Celtics 76ers BasketballAfter getting embarrassed in the season opener by the Orlando Magic, one of the elite squads in the NBA, we were hoping that last night’s contest against the Boston Celtics, another elite team in the League, would serve as a barometer for how the Sixers had improved since that opening night disaster.  To be honest, we saw flashes of solid basketball over the weekend in wins against lowly Milwaukee and New York, so we expected to see some signs of improvement vs. Boston and possibly a very interesting game.

Boy, were we wrong.  The Sixers gave a half-hearted effort, worse then the one down in Orlando on opening night, and this game went from interesting to unwatchable in a hurry.  We searched for something positive to say about last night’s game, but we came up with nothing.  But there’s a long list of reasons for why the Sixers got their doors blown off by KG & company and we’ll quickly review them for you. 

However there is one issue on the list of the Sixers ills from last night that has become completely unacceptable in Philadunkia nation.  We’re going to take a minute to look at that issue a little deeper because it has plagued the Sixers through the first four games of 2009-10.

Celtics 76ers BasketballIssues vs. Boston last night :

The Sixers started the game 0-8 from the field and we’re not talking about shots that went in and out either.  Air balls, bricks, clanks, blown bunnies, the Sixers were awful shooting the ball in the 1st Q, especially Thaddeus Young.

Andre Iguodala attempted only two shots in the first Q.  Not made, attempted.  That’s completely unacceptable from a player who is supposed to be the star of this team. 

Eddie Jordan needs to find the right second unit mix for the Sixers in a hurry.  The Sixers had another dismal 2nd Q effort last night with a lineup of AI9/ Holiday / Speights / Thad & Smith vs. the C’s second unit of Pierce / Sheed / House / Williams / Daniels.

C’s lead at the half was 6 points and they blew that up in the 3rd to 17 points thanks to an 11-0 run. The Sixers came out of the locker room with no fire or energy and once the first C’s 3-ball went in you could the Sixers sag mentally.  Boston led by 15 after three Q’s and you could sense the game was over as they had sucked the spirit out of the Sixers.

It only got worse in the 4thQ as the Sixers mailed it completely and at one point trailed by 33 points.

The Sixers turned the ball over 16 times and some of the mistakes were things you’d likely see at the local YMCA, not in the NBA.  Case in point: AI9 lazily attempted to basically hand the ball off to Louis just over half-court and Rojon Rondo burst between them for the theft and lay in at the other end.

The Sixers did not hit a 3-ball until 1:30 left in the game.  They were 1-16 on the night and as a team are now shooting 28.3% for the season.

Celtics 76ers BasketballSo now that you have our list of game specific issues that helped the 76ers get humiliated at home by the Celtics, let’s examine the BIG ongoing issues for the 2009-10 Sixers that of course truly led to getting our butts kicked by Boston last night. 

DEFENSE :  For two years now we’ve written about how the home team is miserable at guarding the 3-point line.  This season opponents are shooting 45% vs. Philly and last night Boston was 14-20 from three, which proved just how bad the Sixers can be at times defending the three-point line.  Thus far in 2009-10 we have also written about how the Sixers have had trouble stopping other team’s transition games, how they need to pressure the ball better and work on their help rotations.  Well, today we need to talk about how the Sixers can not guard the oldest play in the NBA – the pick-n-roll.  So it is now official, the Sixers are a complete mess defensively. 

Last night, the Celtics put on a pick-n-roll clinic and the Sixers could not stop it.  What’s more disturbing is the fact that the Celtics weren’t exploiting one particular match up all night with the pick-n-roll.  So it wasn’t the same one of two Sixers getting killed all night.  Boston ran the set wherever and against whomever they wanted as not one Sixer had a clue how to defend that old’ school two-man game.

Below are a couple of specific examples that were especially alarming to us.  In each of these cases, it blew us away that the Sixers provided so little defensive resistance on the pick-n-roll, a set most players learn to defend in high school.

  • In the 1stquarter Paul Pierce (ball handler) with Thad guarding him ran a pick-n-roll with KG who had Dalembert on him.  As KG set the pick, both Sixers stayed with KG so Pierce turned the corner with the dribble and blew straight down the lane for the lay up.
  • In the 2ndquarter Ray Allen (ball handler) with rookie Jrue Holiday guarding him ran a pick-n-roll with Rasheed Wallace who had Dalembert on him.  As ‘Sheed set the pick, both Sixers jumped / rushed Allen.  ‘Sheed simply popped back to 3-point line, Allen dropped off a pass and ‘Sheed buried another wide open three.
  • In the 4th quarter Eddie House (ball handler) with Jason Kapono guarding him ran a pick-n-roll with Shelden Williams (not exactly an All-Star) who had Speights on him.  As Shelden set the pick, both Sixers stayed with House, so Shelden simply rolled down the lane as he should, House hit him with a pass and he knocked in the bunny.

Through four games, we can’t pinpoint one, single solution to the Sixers overall defensive woes.  Is the problem execution?  Is it a strategy issue?  Is it a lack of fundamental work?  Is it a lack of energy and personal commitment?  In our opinion it’s a combination of all those factors. 

What we do know is that the Sixers need to get things straightened out quickly on the defensive end of the floor, or this is going to turn into a long, long season for the fans.

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