In a game broken up into fourths, the Sixers won the wrong two. The Cavaliers owned the first and fourth quarters, outscoring the Sixers by 26 between the two. Jrue Holiday's best offensive game of his career couldn't hold the fourth quarter lead and nonexistent defense proved to be the team's undoing. A play late in the game embodied the Sixers season to date: Mo Williams missed a free throw and while Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young battled each other for the rebound, Anderson Varejao went behind a weak box-out and tipped the ball to himself and laid it in, officially sealing it.
The Cavs came out of the gate on fire, leading by as much as 19 points in the first half. Jrue was letting Mo Williams get the best of him and Anderson Varejao was getting points and rebounds over Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes. The bench came out and settled things down, cutting the lead to just 8 at halftime. Since the Sixers were losing, they couldn't have their own trademarked third quarter collapse, so Cleveland had one of their own. Minus the help of Andre Iguodala, who didn't return for the second half due to a strained Achilles tendon (more on that later), the Sixers were led by the stylings of Jrue Holiday. The Sixers outscored the Cavs 31 to 18 in the third quarter, shooting way over 50% for the quarter and forcing a ton of turnovers.
In the fourth, the Sixers got into foul trouble early and Cleveland made them pay, shooting 48 free throws for the game. They made 38 of them, good for an efficient 79% clip. The lack of a defensive presence in the middle (read: Samuel Dalembert) was really exposed tonight, as Spencer Hawes and Marreese Speights combined for just three rebounds in 19 minutes of action. Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams continued to bury us at the end, scoring 22 points apiece with 18 made free throws between them. The Cavs went to 2-3 with the win, while the Sixers dropped to a #missionBJ-worthy 1-5.
More thoughts after the jump.
- Tony Battie played a ton of minutes. Secondary to that unfortunate fact is that he played well. Like...+28 well. He played solid defense, rebounded from his position, and hit a 19-foot jump shot that made me squeal. I really hope this doesn't make Doug Collins give him more time than Hawes or Speights, because he is NOT part of the future. I'll say this again: the goal of all professional sports is to win a championship. We are very far away from having a team capable of contending for a title. Shedding the fat and starting to rebuild from the ground up (Turner and Holiday) is how the Sixers can get to the promised land in three or four years. Not next year, not even the year after that. Andre, Brand, and probably Thad and Lou are not part of that equation of championship pieces that will matter four years down the road. They all bring unique talents to the table and they are all relatively good basketball players. But unless they are going to contribute to a championship team here in Philadelphia there is no point in keeping them if there's a way for us to get younger, shed salary, and accrue picks. I'll probably be repeating this point a million times this season. Losses will be a recurring theme. It may hurt to see the Sixers at the cellar if you're a "die-hard fan." Deal with it. Seriously, if you're not first, you may as well be last. Moving on...
- Jrue offensively was amazing tonight. 29 points (a career high) on 17 shots, 3-5 from three, 8 trips to the line, 8 assists, and NO turnovers. Unbelievably efficient game for him on that end, especially in the third quarter when he put the team on his back and gave us a glimpse of just how good he can be. Outside shooting, smart passing, mid-range floaters, change-of-pace moves to get easy layups...his arsenal is expanding every day. Defensively though, he wasn't very good. And that worries me. He let Boogie Gibson and Mo Williams get away from him too many times, often having to foul, which put the team in foul trouble and resulted in him fouling out. The offense is great, but without a shot-blocking presence in the paint, it's much more important to have a shutdown point guard at the top of the key. If he doesn't keep his guy out of the soft spot in the defense, this team will have big problems stopping anybody.
- Andres Nocioni was studly in the second and third quarters as well. He left the game in the waning moments, looking to be favoring his leg. We'll update that when we hear more.
- Louis Williams played another good game. Still too many long jumpers for my liking because he's so good at taking the ball to the basket, but an efficient 16 and 5 is nice to see from him. Trade bait with...(keep reading).....
- Elton Brand, who was once again great on the offensive end. 20 points on 12 shots from all over the court. His midrange jumper has been really wet in 2010. Poor defense on Varejao (10-10 from the field) and J.J. Hickson combined with just one defensive rebound (in the first quarter) in 30 minutes isn't cutting it. Again though, he looks much better than he has at any point since we got him. Good for Elton for turning it around, and here's to hoping Rod Thorn can find a suitor for him to help out a contender.
- As I mentioned before, Iguodala left the game after the first half with a right Achilles tendon strain. According to our resident doctor, TK, that hurts a lot. It's yet to be determined how much time he'll miss (if any, he's a gamer), but the lineup would require quite a shakeup if he's out for a few weeks. Nocioni has pretty much cemented himself into the 3-spot for a while, so he'll stay put. I don't think Lou and Jrue would be a good backcourt to start with because they're undersized and it would render the backup point guard position vacant. Neither Thad nor Nocioni is capable of guarding twos. It would stand to reason that Evan Turner would fill Andre's spot in the starting lineup, giving all of us developmentites (those who believe in player development) a case of the yips. Turner didn't play as well as I expected tonight, but Collins has given him 25 minutes in four of the team's six games -- basically starter's minutes. This could all be moot if Andre ends up not missing any time. Not a far-fetched scenario since Mr. Iguodala has missed just six games in his seven year career.
Next game is against the Knicks to kick off a five-game roadie. Since Madison Square Garden is on the DL with a case of Asbestos ("They're cleaning the ceiling Asbestos they can!"), the Knicks are playing the Wizards at the Prudential Center in Jersey. Keep up with news here and at Posting and Toasting, where they harbor sex offenders and listen to Indonesian folk songs by the fire. Expect tons of BLOG SYNERGY between us and Seth in the days to come.
Briefer recap: Sixers lose, Asbestos lies ahead.