Over the weekend the 76ers collected wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks. The Bucks and Knicks are two teams the Sixers are better then on paper and should beat handily in real life, so it was nice to see the home team handle their business against two inferior Eastern Conference foes.
However, the roller coaster ride that marked the Sixers level of play on the offensive end of the floor in the preseason has now extended through the first three games of the regular season. When the Sixers are rolling like they were during the first three quarters vs. the Knicks, they’re going to be tough to beat. But when they’re flat as they were in the 2nd quarter vs. the Magic, the Sixers are simply ugly offensively and easily defeated.
Obviously the offensive inconsistencies are of some concern for us here at Philadunkia. But there were enough positives surrounding the Sixers offense this weekend that we gained some faiththat with or without the Princeton offense, the ability to score buckets will not be what holds the Sixers back this year.
No, as we sit just three games into the 2009-10 season what’s most concerning in our minds is that the 76ers team defense continues to be borderline non-existent and that is what could keep this team from reaching the post season again this season.
Now the Sixers list of defensive issues is long andchallenging, but on that list priority #1 must be to find a way to stop or at least slow down other team’s point man because frankly they have been killing us in 2009-10.
In the season opener the Magic’s Jameer Nelson and “J-Dub” Williams simply ate Louis Williams for dinner. The soon-to-be 34-year old “J-Dub” who sat out all of the 2008-09 season, looked as though he was in the prime of his career. He frequently lost his defender in traffic and when Sixers help D arrived, he dropped the ball off to a teammate for a basket. “J-Dub” also easily maneuvered with the pill for open looks for himself. Nelson and “J-Dub” combined for 22 points and 11 dimes and they only person holding the duo back from padding the stat sheet further was Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy who sat Nelson for long stretches of the second half.
Then on Friday night, Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings nearly racked up a triple-double (17 points, 9 rips rebounds & 9 assists) in his NBA debut. If you thought the Sixers guards were fast with the rock then you didn’t see Jennings play Friday night. Not one of the Sixers veteran guards could stay in front of Jennings. Not Louis or Royal Ivey. Willie Green wasn’t even close. Coach Jordan even gave rookie Jrue Holiday a chance at chasing Jennings. Jordan probably figured they are the same age and played on the same McD’s All-American team, so maybe the Jrue can slow Jennings up a little. That did not work either.
On Saturday night everyone knew what to expect up at Madison Square Garden when the Sixers played Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks, so we understood that defense was not going to be at a premium. Still the effort on that end of the floor by the Sixers guards vs. the NYK was simply depressing. The Knicks point guard rotation of Chris Duhon, Larry Hughes and Nate Robinson accounted for 33 points and 15 assists as the Knicks scored 127 points overall. Hughes who is older then dirt and was a DNP-CD in the Knicks first two games gave the Sixers fits, hitting for 18 points. In the 4thquarter of Saturday night’s game the Knicks (41 points in the Q) looked like the AND 1 mixtape team running up and down the floor and the Sixers guards did nothing defensively to provide any sort of resistance.
Then with 5.3 seconds left in regulation the defensive straw that finally broke our backs came crashing down. Knick point man Chris Duhon tied the game on a driving lay-up off an isolated pick-n-roll at the FT linethat Louis Williams misplayed so badly you would have thought he’d never seen that ol’ school two-man-set in his life. We’re not sure a high school point man would have made a worse effort defensively in that situation and it was the final inspiration for this post.
Look we know Louis Williams is not totally to blame for the Sixers ills at defending the opposition’s point man. As we stated at the start of this post, the Sixers have several other issues on defense (Do we really even need to discuss their bad individual fundamentals or their inability to rotate or guard the three-point line or slow the ball down in transition?) that are not helping Louis concentrate on guarding other floor generals. Plus the head coach is so concerned with his Princeton offense that it appears the Sixers have yet to even acknowledge the other end of the floor in practice. So this issue is NOT totally Louis’ fault.
However, as of right now, Louis is the starting point guard for the Sixers and in all expert basketball minds, good defense begins with solid ball pressure at the point of attack. So Louis we have no choice but to call you out on this issue. The road to the Sixers playing solid team defense starts with you putting more pressure on opponent’s floor general even before they cross half-court and doing a better job of keeping #23 on the Sixers between his man and the basket. So Louis please, we beg you…man up, lock down, get in their jock or treat you man like a piece of chewing gum; because if you can’t quickly fix this front-line defensive issue for us, then there is little chance the Sixers will resolve the rest of the defensive problems that are occurring behind you.
And unless those defensive issues are resolved, there’s little chance of a post season run for the Sixers.