The Sixers allowed the Knicks to shoot 60%, out-rebound them by 11, and make 41% of 27 threes (11). With that horrific defensive effort, they gave themselves no chance to sweep the home-and-home with the Knicks this weekend, thus creeping within one game of the sixth seed. Instead the Sixers got embarrassed, and find themselves three back of the six seed, and only two games ahead of the ninth-seed Bobcats.
With talks of a Carmelo-Wilson Chandler swap quickly gaining steam, the Sixers may have to kiss their chances at the six seed good-bye, and shift their focus to holding off the nine-seed Bobcats.
The Knicks were collectively lights out for most of the game, but Amare was on another level. He was as unstoppable as I've ever seen a player. He finished with 41 points on 17-21 shooting, and 7-7 from the line. If his defender gave him room – which was the Sixers strategy for most of the game – he calmly nailed (every) jumper. If his defender crowded him, he easily blew by them for a layup, free throws, or both. Elton's defensive effort on Amare was admirable and he wasn't afraid to send him to the line. Unfortunately, when Amare made nearly every jumper he attempted, Elton was rendered helpless.
After Amare, the second culprit of the Sixers' poor defense was the lack of a defensive big – a problem they've had since they traded Dalembert. Not only does the lack of an interior defender hurt the Sixers defense as a unit, but individual players as well. If a perimeter defender gets blown by there's no help at the rim, causing perimeter players to go under the screen more often than they should. Also, the lack of an interior defender forces players to cheat off their man during dribble penetration, leaving shooters wide open from three.
No matter how athletic the Sixers are, how lethal their bench is, or how many capable perimeter defenders they have, the lack of a legitimate big man will continue to haunt them, and ultimately cripple them in a playoff series.
Individual observations after the jump.
- Jrue Holiday played a horrific basketball game; there's no other way to put it. He was consistently beaten by Felton and Douglas on defense, and hurt the the team nearly every touch he received offensively. He finished with 2 points on 1-8 shooting and 4 turnovers. The Sixers were +19 when he was on the bench. He's now averaging 6 points on 29% shooting his last four games. It's becoming clear that Jrue is ineffective off-the-ball. We saw it at UCLA, and we're seeing it now. He's averaging 18-9 on 50% shooting in 12 games without Iguodala, and 12-6 on 41% shooting with Iguodala.
- Although the box score says differently, Spencer Hawes also played a terrible game. He had and embarrassing over-the-back call and lack of box out, a pass hit him in the chest when he wasn't looking, and played about a foot shorter than his actual 7-foot frame suggests.
- Two more terrific games from the well-paid veterans, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. I spoke on Brand's defense earlier, but on offense he picked up where he left off on Friday night, finishing with 28 points on 10-14 shooting and 8-10 from the stripe. His jumper was wet, as it's been all season, and he battled inside all afternoon. His 2 defensive rebounds and Amare's 41 points are obviously disappointing, though.
- Unlike Hawes, Iguodala's box score doesn't do his game justice. Once again he played solid defense, and ran the offense beautifully from his new point forward position. He was extremely under control, and made great decisions with the ball, minus his lone turnover. Eight assists and only one turnover makes it 27 assists and two total turnovers since becoming the unofficial point forward, three games ago. As I posted on Twitter, there's only one other player in this league (LeBron) who can play point guard, and lock down 4 of the 5 positions defensively. Remember that next time you feel the urge to bash Iguodala. For the cherry on top Iguodala scored 14 points on 8 shots, attempted 12 free throws, and collected 5 rebounds. Unfortunately Iguodala was saddled with foul trouble the entire first half, and it disrupted both his, and the team's rhythm.
- Evan Turner played a good game for the most part. Although he was 4-7 from the field, he settled for too many jumpers, and never got to the line. He recorded two steals, but had his struggles defensively, especially with Gallo. However; his rebounding and playmaking abilities shined. He collected 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and didn't commit a single turnover. In his last 11 games he owns a sparkling a 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. ET continues to show glimpses of the player everyone thought'd he'd be when he was selected #2 overall, and he's already developed into an important bench player for the Sixers.
- Thaddeus Young provided his usual production off the bench, hustling and finishing craftily around the basket. His downfall was continually over-helping on defensive penetration, leaving Knicks wide open from beyond the arch.
- For the second consecutive game Amare put both hands on a Sixers player and shoved him to the ground, neither prompting a foul call. Brand and Amare were getting pretty chippy in the waning minutes.
- Lou Williams severely out-played Jrue for the second consecutive game, finishing with 19 points (on 12 shots), 4 assists, a steal, and zero turnovers. His defense was suspect at times, also allowing Knicks to shoot and make uncontested threes, but his man-to-man and pick-and-roll defense was greater than or equal to Jrue's during both Knicks games, believe it or not.
- Mo Speights received a DNP-CD, and I cannot understand why. He's a much better option – especially against the Knicks – than Hawes and Battie.