02/04/10 3:00 pm EST
The 76ers (17-31) looked fluid on offense and played some semblance of defense last night and the result was that Eddie Jordan’s team notched a OT win (106-103) against a solid team in the Chicago Bulls. Unfortunately the win has raised two big questions for us here at Philadunkia – but will get to those items in a minute.
First we need to talk about the huge nights by two Sixers players: Elton Brand (26 & 9) and Andre Iguodala’s (25 points, 8 boards & 8 dimes) that were the keys to this impressive victory — the Sixers second in a row.
From the jump the Sixers appeared determined to get the ball to the rim on the Bulls one way or another and Elton Brand was more then willing to be the workhorse on the blocks, so the Sixers went with that route. EB scored 10 points in the 1stquarter on 5 of 6 shooting which enabled the Sixers to get off to a smooth start. Brand had 16 in the first half and on the night Brand was 12-22 shooting, grabbed 9 rebounds and in general was an absolute beast down low. He also threw in two blocks during the OT (3 total).
The return of Andre Iguodala’s game was the other story last night. AI9 has been struggling badly of late and against the Nets his body language and facial expressions were characteristic of player who has lost confidence in his game. Given the fact that he didn’t get his first points until 3:20 remained in the 1stquarter, we figured the funk was going to continue against the Bulls. Well we were wrong. Last night Andre appeared to find his game (25 pts. on 11-19 shooting) and regain some confidence. A large part of Iguodala’s return to form was thanks to numerous drives to the rack for easy buckets. Iggy still hoisted up six 3PAs (1-6) which is far too many out of him for our liking, but those ill-advised shots aside, he played a very good all around game. In addition to scoring, AI9 frequently led fast breaks for buckets, in the half-court he made some great passes that led to easy scores for teammates and he grabbed some key boards. It would have been nice if he could have made a few more free throws (2-7), especially the one he missed at clutch time, but that’s being picky. Again in our opinion the key to his whole night was that Iggy got to the rim for scores or trips to the free throw line.
Two questions this W raised for us:
1) Why is this team so wildly inconsistent?
Inside of a week, the Sixers played good basketball against the Lakers (the defending World Champions) and the Bulls (a likely playoff team) and went 1-1 in those games, but in between those solid efforts they laid an egg vs. the terrible NJ Nets and escaped with a lucky W. Going back to late January, the Sixers beat a road weary, but still very good Dallas Mavericks squad, then followed that big upset with three awful games against the hopeless Pacers (2x) and the improving Bucks. During that stretch of unwatchable hoops, the Sixers went 1-2. This team is a roller coaster, not just from game to game but from quarter to quarter and it has become so frustrating. A lot of that blame goes on the coaching which has bordered on reckless at times, but some of it has to be placed on the players as well.
2) Is Allen Iverson’s presence actually hurting this team?
We’re not inferring that Allen is a cancer in the locker room or anything that extreme. In fact by all accounts he has done and said the right things at very moment and been a leader for this team. What we are referring to is that Iverson’s presence on the actual court is taking minutes away from Jrue Holiday or Louis Williams and shots away from Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala. Which depending on how you look at each individual situation could be bad for the Sixers. Many of us believe this isn’t the case, but a couple heads here at the Philadunkia offices believe there is a direct correlation to AI9’s slump and the return of Iverson.
It was interesting that several mainstream reporters Tweeted that Louis Williams would be starting in Iverson’s place and then Eddie Jordan instead went with his favorite player – Willie Green in the first-five. Green made Jordan look good by hitting for 15 points on 6-9 shooting.
