When you're playing against the best basketball player on the planet, pretty much everything needs to go right for a chance to win the game. Already down Spencer Hawes due to a nagging Achilles injury, the Sixers turned to rookie Nikola Vucevic to man the paint against LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat. He answered the call admirably until, late in the 3rd, he went down with an apparent knee strain that looked more worrisome than it turned out to be.
From there, the Sixers fell apart. The Heat rattled off a few points to end the quarter, then kept the jets on going into the final frame, outscoring the Sixers by 9 in the 4th on their way to a 113-92 victory. Along with some extremely questionable rotations from Doug Collins, the Sixers did not play their best game against a Dwyane Wade-less El Heat team. They fell to 11-5 on the young season but maintain a strong hold over the Knicks and Celtics for the Atlantic Division.
The Big Men
The Sixers came into the game with run of the mill rebounding numbers and, considering their high positioning in other categories, was clearly their weak spot. Minus their best player thus far this season, Somehow Spencer Hawes (that's not his nickname, though it should be), their frontcourt was extremely thin. Elton Brand had his jump shot working from the midrange tonight but pretty much disappeared on defense and on the glass. Bosh owned him all night long and didn't have too much trouble against his backup, Thaddeus Young, either. Thad played rather hideously, doing nothing of value save for a few crafty hooks around the basket and a stray jumper. His play is especially worrisome because they've just given him a fat contract in which he's supposed to become a legitimate basketball player, but unfortunately he still can't rebound and can't dribble, and his defense and jump shooting are inconsistent at best.
Collins has clearly decided that, in a short season, it's better to rest guys with nagging injuries than to let them incur further damage. Vucevic was cleared to play midway through the 4th but Collins made the right call in being precautionary. Unfortunately, that left the Sixers with only Thad, Elton, Tony Battie, and Lavoy Allen available. The latter two don't have any business playing on a good basketball team, much less against the best team in the league. That showed in how slow and lost they both looked in their 9 minute spurts during "crunch time". It's surprising that the team hasn't acquired another big man yet but, if the injuries to Vuce and Spencer linger, expect them to. Getting outrebounded by 21 isn't going to inspire confidence in the backups.
ET completely owned the second quarter. He got to the basket at will, getting past supposed "NBA's Best Perimeter Defender" Shane Battier numerous times, and hitting what seemed like thirty-seven straight and-one's off the backboard. His jumper was falling, but he wasn't settling for it, and it really felt like it was his team out there. Playing adequate defense on LeBron - he's always gonna get his, but still - didn't hurt things either. With a backcourt of Jrue Holiday, Andre and Evan, the Sixers had fluid ball movement and had the Heat scrambling on assignments. Riding the coattails of Evan seemed to be the way the Sixers were going to keep this thing close.
But then the 3rd quarter happened. And in that fateful period, Evan Turner sat. And sat. And sat. Only with two minutes remaining, after Vuce had already gone down, did Collins call on ET to wake up and take off his warmup shirsey. I don't understand this. It doesn't make sense to me in any reality, LOST or non-LOST. He's, right now, the third best player on the team behind Hawes and Andre Iguodala. And he's the hot hand. But for whatever asinine, blind, head-up-his-scrote reason, Doug Collins doesn't go to him until the game is mostly out of reach. There's probably "a lesson" in here somewhere, but it would be the wrong one. He had Louis Williams and Jodie Meeks on the court at the same time, which is essentially a -5 hole to begin with because you can't hide two players on defense. Going with Thad over him "for rebounding" doesn't make sense because Thad grabbed exactly zero rebounds and Evan's DRB% doubles Thad's. I don't get it. It's bad coaching and it's one of the main reasons the Sixers ended up getting blown out.
All the rest
Nothing I can say about Jrue Holiday that we haven't repeated 15 times already this season. He has to be better. He has to.
Lou got most, if not all, of his points in garbage time and continued his string of BOSSy play that re-charges the Lou Williams Hate Advisory Index (LWHAI) of season's past. His defense is nauseating. He also got blocked 4 times tonight, most of them from Joel Anthony who completely dominated the paint on defense.
Chris Bosh hit every shot. Mario Chalmers did as well. It's hard to win when you're doubling the best player in the game and the guys he kicks it out to are knocking down everything. That's the biggest thing with LeBron. He'll kill you regardless. But if the guys he passes to aren't missing enough, there's no chance you'll win the game.
Next game is at home against the lowly Washington Wizards, so make sure you have your Harry Potter references ready for Monday. Plenty of great tickets available to see a win so get yours here. Don't get too down about tonight's game. The second of a back to back against the best team in the league without your two centers... it wasn't in the cards.
In Evan we trust.