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You Ain't Got No Alibi...

Three wins, two losses. I've been chanting those four words to myself since the game ended to remind myself that the Sixers won a game they should've won tonight. That's a positive. Whenever the loop ends, I'm left with nagging thoughts about a lackluster performance in front of a pitiful crowd. Still, the Sixers came away with a 97-94 win over the depleted New Jersey Nets. Rotations, thoughts and a bonus graphic after the jump.

One benefit of watching a game entirely on DVR is that I can pause, rewind, and more accurately track something that strikes my fancy. Tonight, I decided to take a close look at where Elton Brand was getting the ball in the offense. I also wanted to track where Dalembert got the ball, to see if swapping their positions on the offensive end might make some sense. You'll notice the touches are color-coded by quarter and the totals are included.

The dots in the charts represent where each player received a pass within the offense. This doesn't include offensive rebounds or loose balls, only where they were standing on the floor when they caught a pass.

For the time being, forget that Brand was benched for the final 17+ minutes of the game, and let's just take a look at this chart. For the record, Brand was 4/7 for 8 points with 5 boards and 1 assist in 19 minutes of action. OK, now what does this chart tell you? The first thing that jumps out to me is that more than half of the time, Brand caught the ball in a position where he was not a threat. He was simply a way station for the ball as it passed from one perimeter player to another. Second, he got the ball on the low blocks twice. Once because he wound up with Terence Williams covering him on a switch (he got the ball, Sam's man left to help, he hit Sam with a nice pass for a dunk). The other time he quickly scored over Josh Boone with a nice lefty hook.

He took a couple of those shots from the elbow, hitting two of them. I honestly don't know what to make of this. The Sixers had a clear advantage in Brand vs. anyone who was guarding him, yet they refused to take advantage. He was little more than a decoy when he did get the ball. I'd understand a pattern like this if his shot was off, but he hit 4/7 from the floor.

Meanwhile, Dalembert was essentially ignored on offense. When he did get the ball, he was in a position to make an easy play. This is good offense in my opinion. He only converted one of his three shots, but on the other hand, he only took three shots.

The question I came in trying to answer was whether it would make sense to switch Brand and Sammy's responsibilities on the offensive end of the floor. The chart probably doesn't do a great job of depicting it, but Sam sets up on the blocks pretty much every time down the floor. The ballhandlers basically ignored him down there for most of the game, but what if the option down there was Brand instead? It's not like he's contributing anything catching the ball 28 feet from the hoop, Sammy could play that roll, all he needs to do is catch an uncontested pass, then hand it off to one of the guards.

Whatever the problem is, coach, players or system, this team needs to find a way to get the ball to Brand in a position where he can do something with when they're in their half-court sets. Doubly so when he has a blatant mismatch, like they did tonight.

Now let's take a look at the rotations:

Two quick notes about the rotations, then I'll move on because I don't feel like banging that particular drum tonight. (1) There's no way Elton Brand deserved to be benched for the remainder of the game when he was taken out with 5:23 left in the third. He wasn't the reason for the -9 the starters suffered through to start the third. He wasn't exactly part of the solution, either, but he didn't deserve to be singled out. And as I said before, he was effective in his minutes on the floor. (2) The game was won/saved when Jordan put Dalembert into the game with 7:53 left in the fourth. This begs the question of why it took that long to get him back into the game, but Jordan realized the defense improved dramatically when he got Sammy back in there, and Sammy responded with game-changing play down the stretch.

I jotted down a few notes during the game, here goes:

  • My Note - Jason Smith!!! Translation - Smith looked infinitely better on the floor tonight. His shot looked comfortable, and effective, he was active on the boards and on defense.
  • My Note - Reversible Jerseys? Translation - The Sixers crowd was absolutely, positively pathetic. Probably the worst regular season crowd I've seen in the past 5 years. But, at least the Sixers haven't taken part in the depravity that is the New Jersey Nets marketing plan. I watched the game on YES and one of their promos was for a 10-game pack of tickets. The package included 5 premium games, I believe against the Cavs, Lakers, Magic, Heat and Celtics. Here's the kicker. If you bought tickets, you got free jerseys. The jerseys, however, were reversible. Worn the proper way, they were Nets jerseys. Worn inside out, they were the jerseys of the visiting star of each respective team (Wade, Kobe, LeBron, Garnett and Howard). Just pitiful.
  • My Note - 5 Deep, heh. Translation - Great timing with my post about how the bench players completely submarine this team when too many of them are on the floor. 5 bench guys threw up a +5 in the second. Then four bench guys followed that up with a +2. Willie led the team with a +10.
  • My Note - 2:30 left in the fourth. Translation - On this offensive possession Lou nearly threw a pass away, recovered the ball, pounded it into the ground at the top of the key, then tried a lean-in jumper as the shot clock wore out. This was notable, because it was the only mistake he made on the offensive end all night. Lou played every second of the second half and really played a marvelous offensive game (he still didn't put up any kind of a fight to stop penetration, but I think we should just expect that at this point). He finished with 18 points on 6/14 from the floor, 2/5 from three, 4/4 from the line, 9 boards, 6 assists, 0 turnovers and 1 steal.
  • My Note - F Me. Translation - One day after Jordan said there's an open audition for the role of first guard off the bench, he taps Willie Green to be the guy, and Willie actually doesn't play half bad. Jrue gets a DNPCD against a team that played a rookie at the point for about 10 minutes.
That's all I have for tonight. The defense did look a little better to me, but the Nets had no shooters and very little talent on the floor. This should've been a much bigger win, but again, it's a process and picking up wins when you're supposed to early in the season is something the Sixers haven't done in the slightest over the past couple of seasons. So far, Eddie Jordan is 3-0 in games the Sixers should've won. Keep that streak alive for the entire season and we're going to the playoffs, no matter what we do against the good teams.

Player of The Game: Lou
Team Record: 3-2
Up Next: @ Detroit, Sunday afternoon. 1 p.m. The Eagles play Sunday night, so no excuses.

Three more quick notes:

  1. Great job in the game thread tonight in my absence.
  2. The Cavs are having serious problems with their offense, even against the hapless Knicks. LeBron scored 33 tonight, and I'd say he hit at least six just ridiculous deep jumpers with a hand in his face. Against the Knicks, the Cavs struggled for open looks for most of the game. Oh, and the Knicks are still pitiful.
  3. Thanks to Rob for the pic from the Wach. Take a close look, that picture wasn't taken during warmups, that's the 100 level during the game.
by Brian on Nov 7 2009
Tags: A Win Is A Win | Basketball | Lou Williams | Nets | Sixers |