The 76ers loss in game 2 Wednesday night to the Magic is going to be a hard one for players and fans to swallow. Even when the Sixers got superman himself Dwight Howard to foul out with 11 points and shot a better FG percentage than the Magic, they still ended the game coming up short. So how did the Magic with a not so Magic performance come up with the win? It came down to many things.
I hate to say it, but this loss is on Tony DiLeo. 16 turnovers, 14 offensive rebounds given up, and a rookie dropping 24 points on you after a night where he torched you for 18 cannot happen.
Sixteen turnovers in a playoff game is completely unacceptable. The trend that is developing from the turnovers falls on the Sixers star player. Andre Iguodala has now compiled back-to-back 5 turnover contests and it needs to be addressed. As a coach, DiLeo must figure out how to use Iggy the most effectively. He is obviously the best player at driving to the cup, but it should be Andre Millers job to drive to the lane in order to pass to a cutting Iguodala for a better look. This would be a simple solution to cut back on turnovers because instead of a mediocre ball handler driving to the rim in Iguodala, you would have your best ball handler and passer driving to the rim to give the Sixers better looks. It is a point guard’s job to be the set-up man, scoring is just an added bonus.
Giving up 14 offensive rebounds with most of them going for second chance points was one of the key things that killed the Sixers. The most surprising thing was that it wasn’t even largely due to Dwight Howard. You expect Howard to get you 4 or 5 offensive boards a night. You don’t expect however Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat to combine for 7. This can be stopped by doing one of the first things you learn in basketball, a box out. Even the smallest guy on the court can get a rebound over the biggest guy as long as he boxes out. On defense when that shot goes up, you have to have a body on your man forcing him out of position to get that ball. This is both a coaching and an effort issue. As soon as the first long rebound was gathered by the Magic, DiLeo should have forced the issue so that it wouldn’t happen again.
How many times do you have to start Willie Green until you notice he shouldn’t be starting? He was assigned to guard Courtney Lee who absolutely exploited his bad defense by hitting for 24, and whenever Green went up for a shot you just sensed it was going to miss. Royal Ivey should start for this team. There have been too many times where DiLeo plugs Lou Williams in, when we’re already in a hole, to give us some offense. When Ivey is in, I can trust that he will shut down who he’s guarding. As much as an offensive force Lou Williams is, we need defense against a very much offensive Magic team and Ivey is the best defender for that position. Put Lou in during a lead to stretch the lead, he isn’t ready yet to carry the offense back from a large deficit. There’s a reason why the Spurs started Bruce Bowen all of those years, because he is a great perimeter defender who when needed can hit a three. That is exactly what Ivey will give you, after all we wouldn’t even be playing the Magic in this series if it weren’t for Royal Ivey and his defense.
All of the bad things that happened in game 2 are fixable by game 3 and that is the good news for the Sixers. The team knows they can beat the Magic, it is just an issue of playing sound basketball for a whole game not just when they want. There were some bright spots through all of the muck.
It is pretty safe to say that Theo Ratliff and Samuel Dalembert have gotten into Dwight Howard’s head. After the slash to the eye by Dalembert and the technical foul that was called after Ratliff took a charge, you have started to see Dwight Howard’s frustration come out and it led him completely out of the game in game 2. They both are giving a solid effort in containing Howard as his numbers dropped dramatically from game 1 (31 pts, 16 rebs) to game 2 (11 pts, 10 rebs). If the Sixers can hold Howard to nights like game 2 every night than there is no reason why the Sixers should not win this series.
The shooters are still not shooting either for the Magic. Turkoglu and Lewis combined to shoot 7-24 and only 2-7 from deep. If it weren’t for the referees from Orlando making some ghost calls (such as when Iguodala was called for a foul after cleanly stripping Turkoglu of the ball toward the end of the game) than their stat lines would not have looked good at all. The two finished for a combined 32 points, but 16 of that 32 came from the charity stripe. Without the home referees in Philly, the Magic are going to struggle to get to the line and if Turkoglu and Lewis don’t find their shot than they could face a 3-1 series deficit very soon.
The Sixers can finally hit their free throws. Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller can both be very hit or miss from the free throw strike. In game 2 however, both players seemed to have their stroke in order. Miller hit 5-6 and although Iguodala only hit 5-8 he finally looked confident from the line. It’s never good when the player that goes to the foul line the most for your team comes up empty when it matters the most. With the home court now for the next two games, the Sixers should be getting more calls to go their way and having plenty of trips to the line. The Sixers were called for 25 fouls in game 2 to the Magic’s 16 which just goes to show that the Magic were clearly favored by the refs. The Sixers have to capitalize on the opportunity to get some free points from the line.
If the Sixers stay true to all of these issues, than they should be able to take control of the series for good in game 3. Game 2 showed players on the Sixers what made the game slip out of their grasp, but now it is time to grab hold. Saddles up because there’s plenty more basketball to go and the Sixers are ready to come out running.