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When A Strength Fails

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With no true post player, and the only legit scoring threat up front being a small, non-stretch PF, the Sixers are left to rely on their backcourt for a whole lot. On the defensive end, they have to work from the outside in. On the offensive end, not only do the smalls have to spoon-feed opportunities to the bigs, but they have to handle the bulk of the scoring as well. For the first 25 games of the season, they did just that. In the last six, they haven't even come close.

Let's leave the causes, or explanations for later and just look at the numbers. Over the past six, a stretch that has seen the Sixers drop four to good teams and beat two terrible teams, the Sixers perimeter players have been dreadful offensively. Lou has been the scoring star, and even his production has been below league-average. If the best of the bunch has been below-average, what has Evan Turner been? Take a look at the chart below, if you can stomach it (stats are cumulative for the past six games: SAS, LAC, @CLE, @CHA, @ORL, DAL):

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We've got the obvious explanations/excuses readily at hand. They were due for a correction from their hot shooting earlier in the season. They're going to struggle if they keep settling for long jumpers (especially long twos). Doug Collins' manic insistence on limiting turnovers is encouraging them to settle for jumpers rather than driving into the lane where a turnover becomes more likely. Each and every one of those explanations could have a hand in this string of terrible shooting/scoring from the perimeter players, but even all of them combined can't possibly explain it. Heck, even the opposing teams' defense doesn't even scratch the surface, the Sixers played a couple of the worst defenses in the league over that six-game stretch.

There is good news, if you want to hear it. There's no way in the world this can continue. None of these players are this bad. Heck, no one in the history of the league is as bad as Turner has been over the past six. These guys will snap out of it. In fact, if you need a little encouragement, remember these guys are the best this team has to offer. No one has found a magic bullet to stop their offense, they've pretty much stopped themselves. They're missing shots, pure and simple. And while some of it comes down to luck, Doug Collins and the players themselves can make adjustments to snap themselves out of this funk. On Sunday night, at various times Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and Jose Barea are going to have to guard Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Put those guys in the post when they've got obvious size and/or strength advantages. That's not a high-risk for a turnover, but it is a chance for an easy look at a high percentage shot and it's a simple way to put pressure on a defense. Put Kevin Love in the pick-and-roll on the defensive end. Spring some of these guys going toward the hoop where Pekovic and Love will have to make a defensive play without fouling. You don't have to completely abandon the long two, but instead of making guys dribble to create the shot (and rolling the dice as to who's going to take it), run some plays to get good, catch-and-shoot looks for Meeks and Williams. Run them off a series of screens, run them back and forth along the baseline. The turnover risk on those plays is minimal, and when you run those plays successfully a couple of times, the back door opens up and you can slip a big toward the hoop.

The Sixers offense, especially when Lou is in the game, has become not only predictable, but also eerily reminiscent of Eddie Jordan's offense. A big flashes way out on the floor, Lou passes the ball to him, then takes the ball back right away off a handoff. This is a fine play, once in a while, but teams are onto it in a big way. They know the big isn't going to do anything but give the ball back to him, so that handoff is turning into a tailor-made opportunity to pin Lou to the sideline with a double team. Just scrap that set altogether and run some smarter sets with a simple goal in mind, move the ball closer to the hoop, or move the ball from one side of the floor to the other, make all five defenders play 18 seconds of defense every time down the floor, someone's going to get a good look, or at least a better look than what they've been getting over the past half-dozen games.