Posts Tagged ‘Sixers’

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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(Will Smith, looking more Gator-coming-for-mom’s-TV than Fresh Prince)

I hate to say it, but it really appears the Sixers are in trouble if they can’t start to put it together.  Hawes is back, so that’s not an excuse anymore – he probably needs a couple more games to put it together – but based on the way he’s moving and jumping, I don’t think he’s still bothered much by the Achilles, which means he should start to put up solid numbers again, like he did against Charlotte.  The Sixers seem to have real issues against tough defensive teams.  The Sixers, for the most part, did an amazing job defensively, with Iguodala (primarily) holding Carmelo to 10 points on 5-15 shooting, and Lin (despite a stellar fourth quarter) was held to only 4-17 from the field and just 3 assists.  The key was the Sixers inability to stop Amare, who ravaged the Sixers for 21 points, 9 boards, 2 dimes, and a key block on Elton Brand late.  Both Brand and Hawes are a step too slow for Amare and Thad is just a bit too small.  There aren’t a ton of teams that present the Sixers with this type of match-up problem, but Miami & the Knicks are definitely too of them.

The bigger issue of the day though, is that the Sixers are free falling at 8-14 over their past 22 games.  If they don’t turn it around, starting on Friday, they move from a great position (having a home series in the first round against either the Pacers, Knicks, Celtics, Hawks, or Bucks) to a very weak position (a loss to Boston on Friday would drop them from the 4 spot to the 7 spot in the East).

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