I'm sure that the narrative will read that the result of last night's 105-96 Bucks win was due to Brandon Jennings simply taking out his frustration from not receiving a contract extension, especially on a point guard from his own 2009 draft class in Jrue Holiday, who did get paid. And while there could be a measure of truth to that, it's probably unfair to describe last night's game in those terms.
What I saw last night was one guard who was shooting the ball exceptionally well, but more importantly, who maximized his shooting touch because he was comfortable in his role, one he's had more or less since he entered the league. And his counterpart, like a college freshman, now suddenly has all of the freedom in the world, except he doesn't know completely how to handle it. About midway through the 3rd Quarter, Jrue Holiday was living the dream, getting drunk, talking to a girl, etc. And then next thing you know, he woke up in a place he didn't remember getting to, with only a pee stain on his pants to show for his big night out.
Hey, it happens.
By the time that Brandon Jennings threw up a double nickel against the Golden State Warriors in his seventh professional game, Jrue Holiday had played less than 50 total minutes in his first six games. On that same night, November 14th, 2009, Holiday played a total of 5:40 against the Chicago Bulls, mostly sitting on the bench and trying to figure out the very same Princeton Offense that Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash would struggle to master three years later, from a man who in between professional job, coached a high school freshman team. Man, I love the NBA.
There is no excuse for the rate at while Holiday is turning the ball over. The 41 Million Dollar Man is giving the other team the ball back in a plethora of ways. Sometimes, it's a charge from his newfound "Attack, attack, and attack some more" philosophy (I can live with these, especially because they are dead ball turnovers). Other times a pass is thrown too hard or slightly off target. A couple of times a game (and the most concerning in my opinion), he's too cavalier with the ball in traffic and it gets poked away. It's all bad.
With the absence of Andrew Bynum likely at least turning into Sixer fans' version of The Hundred Days- and for all our sakes, we can only hope it ends better than the original- Jrue Holiday is needed in the worst way. The fourth-year guard is being asked to run an offense for players who by and large can't create a quality shot for themselves while also scoring at an increased and more efficient rate himself. On top of that, he is also expected to be careful with the basketball, and mind you, he's doing this all on the fly. It's not easy.
Go back to the comparison between last night's counterpart. Even with a taskmaster in Scott Skiles, Jennings has had the green light from the beginning in Milwaukee, and Jrue on the other hand, has not. Think about the fact that last year, Jennings basically had double the usage rate Holiday had, 25.9% to 13.2%. Jrue Holiday will be one of the NBA's most interesting players this season, basically on the basketball version of Rumspringa. Last year, Doug Collins asked his point guard to play defense, rarely turn the ball over (which he did a good job of), and hoist the occasional 19-foot jumper when the time came. Right now, Collins has completely changed scripts, asking Holiday to create high percentage shots for players who can't do so on their own. And he's done that, as the team's expected field goal percentage has jumped from 30th to 14th, but it's come with one huge caveat: turnovers.
This is not to take anything away from Jennings, because he was terrific. But last night we saw one guard comfortable in his role. The other one, he's still experiencing a bit of culture shock.
Here are some other quick things I saw:
- The Bucks were smart offensively, attacking our slow-footed Captain America, Spencer Hawes, in pick and rolls at the end of the first half. With Hawes playing soft and sinking into the paint, Jrue is basically resigned to playing one on two. The solution is to go over the screen and force the drive or as Malik suggested on the broadcast, force Jennings away from the screen and to his left hand, counter-intuitive as that may seem. Jrue getting stuck on the screen didn't help either, and Jennings hit two killer threes going to his supposedly weaker right hand for pull-up threes off the ball screens. Ironically, Jrue likes to drive and finish with his off hand, which is his left. So to reinforce the point, those two are pretty much yin and yang.
- One last note on Jrue: He did have six assists and looked particularly good in the pick and roll with three shooters around him. Spacing and shooters will do that for him, it seems. Collins actually went super small with a Holiday-Richardson-SwagyP-Wright-Thad lineup that actually closed the deficit from six to zero. With the way "The Brick Brothers," as ESPN's John Hollinger describes the small backcourt of Jennings and Ellis (although not tonight), were disregarding their bigs, I'm surprised he didn't try the lineup again in the second half.
- Jason Richardson returned to the lineup and shot the ball well, playing an active game on offense, even throwing down the oldest 360 dunk I've ever seen (let's call the dunk a "CCCLX"). He did struggle to stop Tobias Harris a few times on defense, though.
- Not a good game for Evan Turner. 8 points on 8 shots, but three early turnovers, and he wasn't able to make his usual contribution on the glass because the team didn't get a lot of stops when he was in the game. So in that sense not entirely his fault, but ET struggled like Jrue and that's going to mean a Sixer loss more often than not with their current personnel. The one thing that drove me crazy all game was why Turner and Jrue didn't post-up the smaller Brick Brothers. I only remember Turner doing it once, and even when Ellis played decent defense, he still made the shot. I hope they look into that the next time the two teams play.
- Dorell Wright made some shots, which was good to see. He's a guy that will really benefit if/when Bynum comes back. The three-point shooting streaks the Sixers had made this a fun game.
- I like Royal Ivey and think he's done an admirable job filling in while Collins has Maalik Wayns in the doghouse. Cheese actually played really well against Toronto the other night, for example. But I'm not stunned to see the Sixers only score 13 points while he plays the whole 4th quarter. That's too much time for him.
- One last thing: Lavoy Allen has been really, really bad so far this year. I want to say he looks lethargic, but he's always that way, even when he's playing well. This is a concerning development.
Player of The Game: Thaddeus Young, 11 points on 4-6 shooting to go with 7 rebounds, but some of the most active defense you'll ever see from a 4. Thad was the biggest reason the Sixers closed the deficit in the 3rd Quarter.
Make sure to check out Brew Hoop for their thoughts on the game. Great site over there.
The Sixers will continue the homestand on Wednesday night against the winless Detroit Pistons.