Well, I for one, am disgusted. Normally I don't allow sporting events (besides Maryland basketball) to alter my emotional standing at a given time. This game was an exception.
I already had the story of the game outlined and ready to go when the Sixers went up 4 with 20 seconds left to play. I was ready to talk about the improved aggressiveness of rookie Evan Turner. My keyboard was feverishly anticipating me typing various anecdotes on forcing Dwight Howard to make free throws, Tony Battie drawing 3 fouls on Howard, and the attacking mindset the Sixers adopted when Howard was on the bench at the end of the third quarter. It was getting to be the time to reminisce on Jrue Holiday's resurgence in the second half after a less than stellar first cut short by foul trouble. Thaddeus Young's mom called me to say she couldn't wait to see all the nice things I had to say about his absurdly efficient scoring night. I was primed to delve into the success rate Jameer Nelson was having at getting to the basket on both Jrue and Lou. All of this waved goodbye once Jason Richardson received the ball at the top of the three point line, down 4.
Before I get too Ranty Ricardo all up in here, I do want to give proper attention to how well Turner played tonight. In his first eight minutes of action, Turner had already collected 6 points and 5 rebounds and looked to be well on his way to double-double. Although he never reached that final statline, he had two terrific drives in the second half that should serve as a template into what his game should be modeled around. He recognized Brandon Bass was guarding him one-on-one at the perimeter, dribbled past and finished with an exquisite version of the up-and-under. Immediately after, Turner received the ball in the baseline corner, gave a pump fake that Ryan Anderson bit hard on, and finished with an easy one-hand jam.
The rant about the end-of-game possessions will ensue after the jump. It'll be all sorts of fun filled with isolation-style sentences.
Up 4 with 20 seconds left. There's no possible way we could blow this. There really isn't anything outside of some luck swinging towards the Magic that could change the final outcome. All of a sudden Richardson got the ball, dribbled to his right, rose for the three, and banged it home. I'm feeling like I forgot something. Oh that's right, Andre Iguodala stuck his hand in at just the right moment prompting an official to whistle him for the foul. 3-pointer, and-1. Pardon the absurdly obvious pun, but Orlando magically tied it up.
Okay. So a play eerily similar, yet one step up, from the Cartier Martin three earlier in the year just happened. This time, the Sixers get the ball back with plenty of time to draw up a well-designed last possession. What was I thinking anticipating any other play other than an isolation?
We've seen it before, most recently Friday night against the Bucks, and we saw it again tonight. Louis Williams dribbled around aimlessly (like a boss), attempted the obligatory LouWill pump fake (like a boss), made sure he was behind the three point line for some odd reason (like a boss), and chucked up a contested fadeaway three (like a boss). The pure Sixer fan at heart part of me was praying for the ball to find its way through the nylon, but the fed up, disgusted at this nonsense part of me was more sensible realizing that nothing good could come out of it. If that shot goes in, the average fan (not you guys) is praising Lou for drilling the game-winning three against a possible championship contending team. If that shot goes in, Doug Collins would continue to have all the confidence in the world when it comes to the Lou iso (although, who's to say he doesn't anyway). The shot rimmed out. The Sixers headed into their second straight overtime game.
Once the extra period started, more unsuccessful isolation plays awaited us so graciously. Not only did we get more of the same in overtime that we saw at the end of regulation on the offensive end, but stupid defensive lapses joined the party as well. JJ Redick came off a screen, caught the ball outside the three-point line in rhythm, and hit the three. Damn it, I forget something again! The Boss LouWill got caught in the air and collided with Redick, giving him the second Magic 3-ball and-1 in less than three minutes.
As many of you probably know, Albert Einstein described insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." By this definition, Collins could be classified as insane (in the membrane). It was nearing the end of the overtime period and the Sixers had the ball down 1 with the shot clock unplugged. Allow me to set the scene for another iso play, this time starring Iguodala. Dre had the ball at the top of the key, dribbled around the right side of the paint and released the rock. After clanking off the rim, the ball ricocheted out towards the rookie Turner who had to force up a wild shot in order to beat the clock. The shot was off to the right, ending the game in favor of the Magic.
It didn't work last month. It didn't work last week. It didn't work on Friday. It didn't work tonight. Isolation plays are not the way to go at the end of the game when you don't have a legit iso-caliber player. That doesn't seem to bother Collins nor the rest of the team. While either Lou or Dre is dribbling away his life, wing players and big men are standing in corners playing patty-cake or they might as well be. They are completely taken out the game and aren't in a position to even get a tip-in on a missed attempt. It's a terrible strategy to end games now and it was a horrendous strategy to try and win games in 1986. Run a play, create some movement, set some screens, do anything but have 4 guys stand in a corner while one dribbles to his heart's content.
This game was lost because of defensive blunders and a lack of an end-of-game offensive strategy. And just to throw the proverbial cherry on top of this deliciousness of a Sundae, Lou had an astoundingly absurd usage rate of 30.8% tonight (boss rate of 100% - thanks Tronski). Yes, that means just about one out of every three possessions the Sixers had throughout the entire game had Lou involved whether it be attempt, assist, turnover, or free throw while he was on the court. This game just added to his already top-15 in the NBA usage rate.
That's it, I can't rant anymore. I don't have the energy, plus I'd like to catch the last twenty minutes of "Boyz N the Hood" without having to think about the word "isolation."
We're back at it tomorrow night in Charlotte. Maybe we'll see an actual play run, who knows. See you then!
Player of the Game: Tre Styles