A struggling, deeply flawed team limped into the Wach last night to play another struggling, deeply flawed team. Eddie Jordan looked at the matchups and made two decisions. The first was to start Jrue Holiday and put him on Monta Ellis. A smart move that played a huge part in the quick start and eventual blowout win. The second was to bench and further alienate Elton Brand. We'll see how that one plays out.
Listen, the Sixers won in a route, a win they desperately needed after dropping a dozen in a row. I probably should just be happy they got the monkey off their back, but it's hard. I am happy Jrue got the start over Willie. I'd be even happier if the starting lineup was Jrue, Iguodala, Thad, Brand and Sammy, like it should've been, but whatever. Jordan got a chance to play a small lineup pretty much exclusively. He got a chance to stick it in Brand's face, playing him only 17 minutes. He got a chance to prove his point against a pitiful team, so good for him. I don't have the energy to get into the precedents this game set, so let's just take a look at the rotations:
Two things jump out at me from the rotations: (1) Jrue saw 39 minutes of action, and they were a stellar 39 minutes. Forget about the shooting numbers (15 points on 50% shooting), and the stuffed stat line (7 boards, 6 dimes, 3 steals), the thing that stood out about his game was his stifling defense on one of the best driving perimeter players in the game, Monta Ellis. Ellis was in chains whenever Jrue was on the floor. This kid is already something special on the defensive end and he's only going to get better. (2) Andre Iguodala left the game in the first quarter with bruised ribs. They had to take x-rays, then he came back into the game, but you could see him clutching his ribs throughout. At the end of the third, the Sixers held a 29-point lead. Jordan played AI9 10 out of 12 minutes in the fourth. Why? Why wouldn't he get the guy some much-needed rest? I don't get it.
Anyway, this game was won on the glass, as you can see in the advanced stats:
The first half was dominated by three things. Jrue's defense on Ellis, Dalembert all over the offensive glass and Thad's ultra-aggressive offensive mindset. Thad was a beast in the first half, dropping 23 of his 26 points and taking the ball right at whichever Warrior was unlucky enough to be "guarding" him.
Thad's scoring was very impressive in the first 24 minutes, but his hustle all over the floor and his rebounding are the parts of his game that have been missing all year. In the past five games he's grabbed double-digit rebounds three times. Prior to that, his season high was seven. In the second half he jumped in front of drivers a couple times to draw charges and he didn't lose his man too much in rotations.
The Sixers got excellent games from 4 of 5 starters, Brand was very effective in the limited minutes he saw off the bench and that's all it took. Willie got 11 shots up in his 10 minutes of action, which is really what we should expect by now. The Warriors shot 50% from three and went to the line 40 times, but there was just no way they were going to overcome the 25 offensive boards the Sixers grabbed, it really wasn't fair.
So the streak is over. No matter how poor the competition was, and God were they awful, you have to be happy for the players. In the grand scheme of things, Jordan has taken another step toward the small lineup. He moved Iguodala away from the two (3:08 at SG), he moved Thad away from the three (0 minutes at SF), a trend which will probably continue, meaning another year without finding out if those guys can coexist. Elton Brand is bordering on disgruntled at this point, and the less you play him, the further his trade value drops. A bad situation is getting worse by the day. But, Jrue did play almost 40 minutes, so it wasn't a total waste. Given the idiotic choice of playing Jrue for heavy minutes or benching Brand, I'll go with extra minutes for Jrue every time.
Player of The Game: Thad
Team Record: 6-18 (tied w/ Sixers West for 4th worst record in the league)
Up Next: Cleveland