Archive for the ‘Sixers’ Category

It’s hard to judge a team on¬†two games, especially a¬†game against the Nets, who were down Gerald Wallace and have every reason as an organization to want to lose games and try to retain their draft pick (it was traded to Portland, but is top three protected), or a game against the lowly Toronto Raptors.¬† I have to admit though, that¬†after me throwing him under the bus¬†just a couple of days ago, Collins seemingly made some very shrewd and difficult lineup changes prior to¬†Tuesday’s tilt against the¬†Nets.

Prior to the game, I was convinced that Doug would bench either Jrue¬†or Evan for Jodie Meeks, but I never would’ve thought to bench Spencer.¬† It seemed like Spencer was such a vital component of their early season success.¬† His shotblocking, his rebounding, his great high post passing, and his ability to sink the face up jumper all seemed like critical components to the way the Sixers¬†ran their offense, and neither Vucevic¬†nor Lavoy¬†was ever stellar as a starter in his place.¬† What I failed to take into account, is we’d never really seen Hawes¬†play with the second unit, get the opportunity to dominate backup frontcourt¬†players.¬† It’s okay if Vucevic just holds his own with that first unit, hits a few open shots, and holds his own on the boards and plays decent defense.¬† Spencer wasn’t doing a great deal more than that lately, and often he seemed to be doing less.¬† It also adds a much needed body to Collins’ rotation, which had been at just 8 players throughout the four game losing streak.¬† That had to be a factor in a season where guys¬†are already worn out.

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If you haven’t read Kate Fagan’s recent take¬†on the trials and tribulations of the Sixers it’s definitely worth a read.¬† Kate was always the most plugged-in reporter on the Sixers beat and it makes sense that she would be the one to break this story.¬† Even if a bit of it may be conjecture, its clear that her words are informed by legitimate information from the Sixers players she developed relationships with¬†while working with the team.¬† The blowout loss to the Wizards, the blowout loss to the Raptors, and the back-to-back losses to Magic and Celtics all make a lot of sense within the context of the notion that the players have hit the wall with Doug Collins.¬† His history with teams speaks for itself, and many of us who have written about¬†him with the Sixers¬†have ignored it because we were so pleased with the results he brought in his first season and a half with the Sixers.¬†¬†Maybe¬†we also wanted¬†to give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he had changed his approach and learned from his mistakes in the over half a decade he took away from the bench.¬† Sixers fans inherently want to believe in Doug for other reasons:

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In the last eight days the Sixers¬†have been blown out by the Wizards, won an extremely promising tough game against the Hawks, and followed that up¬†with a heartbreaking 6 point loss in Miami, a head scratching¬†blowout loss to the lowly Raptors, and blew a 10 point lead to the most dysfunctional team in the league – the soap operian¬†Orlando Magic.¬† The Magic, who were down two starters (Hedo¬†& Ryan Anderson) and have been an unenviable saga of dysfunction¬†recently, had a lot of trouble with the Sixers¬†in the first half.¬† In the second half though, the Sixers¬†ultimately¬†couldn’t contain either Big Baby Davis or JJ Redick.¬† In the third straight game where Doug Collins has played almost entirely an 8 man rotation (Battie¬†got a few spot minutes), the Sixers¬†lost their third straight.¬† While Collins is certainly reaching for different things to get the team going at this point in the season, one has to question whether Lavoy¬†Allen or Nik¬†Vucevic¬†might have been able to help provide a defensive and rebounding presence against the likes of Howard and Davis.¬† Clearly Thad Young was the Sixers¬†most potent offensive weapon tonight, so it makes sense that he got good minutes, but the Sixers¬†were beaten¬†up inside as Howard and Davis combined for 34 rebounds, 14 of them on the offensive end, and the entire Sixers¬†roster had just 41 boards, and just 9 on the offensive end (Hawes and Brand combined for only 17).

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Very tough loss to the Heat tonight for the Sixers.¬† If Iguodala hadn’t been raked badly in the eye by Mario Chalmers in the 3rd Quarter, I think it’s likely that the Sixers win tonight.¬† Of course Heat fans could easily say that having D-Wade sit out the night was just as detrimental to their squad, but that underestimates just how important Iguodala is to the Sixers on the defensive end.¬† Evan Turner went HAM tonight, dropping 26 (12 of 19)¬†and 8 boards, but couldn’t slow Lebron as LBJ tied his season high with 40.¬† He got a little help from Spencer and Iguodala (while he was on the floor), but Jrue, Lou, Meeks, and Thad were a combined 15-42.¬† It’s a tough loss for multiple reasons:

1) It solidifies the Sixers futility against the Heat, as the Heat have only lost one game to the Heat in the “Big Three era,” that coming on the Sixers court in the first round of the playoffs last year

2) It moves the Sixers a full game and a half back of the surging Celtics.  And despite the fact that the Sixers have a more favorable schedule, they also have more road games, and have lost all of their momentum going into the home stretch.

