's rounding into shape. He didn't get to the line either.
- Jodie Meeks was a complete zero in this game, in every imaginable way. Two defensive plays, in particular, really bothered me. The Sixers were coming back in the third quarter, cut the deficit to two, then Meeks lost Wes Matthews for a corner three. The very next possession, Meeks didn't close out on Meeks and he drilled another three. The lead was up to eight in a matter of two possessions because he got lazy. Can't have that.
- Jrue Holiday had a terrible game, something we simply cannot see much of this season if the Sixers are going to improve on their .500 record from last season. Early on, it seemed like nerves. Later, it was just sloppy. 6 turnovers to only 2 assists is beyond unacceptable. Jrue was more aggressive, he seemed to be seeking out contact and driving to the hole, but he needs to take better care of the ball and he needs to do a better job of absorbing contact and selling the foul.
- Iguodala played a great game, pretty much beginning to end, well, almost to the end. His back-to-back threes really sparked the comeback. He was aggressive all night and should've had more than 5 free throw attempts (the and-one that was called a charge was a horrible call). The three he took with 5 seconds left on the clock was a bad shot, and really a bad play. Raymond Felton went to the line at the other end for two shots with the Sixers down by two. He made the first and missed the second, instead of taking the timeout, Collins had them push the ball up the floor to - hopefully - get an advantage in transition. Young grabbed the rebound, passed to Iguodala who pushed the ball up the floor. Iguodala wound up with Aldridge on him, out past the three-point line. Lou Williams was covered in the corner. With about 8 seconds left, you could see the transition opportunity for the three wasn't there.Either Collins or Iguodala should've taken a timeout when the open look didn't materialize. There was plenty of time to take the ball on the sideline and set up a play. Even without the timeout, I would've preferred a drive for a quick two or a drive and kick considering the matchup Iguodala had.
- Lou was my pick for Player of The Game after the first half, and then put a nail in the coffin with his barrage during the team's furious comeback. He caught fire at exactly the right time and scored 10 straight points. On the last play, he kind of shied away from the ball, but I think he was setting himself up for a kick out from Iguodala if he drove to the hoop. He never really got open, nor came to the ball. If there was a timeout called, I assume the play would've gone to him.
- There was a clear trend tonight, and it's something we're probably going to see a lot of this season. When the starters were on the floor, Portland had a clear edge. The tables completely turned when the Sixers' bench came in. Shallow teams are going to be in for a long night when they play the Sixers this season, and I think that bench is going to win them a ton of games. They're just so explosive.
- LaMarcus Aldridge did pretty much what he always does against the Sixers, scored a bunch of points, but needed a bunch of shots to get them. He finished with 25 points on 25 shots and really had little effect in the second half.
- The Sixers probably win this game if not for an insane stretch of shooting from deep in the early fourth when the Blazers hit four threes in about 3:30 of game time. They stretched a three-point lead to 15.
- The Sixers final comeback was sparked by a Jrue three, followed by consecutive Iguodala threes, then 10 straight points by Lou. They scored 19 points on 10 possessions to cut the lead to 2 with 16 seconds left, if not for a bad jumper by Thad and a turnover by Jrue (a charge when he was passing the ball off), they very well may have gotten over the hump on that surge, but it wasn't meant to be.
- Speaking of Thad. I realize he spent a lot of time working on his jumper this offseason, but the results really didn't show tonight, and I thought he settled way too much. It's one thing to be able to keep defenders honest by hitting an occasional 20-footer, it's another thing entirely to abandon your drives and become a jump shooter exclusively. He didn't hit one of them tonight.
- One more thing about Collins. I hated the fact that he left first Turner, and then Jrue in the game in situations where the team was giving a foul to stop the clock and they already had five personal fouls. Meeks should've been in there instead of Turner the first time, there was no reason to lose Turner and Jrue in those situations.
- Overall, the Sixers did not play a good game tonight, by any stretch of the imagination, but they shouldn't be hanging their heads right now. They fought and clawed their way back and had a shot to tie the game in the final 10 seconds. Over a longer period of time, not giving up but still losing doesn't mean a whole lot, but for tonight, take solace in it.
Player of The Game: Lou Williams. He was my pick at the half, then put the nail in the coffin with his offensive explosion during the furious comeback. He really led the team back from the brink in the first half as well. Lou finished with 25 points on 17 shots.
Team Record: 0-1
Up Next: @ PHO, on Wednesday.