For weeks the Sixers have come just a little short of winning games. A 106-105 loss to Charlotte, 90-86 loss to Detroit, 96-91 loss to Houston, 108-101 loss to Cleveland and you could sense that with just a little something extra the Sixers would be winning these ball games. Now the Sixers know the answer, and it is not Allen Iverson. Marreese Speights in just his second game back from a partial MCL tear in his left knee showed Philadunkia nation that he hasn’t lost a step since he went down in early November. Speights compiled 17 points and 10 rebounds last night off the bench, and we’d like to think that the final shot which he took was a nice assist to Elton Brand for the game winning put back which gave the Sixers a 98-97 victory of the (20-5) Celtics last night.
Much like Thaddeus Young’s coming out party last season, Marreese Speights has been on a tear so far this year in the games he’s played. Last season he averaged 8 points a game and 4 rebounds a game while this season he is averaging 13 points and nearly seven rebounds a game. He played some solid defense against Kevin Garnett down low last night too which gave the Sixers a chance to come back.
So other then knowing that we have a strong force on the bench to plug in games now when necessary, what did we really learn from last nights victory over the C’s? For one, whenever there is an increase in someone’s minutes on the floor there is always a player on the other end of the spectrum who finds a comfortable seat on the bench. In the Sixers case this was Samuel Dalembert last night. Dalembert only played 20 minutes due to his mediocre play. As the season progresses this seems like the best place for Dalembert due to his offensive struggles, and lack of consistency on defense. Elton Brand and Marreese Speights proved last night that they don’t mind shouldering the load down low as the two combined for 40 points and 18 rebounds, or in other words one nights work for Dwight Howard.
What’s also interesting to think about with this team is that in just one off-season our entire team make-up changed and for now you can say for the worst, but moving forward you’d have to think for the better. Last season the Sixers were described as the young, running Sixers who are poised to become the next Phoenix Suns. This season however, you can make the argument that these Sixers aren’t that young anymore, and definitely don’t run nearly enough as they should. Elton Brand, Allen Iverson, Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green, and Jason Kapono have all been in the league for over 6 years and are all considered veterans in this league. Instead of running, as we all know the Sixers have been trying to master the half-court all year with back door cuts and drive kick-outs. What each of these situations gives you is interesting to think about.
When Brand and Iverson are on the floor as opposed to Dalembert and Holiday is our team better? I believe that Brand is our best option at center even if he is undersized due to his strength and defense and instead of Eddie Jordan plugging in Iverson for Holiday, I think that Willie Green should be the odd man out to sit the bench. I could spend an entire day talking about how to use the veterans and youth of the Sixers in order to win games, but the bottom line is there has to be consistency in how Eddie Jordan makes his line-up changes throughout a game and I think the majority of the time the line-up should be this: Jrue Holiday PG, Allen Iverson SG, Andre Iguodala SF, Marreese Speights PF, and Elton Brand C with Thaddeus Young getting a lot of minutes off the bench. Holiday has been playing unselfish basketball, and in the process is showing Lou Williams up. Allen Iverson has the ability to hit for 20 points every night and Willie Green is only averaging 8 points a game right at the shooting guard spot. Andre Iguodala is a no-brainer, he’s been playing solid all year and he deserves the spot. Marreese Speights over Thaddeus Young at power forward surely raises questions, but if you look at the two and really compare them Speights is averaging just slightly less points than Young but more rebounds and Speights’ 6’10”, 245 pound frame fits the power forward role more then Young’s 6’8”, 220 pound frame. Don’t get me wrong, Young deserves to get playing time but we need more power down low and that is what Speights gives you.
At center it should be a no-brainer to have Elton Brand start, but you never know with Eddie Jordan. For some reason Brand has been the odd man out of the rotation for most of the season and since Brand is such a class-act guy there’s been really no complaints out of the big man. Well for all the complaints which he left unsaid I’m going to make sure that you know them now. Brand should start, Brand should play over 35 minutes every game, Brand is still capable of putting up 20/10 every night, Brand is a leader on and off court, and Brand will shock the NBA in the second half of the year. Give the man his due. He cares more about dominating at the game of basketball than he does about the contract which he signed a little more then a year ago. I’m tired of the media saying it’s his fault for underperforming when Jordan has played him less then 30 minutes in 12 games this season. This is the starting five which will lead the Sixers to wins like the one against Boston last night.
Was last night’s win lucky? I don’t think so, but others might. Having Rasheed Wallace ejected from the building in the 2nd quarter last night was a gift we needed. Wallace is notorious for killing the Sixers. I don’t just mean hurting, I mean killing. Whether on Portland, Detroit, or Boston Wallace has destroyed our team too many times to count and could have easily done it too us again last night. For example this season Wallace is averaging 14 & 5 vs. the Sixers and is shooting 8-14 on 3PAs.
We’re also lucky that the Celtics were cold again from the three-point line, as they hit on only five of their fifteen 3PAs (In the last meeting between the Sixers and the Celtics, Boston shot 27 threes and made only 7). We’re also lucky that Paul Pierce was off. He was only 4-12 shooting for 9 points and we all know what he can do when he’s on. You can look at all of these things and say that the Sixers were pretty lucky because of them, or you can look at these things and say that the Sixers used these things to their advantage. There haven’t been too many times during the season where the Sixers have caught a break, but last night they caught multiple breaks. Again, I can’t state enough the impact that the ejection of Rasheed Wallace had on the game.
The Sixers need to keep taking advantage of breaks like these and Eddie Jordan needs to fix our starting line-up beginning with tonight’s game against the Clippers. The Clippers (11-14) are always a streaky team to play and you never know what team you’ll get out of them, but with them coming off a victory against the hot Knicks, it seems like it won’t be an easy task to win tonight. For at least a few more hours however, savor this victory over the Celtics. For the sake of Philadunkia nation, hopefully this is foreshadowing for better days ahead.
- The run the Sixers made starting at the 10:11 mark of the 3rd quarter was the key to this victory. After a Rondo runner, the Sixers were down 15 (59-44). The Sixers responded with a Green AND1; a dunk by Green on the break; an AI9 3-ball; and a Green lay-in to cut the lead to 59-54. Of course it also helped that during that stretch the C’s went 0-4 on FGA and committed three turnovers.
- We thought the “5-point play” for Boston at the 4:15 mark that Dalembert was single handily responsible for was going to be the back breaker for sure. The series of mind-blowing, knucklehead plays by the always frustrating Sammy D took the Sixers from up by 3 (89-86) points to down by 2 (91-89). On the day fundamentals were handed out by the basketball gods, we can only imagine that Sammy was MIA, because he makes the same horrific mistakes on a nightly basis that most players learn to avoid in 8th grade.