The way Jordan is using Jrue Holiday has become a joke. The rookie started again last night and played very good defense on Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich over the course of the game, but Holiday’s shot was off again (1-7) so of course Jordan did not play him for a single tick in the 4th Q or OT sessions. Rose only scored two buckets in the 1st Q on Holiday and hit two FTs. Jrue turned back at least three penetration attempts by Rose in that quarter. Rose scored another bucket against Holiday in the 2nd Q and the Bulls super star ended the half with only eight points. For some reason in the 3rd Q the Sixers started out with Holiday on Rose, but the switched to Green on Rose and Holiday on Hinrich. Rose responded by scoring 9 points in the third. Hinrich scored zero points in that 3rd Q (0-2 on FGA). Of course Jrue did not play in the 4th Q or OT when Rose hit for 13 points. In short Rose scored 22 of his game high 30 points when Holiday was NOT assigned to defend the All-Star guard.
How about the defensively challenged unit Jordan started the 2ndquarter with and rode for most of that period – Holiday / Rodney Carney / Thad Young / Mo Speights and Louis Williams. Holiday must have been thinking, ‘This is a joke right? Coach how about a little help here.’…It was during the 2nd Q that the Bulls put on a 12-2 burst to grab a six point halftime lead.
Louis Williams had a nightmare second quarter. All of the following happened in a span of about 4 minutes during the 2nd…He made two bad gambles on defense going after steals and on both plays he missed, was thus out of position and the Bulls used it to their advantage both times to get a bucket . On the offensive end, Louis threw a bad pass for a TO. That was followed by a possession where he threw a ball fake and then launched an ill advised jumper. Then Louis was leading a fast break in which he through a horrible pass ahead to Thad and the Sixers got nothing out of the possession. In just over 5 minutes or run during the 2nd quater, Louis was 0-2 with 3 TOs. Luckily for the Sixers he recovered and hit some big shots in the 4th Q and OT.
Despite the Sixers going inside frequently in the 1st and 2nd quarters, the Bulls were called for only 4 fouls in the 1st half.
The Bulls led by 6 points at half and the Sixers used a quick 6-0 run to begin the 3rd and tied the game. The Sixers then outscored Chicago 26-19 in that 3rd quarter and had a lead of 71-70 at the end of the Q. AI9 had seven of those points along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
It was an interesting lineup that Jordan trotted out to begin the 4th– Iggy / Royal Ivey / Mo Speights / Louis and Thad. It was the first minutes Ivey has seen since New Year’s Eve, so asking him to guard Rose after that long of lay off is just ridiculous. But Ivey a defensive standout did an OK job of it.
It helped Ivey that in the early 4th, the Sixers did a a lot of trapping the ball in general and specifically doubling Rose every time he touched it so Ivey was not constantly isolated on Rose. The defensive scheme by Jordan worked well and help the Sixers build momentum.
With 5:24 remaining in the game, Green was sent in for Ivey (who had just drilled a 3-ball) and was assigned the task of guarding Rose. Below are the results of the Bulls possessions that followed. See if you notice a trend.
- Miller reverse (asst. Rose)
- Salmons 3-ball (hockey asst. to Rose)
- Screen n roll = dunk by Rose
- Miller lay-up (asst. Rose)
- Dribble-drive by Rose = lay-in
- Deng missed lay-up but gets his own put back (blows asst. by Rose)
Speaking of Derrick Rose…Do you think Iguodala demanded to guard Rose on the Bulls final possession of regulation with the Sixers trailing 94-93? We know he wasn’t leaving it up to Jordan to decide who was going to defend Rose.
We love that for a second straight time (also against MIL) that the Sixers did NOT settle for a jumper on their final game tying / winning possession. They swung the ball around the perimeter patiently until Iggy found himself with a path to the basket. AI9 then put the ball on the floor and went strong to the hoop and ended up at the FT line. It’s a shame he couldn’t make both FTs and seal the deal, but at least the plague of clutch time long range jumpers by the Sixers seems to have come to an end.
As we discussed in our game preview Chicago is the #1 rebounding team in the NBA and they have the second best opponents’ field goal percentage. The Sixers won the battle on the backboard 43-41 (which is below the Bulls average of 45 a game) and shot 53 percent for the night.