To say the Sixers haven't been playing well recently would be an understatement.
After a decent start to the season, they're now 3 games under .500 at 14-17. They're 1-3 on this road trip now. They're 2-8 in their last 10. They haven't won consecutive games since a 3 game winning streak that dates back to late November.
No one should be surprised why this team is struggling. It's the same reasons as always: bad shot selection, too many long 2 point shots, complete lack of an interior presence on both ends of the court (aka a lack of Andrew Bynum), a low free throw rate, poor shooting %, etc.
And things aren't going to get any easier any soon. The Sixers still have to face better teams like the Lakers, Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder before this trip out west is over. The Phoenix Suns game looks winnable, but I think the Sixers would be lucky to walk away with 1 win at most against those other 3 teams. But that's enough looking ahead for now. Let's look at what went wrong against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Despite how the score may look, the Sixers last game of 2012 was fairly boring for the most part. The Blazers jumped out to 30-23 lead by the end of the first quarter largely due to the Sixers turning the ball over too much. By the end of the first the Sixers had turned the ball over 6 times compared to the Blazers 1 time. It's well known that the Sixers' coaching staff emphasizes not turning the ball over, so that was sure to drive them crazy. As the turnovers normalized and evened up a bit more, the Sixers were able to stay within striking distance of the Blazers. For most of the game, the Sixers trailed closely behind and only legitimately threatened the Blazers lead once. Late in the third quarter, they even took a small lead. They weren't able to sustain it however, and the Blazers pulled away once again. The Sixers hung around close up until the end, when they were down only 3 points and had the ball with about 30 seconds to go.
(What follows next is a painful experience and may not be safe for young children or those of the faint of heart. We advise you proceed with caution. You have been warned.)
Looking for a chance to tie the game late, Jrue Holiday attacked the basket and drew the double team so that he could kick the ball out for a game tying three. This isn't a bad strategy at all. Especially when you have some guys on the team who can knock down the 3 ball.
There was only problem. The person Jrue kicked out to from beyond the arc was... *dramatic pause* ... Spencer Hawes.
Wait, what?! That Spencer Hawes? You mean, the guy who was previously 1-9 in the game and totally useless? That freakin' guy?!
Yeah. That guy. Now, we've all seen some Sp3nc3r Haw3s moments before but he's really not the guy you want shooting that shot especially when there's better shooters on the floor. But alas, that's the Sixers we've come to know and
love hate love. The Blazers got the ball back after that miss and the game was all over from there. Fin.
All was not terrible in this game, though. There were a few bright spots.
- Jrue Holiday scored 29 points (on 22 shots) and was only 1 rebound and 1 assist shy of a "pathetic" triple double (and only 3 turnovers short of a quadruple double!). He also held Damian Lillard to 20 pts on 18 shots. Jrue was a big reason they were able to hang close.
- Thaddeus Young did typical Thad things and helped put in 17 points (15 shots). He did his best to limit LaMarcus Aldridge to 16 points on 13 shots.
- Lavoy Allen. I love me some Lavoy. He's not a "sexy" big man (sounds weird but whatever) but he plays tough. 8 points (on 9 shots though, ugh), 8 boards, and he was really the only Sixers big that was playing like one. Maybe I'm biased because I like him, but I think he plays better than the stat sheet indicates.
- Damian Lillard. Prior to this game, I hadn't seen Portland play too much this year. I was really impressed with Lillard, and I see why he's getting Rookie of the Year hype. I maintain that Jrue did a decent job defending him, but it's clear this kid has talent. Should be fun to watch for years to come.
Lots of bad.
- Spencer Hawes. First, he cut his hair. Depending on how you felt about his mullet, that may or may not be a bad thing. Second, he's so terrible. He was completely dominated on the defensive end and had an AWFUL night shooting (2-10). I've gone on many a "Hawes is terrible" rants before so I'll spare you here, but just know that he's a net positive on this team and if I were the Sixers I would trade him yesterday.
- Dorell Wright. Thought he got some OK looks but simply must shoot better. 1-7 (0-4 from 3) and only 2 points (which came on a dunk). Just didn't shoot well. At all.
- Evan Turner was invisible to me tonight. 4 points on 7 shots, 0 FTA, 3 assists to 2 turnovers, 4 rebs. Needs to do better than that.
- Jrue Holiday's turnovers were a concern. He probably should have had more than 7. These weren't turnovers caused by him being aggressive. They were poor decisions or carelessness with the ball. Shot selection was also an issue at times.
- Doug Collins' decision not to play Kwame Brown. I'm not even kidding on this one. Kwame actually played decent against GSW the night before and considering Hawes was playing terribly it wouldn't have hurt to see what Kwame could do.
- 3 point shooting: 4-17 (23.5%) and FTA: 11. Enough said.
- Sixers bluniforms are still cool.
- Blazers rookie Meyers Leonard left the game early with a painful looking ankle injury. Here's hoping it's not too serious.
- The Blazers were without their starting SG Wesley Matthews.
- Sixers DNP: Kwame, Maalik Wayns, Damien Wilkins.
- Portland perspective - Blazer's Edge
- Complete 76ers vs Trail Blazers coverage
Next: The Sixers first game of 2013 is on the road at the Los Angeles Lakers on New Year's Day. Tip is at 10:30. The Sixers lost their first game against the Lakers earlier this season.
Player of the Game: Jrue Holiday.
|Final - 12.29.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Portland Trail Blazers||30||19||21||19||89|