It's hard to believe, but had Spencer Hawes played last night, the Sixers very well may have come away with a win. I'm not even talking about the super-human Spencer Hawes who hit two thirds of his shots over the first six games and grabbed a ton of defensive boards. I mean if they even just had last season's version of their big man, they might've pulled this one out.
The Sixers didn't lose this game on the defensive end, in fact, they were awesome defensively (especially Iguodala). They didn't lose the game on the glass, either (75.7%). They lost it on the offensive end.
Now whether this is a good idea on the offensive end or not, a lot of the Sixers sets are built around Hawes' ability to pass out of the high post. Everyone is familiar with the backdoor passes he connects on once in a while, but that's really the window dressing. The important thing about those sets is that it gets guys moving off the ball, and movement off the ball is the key to getting open shots. Think about it, for a second. When Hawes gets that pass, almost always have two of your offensive threats making hard cuts. One guy is always cutting toward Hawes, to take the hand-off or give him an outlet, while another guy is cutting through the lane, then circling out to the weak side, possibly for an open jumper from the wing. When that action happens, you've got defenders moving and adjusting, and when you're talking about playing a team who always has at least two minus defenders on the floor, well, you're talking about easy hoops.
Collins simply didn't have that weapon in his arsenal last night. Vucevic wasn't going to do it with Chandler guarding him, and it's not really Brand's game. Instead, we saw some two-man game with Brand/AI9, we saw a handful of perimeter screens, designed to get the Knicks to switch. We saw Turner running off of curls every once in a while, and we even saw a couple of pick-and-rolls, but mostly what we saw was isolation basketball. Essentially, it was "if all else fails, go one-on-one." And last night, "all else" was failing, for the most part.
I have to believe the long scoreless stretches wouldn't have happened if Collins could've fallen back on the set with Spence at the elbow, looking for cutters, and the opportunities that set opens up. Without a guy like Durant who can iso and score efficiently, or a guy like Howard, who you can dump the ball down to in the post whenever you need points, the Sixers really need an old faithful in terms of a play that knocks them out of offensive ruts. Something that gets them moving their feet, and moving toward the hoop. Last night, that was desperately missing.