. As currently constructed, this Kings team is putrid. They have a few bright spots, I was impressed by their two young bigs, Spencer "Hee" Hawes and Jason Thompson.
After the jump we'll take a close look at how the Sixers attacked the Kings early on, how they combated the zone and also a new rotation from Mo Cheeks.
First things first. From the tip, I decided to see what plays the Sixers ran on their first ten possessions. In the past, Mo has gone to Sammy and Willie Green early. For Sammy, it was to get his head in the game. For Willie, I think it was to see if he was going to be hot that night. Tonight, Mo did something very smart, he went to his real players early and often. Here are the first ten plays and the results:
- Brand in the post (missed shot, but a good shot)
- Pick & roll, Miller and Brand. (Turnover, didn't use the pick for anything, swung the ball to the other side, tipped out of bounds)
- Iguodala catch and shoot 18-footer (Make)
- Brand flash to high post, 14-foot jumper (Fouled, free throws)
- Brand flash to high post, 15-foot jumper (Miss)
- Backdoor cut, Iguodala hits Thad. (Make)
- Dalembert flash to high post, 15-foot jumper (Miss, ofensive rebound and putback)
- Brand in high post, to Iguodala in low post for a layup (Miss, offensive rebound and putback)
- Pick and roll, Miller and Brand. (Offensive foul on the pick, late getting there. Turnover)
- Fast break (Fouled, free throws)
This is how games should start. You establish Brand in the post. You establish the pick and roll, figure out how they're going to defend it. You use Brand in the high post, with Iguodala, Thad or Miller using a size mismatch on the low block. Most importantly, you limit Dalembert's touches. It's not surprising the Sixers jumped out to an early lead.
With a 21-12 lead and 4:12 left in the first quarter the Kings switched to a zone out of a timeout. It lasted about 5 trips down the floor, this is how the Sixers attacked the zone:
- Turnover, Sammy with a stupid pass from the foul line.
- Brand in the low post, Thad flashes through the lane on the baseline, Brand follows him as the middle man in the zone turns his head. (Make, plus one)
- Curl to the elbow for Willie Green (Free throws)
- Green isolation, 13-foot jumper (Make)
- Williams isolation 1-4, 17-foot jumper (Make)
This isn't as encouraging. The play to Sammy was just ugly, and didn't have any strategic value for busting the zone. The play by Brand in the post was a thing of beauty, and shows exactly how good he is down there. The final three plays were just Green and Williams making their own shots. Luckily, they dropped. There was no side-to-side ball movement at all on any of the five plays. They hit their shots, but that masks the fact that they didn't systematically attack the zone. Against a good defensive team, those shots won't be there when they go to a zone.
I was much, much happier with Mo's rotation tonight. Mainly because he got Speights on the floor in the first quarter and gave him some burn when it actually mattered. Saying Speights needs to be starting instead of Sammy at this point in his career is just silly. He's young and he needs a lot of polishing. What I saw tonight, however, is a guy who just may be the future at center for the Sixers. He displayed his soft touch from 18 feet and in, but more than that, he displayed the athleticism to be a disruptive force on defense. He only had 4 points in 22 minutes of work, but his 3 blocks and 2 steals illustrate how he was all over the floor on defense. One steal came on an inbounds pass at the end of a quarter. He stole the pass and hit Lou for a three. Big play by a rookie in that situation. Two of his blocks were monster rejections as well. Perfect timing, excellent height and body control to get the ball and not the man.
The other new guys, Kareem Rush and Donyell Marshall, put on a show from three-point land in garbage time. They hit 6 of 7. On the game, the Sixers shot an unreal 10/13 from three (76.9%). It was garbage time, and neither team was playing defense, but that fourth quarter really should've opened Mo's eyes. If teams decide they want to play zone against the Sixer, he needs to get those guys in quickly. They can absolutely knock down the open three and they need to play a bigger role on this team. When teams start to aggressively double Brand, which they will do, all it takes is a couple of threes from those guys to loosen the D up.
Speaking of threes, how about Thad? 2/2 from deep tonight, just a drop in the bucket of his 18 points on 8/14 shooting. Thad's offensive game is really improving day in and day out. I actually thought he forced up a couple of shots in this one, but he still shot 57% from the floor so I don't know how you can argue with that.
One more thing I need to point out. Early in the first Kevin Martin was having his way with the Philly D. He dropped 10 quick points with Iguodala on him. After a timeout, Mo made a move. He switched Thad onto the lightning quick two guard. From that point on Martin scored 4 points. You really can't say enough about the kid, he's going to be great, like perennial All Star great.
Player of The Game:
The Miami Heat, in Miami, on Wednesday.