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What's The Problem?

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My casual observation of the Sixers over the past 5 games is that they lack focus, heart, desire and a sense of urgency. One thing I've learned, however,  is that casual observations never tell the whole story. So instead of the knee-jerk reaction to Thad's absence, I figured it was time to look at some numbers and maybe draw some educated conclusions about what his absence has meant to the team.

Before we dive into the stats, check out Tom Moore's news on Thad's injury. The kid says he wants to play tomorrow night against the Celts. Coach DiLeo wouldn't commit either way.

Now, let's take a look at how the team has played in Thad's absence. Below, you'll see a comparison of the team performance over the first 72 games with Thad in the lineup, and each of the past 8 without him (I counted the Atlanta game). You'll see how far the team was off from the season average for each game to the right (stats in orange are opponents' stats):

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Here are the per game averages, with Thad and without:

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If you look at the chart immediately above, it appears that the offense has been woefully under-performing in Thad's absence. A drop of 2.8 points per game is significant, as is an overall point differential of 5.0. This is the problem with small sample sizes, however. The Nets game has completely skewed the stats and obscured the team's overall performance without Thad.

Let's take a look at these splits without the New Jersey game included:

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When you omit the outlying game from the data, I think you get a much more clear look at how the team has performed. It becomes quite clear that offense has not been the problem. The Sixers have shot better in every category (FG%, 3P% and FT%), they've gone to the line more, they've turned the ball over less, and they've grabbed more offensive rebounds. You can probably thank Lou Williams for the boost in production, he's really upped his game over this stretch.

When we look at the team's defensive stats, however, things get very, very bleak. The team is fouling more, allowing a higher percentage from the field, allowing more threes (although at a slightly lower percentage) and they are forcing nearly 3 fewer turnovers, per game. That translates into 2.7 more points per game.

At a glance, it appears as though the pace of the game has slowed, which makes sense. Fewer turnovers, fewer fast breaks and fewer blocked shots. Plus, Reggie is death to team pace on both ends of the floor. The most alarming stat, for me, is the dropoff in defensive rebounding. With Thad, the Sixers grabbed 71.1% of available defensive rebounds. In his absence, that number as dropped to 68%. Maybe what Thad said about concentrating on keeping his bigger man off the glass rather than going for boards himself was true. It's alarmin that a "bigger" lineup with Evans and Speights splitting Thad's minutes would be so horrible on the defensive glass, but those offensive rebounds are certainly contributing to the team's defensive woes.

So, what do these stats say to me? They say that Thad has been sorely missed for everything he does BUT score the ball. That slack has been picked up (in every game but the New Jersey game), mostly by Lou, but Dalembert chipped in last night, Green picked up some slack and even Evans had a hot game. Thad's loss has mostly been felt in the slowed pace, defensive rotations and defensive rebounding. What does this mean for when he comes back (hopefully tomorrow night)? Well, I'm crossing my fingers that the secondary guys like Williams can continue their current production and Thad's offense will be added on top. If that happens, and Thad can help push the pace, stabilize the defense and shore up the defensive rebounding, this team could regain its form for the playoffs.

Of course, none of this factors the whole loser's mentality into the equation. I've always been a big proponent of "winning begets winning," I'm just hoping things won't work in the opposite direction with the Sixers, because they've certainly played, looked and acted like losers over this five game skid. 
by Brian on Apr 13 2009
Tags: Basketball | Injuries | Sixers | Thaddeus Young |