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The Ugly Ones Still Count

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If you're going to pick one area of the game to be horrible at against the Knicks, three-point defense is probably the only one that could kill you. The Sixers played with fire tonight and nearly lost a home game they absolutely couldn't afford to lose.

After a scorching first quarter which saw them build a 15-point lead, they let the Knicks back into the game. New York's devotion to basketball without defense kept the Sixers in the game until Andre Iguodala realized the game was right there to be won in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter and took over. Disaster was averted.

After the jump we'll talk about Elton Brand's 11 minutes of action in his return to the court.

I would've loved to have seen the Sixers come out and destroy the Knicks, but to be honest, I was distracted. The return of Elton Brand held most of my attention throughout the game, and I'm hoping the team suffered the same fate, to an extent. Now that he's back, and he's got a game under his belt, hopefully this team will play to its potential on both sides of the ball.

A few bullets about this game, then we'll get into the meat of Brand's return:

  • 17 boards (5 offensive), 3 blocks and 10 points from Sammy in 35 minutes of action. Great game, no matter who the opponent is.
  • Thad's board work was tragic through the first 46 minutes of the game, but when they absolutely had to have a defensive rebound in the final two minutes, he went to work and got two for the team. One ignited the break and put the Sixers up by 6. Huge play.
  • Royal Ivey continues to impress (and take Willie Green's minutes).
  • Thad was 3/8 in the first half, 5/9 in the second, with a big three.
  • Iguodala is making his case for the All Star team on the floor. 9/18 from the floor, 24 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and only 2 turnovers.
  • 6/15 from three as a team. (40%)
  • 26/32 from the line as a team. (81.3%)
  • Lou Williams got schooled by Nate Robinson, never a good sign.
  • The Knicks were 15/32 from three. How the hell does that happen?

Now let's get to the stat I tracked tonight. It would probably be more accurate to describe it as a trend, rather than a stat, though. The main concern with Brand's return was that he would change the way the team played. Namely, the fear was that the team wouldn't run as much with him in there. I decided to keep track of every offensive possession when Elton was in the game, how the Sixers took possession, whether they played half-court offense, or if they got out on the break. I also tracked Elton's touches within the offense. Here's the chart, followed by my analysis:

brandplays012409.jpg
Elton was on the floor for 24 offensive possessions spread over all four quarters. Of the 24 possessions, only 3 were obvious running situations (two steals and a block), they ran on all three. They also had 3 missed shots/defensive rebounds. They ran on 1 of those three. The other 18 possessions were either made shots or dead ball situations. The dead ball you can never run on, but I have seen the Sixers run on makes before. They didn't do that at all.

Overall, I'd say they probably ran at the same rate they usually do when Elton was in there. The huge problem was the defense, which allowed 13 made baskets, many of them threes. Although I don't think you can really blame that on EB.

Regardless of his integration, I thought Elton looked decent out there. He blocked 2 shots, grabbed three boards and converted on 3 of 4 shots. It was a limited look, but in the half court it seemed like Brand was not the number one option. In fact, he rarely touched the ball when they got into the half court. When he did, doubles came immediately and he got rid of the ball quickly. Two of his three hoops came on offensive rebounds and put backs.

Game one of Brand's return was a success. As long as the team wins and EB doesn't re-injure his shoulder, it was a good day.

Player of The Game:
Iggy
Team Record: 21-21
Up Next: @ New Orleans, Monday night.