In case you were wondering, yes, that is the title of a book about the 1984-85 Indiana basketball team coached by Bob Knight who made it to the NCAA national championship only to lose 65-62 to UCLA. It is also the perfect title to describe the Sixers current situation this season. Right now this Sixers team (10-25) is on the brink of total collapse, and it’s never been more evident then in last night’s loss at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.
Before the game even started we heard that Elton Brand was sick, and General Manager Ed Stefanski addressed the media saying that everybody was responsible for the Sixers lack of success this season. Eddie Jordan, assistant coaches, players, and even himself. Stefanski told a group of reporters, “We’re not getting the job done and we’re going to have to get it done.” If you read between the lines this statement basically means this, “Eddie, you have three games to show me that you can win or else you’re out.”
Let’s face it, the only players who have trade value on the Sixers are Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights and they aren’t going anywhere. We will likely end the season with pretty much the same roster that started 2009-10, and as a fan of the Sixers it’s just something you’re going to have to live with.
A head coaching change? It would seem to be a long shot as Jordan is Stefanski’s hand picked guy and firing Jordan would basically be Stefankski admitting to the basketball world that he made a huge mistake.
As for 76ers assistant coaches, I wouldn’t mind seeing what the Sixers could find in that area. There are so many young coaches looking for the opportunity to show their worth to an organization, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Sixers to start looking around right now. These are all major concerns which have to be dealt with immediately for the Sixers to have any chance at contending in the Eastern Conference for the rest of the season.
Much like how Bob Knight just barely missed out on the opportunity at a national championship in ‘85, this Sixers team is just barely missing out on wins which should be theirs for the taking. The Sixers have lost seven out of eight games this season where they led by 10 or more points at some time in the game. If you tack on those seven wins to the Sixers record they would stand at (17-18), which believe it or not is good enough for 7th in the Eastern Conference. Instead the Sixers stand at (10-25) and have now lost back-to-back games, blowing an 18 point lead to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and a 13 point lead to the Toronto Raptors last night.
The key to the Sixers loss was a horrendous third quarter where a 13 point lead was cut to just two by the start of the fourth. In the first half, the team seemed to be doing everything right. Allen Iverson got the Sixers going in the first quarter hitting for 12 points and dishing out 4 assists. Samuel Dalembert was also playing great defense down low and moving the ball well on the offensive end. The past two games have actually been some of Sammy’s best performances on the season. In the end however, this game will be remembered for a Sammy miscue. The Sixers ended the first quarter up 32-23 and looked to be on their way to an easy win.
In the second quarter you saw the beginnings of the Sixers ultimate destiny for the game. To start the second Eddie Jordan plugged in Marreese Speights at center to fill in for Samuel Dalembert. The result was a 5 minute stretch where the Sixers saw their lead diminish from 11 to only 4. It seemed as if whenever Speights touched the ball something bad happened and he did not look like himself. Maybe Speights is hiding a new injury, maybe his knee id still bother him, I don’t know, but one thing is for certain, Speights is not getting boards or playing with the same level of intensity that any of us are used to seeing and there has to be some reason for it. As soon as Speights hit the bench and Sammy D came back into the game, the Sixers went on a 7-0 run and fought their way through some good Raptors defense to an 11 point half-time lead.
Eddie Jordan actually did a good job of not messing with his five on the court too much in the half, and the team responded by playing really well together. One thing I would’vedone differently in the first half would be to give more playing time to Iverson. Iverson played a tremendous first quarter and got little playing time in the second. I couldn’t argue about an 11 point lead, but I just thought in the first half that Iverson had the hot hand and the way Iverson was playing motivated the team to play better.
In the third quarter the Sixers simply did not execute on offense or defense and a lot of the blame can be linked to Thaddeus Young. Young had to guard Andrea Bargnani who had a clear height advantage and the Raptors best Euro-player took advantage of it as much as humanly possible. Bargnani had 7 points in the quarter, but it was his height advantage which forced Young to take bad shots and also to be put into turnover situations. Young had 3 turnovers in the quarter and just simply did not match up well against the big man. All the blame should not be put on Young however, because the Sixers as a whole decided to take quick, bad shots all quarter instead of waiting for the open man like they did all first half. By the end of the third our lead was now only 2 and everybody in the Wachovia Center could sense what was coming next.
The fourth quarter started just simply awful. A Calderon lay-up, and 5 quick points from Bargnani and the Sixers trailed 90-85 with 9:30 left in the game. How Eddie Jordan didn’t realize in the third quarter that Young could not guard Bargnani or score on Bargnani is a mystery and Jordan’s inability to recognize that favorable matchup for Toronto continued into the 4th. Instead of taking out Young right then and there, Jordan kept him in. It was yet an another example of a situation where Jordan failed to realize that we need more defensive players in the game rather the “shooters”! If Speights wasn’t working in the first, Young wasn’t working in the third, and Elton Brand was out sick then you have to try your luck with Jason Smithright there! I don’t understand how Jason Smith has barely touched the floor this year when he is 7’0” tall, can shoot, and actually plays pretty solid defense. It’s mind boggling to me how much Eddie Jordan relies on just offense to win games. I’ll say it right now, if Jason Smith was in the game then the Sixers would have won. Instead the Raptors kept going inside and Samuel Dalembert who already had three fouls going into the quarter picked up two more by the 3:00 mark. That sent Sammy D to the bench and he had to sit and watch while Chris Bosh simply manhandled Marreese Speights down low. Sammy D finally came back into the game with a minute left.
Moments later Sammy D grabbed a Thaddeus Young miss for a put back and the Sixers were up 106-105 with just :19 remaining. The next play was a familiar one for Sixers fans. The ball was fed into Chris Bosh who had a one-on-one match-up with Dalembert. Since Thaddeus Young was guarding a much taller Bargnani, he could not help Dalembert down low with CB4, and once Bosh found his path to the basket the All-Star forward hit the bucket and got the foul. The AND 1 put the Raptors up 108-106 and took Dalembert out of the game.
There’s no need to even talk in detail about the final shot, because it was clearly a poorly designed play by Eddie Jordan. It was a good start to get the ball to Iverson, but there should have been some picks set at the top of the key for Iverson to get the final shot off. Instead Iverson was trapped by two defenders at the top of the key and gave the ball up to Lou Williams, who tossed up just about the ugliest attempt at a final shot to win a game that I’ve ever seen. It’s funny that I talk about the high picks, because it was Andre Iguodala’s man who helped with the double team and instead of Iguodala helping out a teammate he ran to the three-point arc and waited for the ball. That is the definition of selfish.
The frustration left on the faces of Sixer players after last nights game was the worst it’s been all year. I can only imagine what was said in the locker room after the game. Ed Stefanski is really on the hot seat now. Every basketball expert outside of himself knows that Eddie Jordan has to go. Otherwise the Sixers may be hit by the three step process known as:
Step one: Fans abandoning
Step two: Team giving up
Step three: Organization falling
Nobody wants this to happen, but the Sixers are now on the brink of this situation. For the sake of this team, hopefully Ed will be spending next week looking through a phone book and giving out calls until he finds the man who was truly right for the Sixers coaching job this season. Temporarily, I don’t think Tony Dileo would be a bad choice — again.