3) They seemed to be right in the thick of things with Iguodala in the game.¬† Iguodala wasn’t “shutting down” Lebron by any means, but he was keeping him off the line, making him work a lot harder, and wreaking havoc in the passing lanes and the open court.

4) They broke down to hero ball again at the end of the game.¬† Lou Williams was in the game at the end and continued with the hero ball antics he seems to have been greenlighted for all season.¬† It was refreshing to see him on the bench as the Sixers continued to run their offense and sealed the Hawks in a close win on Saturday, but this was a regression.¬† It’s tough to say whether Doug would’ve had Lou out there if Iguodala had been out there, but he could’ve gone with Meeks, Jrue, & Turner – and instead he went with Lou.

It’s not the last chance the Sixers have to recapture the Atlantic or the last chance for¬†“statement win,” but it would seem to indicate that the Sixers are in real trouble if they line up against the Heat in the first round again this year.

Tonight was a good night to be at the Wells Fargo Center.¬† Not only did the Sixers exorcise some of their demons, but they got a much needed win to stay in the hunt¬†to win the¬†Atlantic Division.¬† There are a few quick interesting elements of the game worth covering.¬† Doug Collins didn’t seem to suggest that any of the following¬†were any more than fluke or circumstance, but the following happened in the last five minutes of the Sixers game tonight:

1) Lou Williams and Thad Young didn’t even sniff the court.¬† Doug states that they were both exhausted, and that¬†Jrue, Evan, and Meeks were on the court because they were energetic.

2) The Sixers ran their offense late, they played the way they typically play for the other 43 minutes of the game.¬† They did not¬†have a single possession of “hero ball,” and they¬†looked for the open man, the mismatch, they passed out of double-teams, and they ran the offense primarily through Elton Brand.¬† Who was seriously clutch.

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Hardwood Blacktop’s Sixers coverage has been a little bit spotty (or non-existent) of late, thanks to the series the “royal we” put together on some of the best hip hop albums of the first quarter. ¬†That said, it’s still the mission here to cover the Sixers, the Blazers, and rap music, and various other things. ¬†So – no change in venue.

I came across a couple of really interesting reads immediately relevant to the Sixers, one of which was March’s issue of ESPN the Magazine from John Hollinger on “Hero Ball,” which breaks down the ineffectiveness of the isolation offense in clutch situations. ¬†The article raises something I’ve often believe, which is that teams do themselves a tremendous disservice by limiting their offensive options down to putting the ball in the hands of one player (even if he is their most efficient offensive player), during crunch time. ¬†Theories that I’ve heard to support hero ball, generally revolve around the notion that defenses become tighter, during crunch time and it becomes much more difficult for teams to run a play involving multiple parts effectively. ¬†That explanation has always seemed simplistic to me, for two main reasons:

1) if teams could play tighter defense for 48 minutes and routinely drive a much higher level of offensive inefficiency in their counterparts, you’d think coaches would’ve figured that out by now (although some might argue that Coach Collins has).

2) when teams overplay on defense, usually other options open up on plays (like backdoor passes, lobs, open shots in the corner, etc)

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Big win for the Sixers¬†tonight.¬†For one, the Sixers¬†finally have one “elite” team in the East whose head¬†they may be in, instead of the other way around.¬† Most importantly, the Sixers¬†pick up a game on both the Celtics and the Knicks¬†today, and regain a small amount of breathing room.¬† Up next, the Sixers¬†have go out west and take on the surging Spurs, a team that beat them by 10 at the Wells Fargo Center in a pretty tough game back on February 8th.¬† The Sixers will be coming off a day of rest (although they have to travel tomorrow), while the Spurs will be on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back.

The game took a turn for the worse when Mickael Pietrus took a really nasty fall to the court in the second quarter:

That awful spill took a bit of the wind out of the Celtics sails seemingly, as the Sixers¬†came out ferociously in the 3rd quarter and never looked back.¬† A glance at the box score reveals Spencer Hawes’ second double-double¬†since returning from Achilles issues, and he looked as athletic as he ever has (not saying much, but he threw down a couple of nice dunks).¬† But it is his solid passing in the high and low post that the Sixers¬†have really missed, as he also added 3 assists to his 12 points and 10 boards.¬† Having him to hit the offensive glass, along with Elton (7 offensive boards combined), certainly helps the Sixers¬†on nights like tonight, where they only shot 37% from the floor in the first half.¬† All in all, a good win for the Sixers, perhaps primarily because it was a necessary win, and the Sixers showed the ability to come up when it counts, which seems to be the biggest knock on them around the league and in the media.

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