I haven't seen enough of the Suns to form an opinion of Terry Porter as a coach, but if tonight's game is any indication, he's got some work to do.
The Suns' huge advantage was down on the blocks. They were coming off a fast-paced game last night in which all of their older guys played big minutes, and for some reason the Suns came out and tried to run with the Sixers. For the first 6 minutes or so, the Suns were actually the aggressor on the break, running on misses, makes and everything in between. Even on a night when they're well-rested, I don't think they could beat the Sixers at this game anymore. When they're tired...well, it wasn't much of a game after the first quarter.
The match-up that had me worried, Thad vs. Amare, wound up being a big plus for the Sixers. Thad took advantage of Amare's, let's call it fear, of leaving the paint on defense. He dropped 14 in the first quarter and after a quick start in the half court, the Suns never went to Amare on the blocks with any regularity.
The second quarter was dominated by Marreese Speights. who scored 16 of the Sixers 25 points in the quarter. He was too much for Amare, Amundson and even Grant Hill who was stuck on him in the post on one possession. Speights had an unbelievable game, 11/16 in 24 minutes of work for a career high of 22 points. He also had 7 boards, 4 offensive.
It wasn't all roses for the Sixers, though. Andre Iguodala was without his jumper for the third consecutive game. In two of those games he wound up going for 20 points, which is a great sign, but they really need him to find his complete game again before they start facing stiffer defenses. Iggy finished with 22, 5 boards, 7 dimes and only 1 turnover. Almost half of his points (10) came from the line.
The real negative of the game, though, was the continued piss-poor play of Lou Williams. Cold shooting I can live with. It happens to everyone, and only the really, really good players can still turn in solid performances when their shot isn't falling (see the paragraph above). My main problem with Lou is his decision-making. He insists on pounding the air out of the ball, ignoring screens, dribbling into double teams, taking bad shots, forcing passes to the wrong player and ignoring mismatches. Don't believe me, I have an example of each.
- End of the first quarter, Lou winds up with Amundson on him on a switch with 8 seconds left on the clock. He picks up his dribble with five seconds on the clock, pump fakes which allows Amundson to close the distance, then forces a bad jumper which misses. With that mismatch, he has to go to the hole.
- I counted at least 4 times when Lou had the ball on the left side of the floor. Speights or Evans came out to set a screen and he left before the screen could be set. Then he just dribbled in place until the big came out to double him anyway. In this case, you get no advantage from the screen and roll whatsoever. If he allows the screen to be set, you might get a switch, the double might get there late and you can split it, or maybe the guard goes under the screen and you get a wide-open jumper. Instead, you just get a double against the sideline and a very hard pass out of it.
- He took three threes and at least two or three deep twos, all with more than 10 seconds left on the shot clock, none as a result of a screen or swing pass. Just shots off the dribble.
- The one three he did make came off a handoff from Reggie, but he never should've had the ball. Thad came out and set a nice screen for Lou, which he moved away from, but the Suns switched it anyway and Thad immediately got Barbosa on his back in the post. Lou's man sagged off him a little bit, daring him to shoot, which he didn't. He looked for the entry pass to Thad for about 1.5 seconds, then passed the ball away from the mismatch to Reggie Evans. He should've moved with the ball until he could get an angle to get the ball to Thad with that huge mismatch.
- Twice he tried to thread the needle to Reggie in the lane. Both times, Reggie was surrounded by Purple shirts and the pass never had a prayer of getting there. Even if it had, you were giving the ball to Reggie in the paint with shot blockers on either side of him.
And finally, Sam Dalembert deserves a round of aplause for his work on Shaq. Sammy only played 23 minutes tonight, and for most of those he was guarding the big man. He didn't need, ask for, or receive a double for the majority of the plays. He played solid, fundamental defense and out-performed Shaq. 6 points, 11 boards, 1 block, only 2 fouls and a +/- of +21 is a top-notch effort from the big guy.
Player of The Game: Speights
Team Record: 26-24
Up Next: Memphis on Wednesday