Through 29 games the Sixers number one ranked defense was second in the NBA in both opponents field goal percentage (.417) and opponents three point percentage (.301). On Wednesday the Magic shot 53 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arch, converting 15 of 25 attempts. Look no further as to why the Sixers lost, and lost badly.
Orlando jumped out to an early 17-point lead in the first quarter, which the Sixers cut to six points late in the second quarter, only to see it ballon back to 16 by half. The Sixers expended so much energy cutting the lead from 17 to six, it was crucial to go into the locker room with some momentum, but poor execution in the final two minutes of the half left the Sixers deflated and once again, down by a huge margin.
On defense the Sixers did a good job on Dwight Howard, but Jameer Nelson was able to get wherever he wanted on the court and ran the Magic's offense to perfection. Whether it was Lavoy Allen, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner or Andre Iguodala, the Sixers struggled to close out on the Magic sharpshooters, which led to Ryan Anderson (7 threes) and Jason Richardson (4 threes) shooting a combined 11-15 from beyond the arch.
The Magic exploded out of the gate, putting the Sixers behind the eight ball early. Once the Sixers trailed by as many as 17, it was very unlikely they were going to come back and beat a quality opponent like the Magic on their home floor. However; giving credit where credit is due, the Sixers scratched and clawed their way back the entire game, but could never get over the proverbial hump because of timely, deflating, three-point bombs from Anderson and company.
This was a frustrating and depressing game to watch, but in the grand scheme of things it is just one game. When a team shoots over 50 percent and hits 15 threes they're probably going to win. That's what the Magic did tonight, and the Sixers were unfortunate enough to stand in the crossfire. On to the next game, when the Sixers host the defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks, in their first nationally televised game of the season on ESPN.
A few individual observations after the jump.
- Jrue Holiday made an attempt to take the ball to the basket, which I like, but he finished 1-8 with three points, five turnovers and the worst +/- of the night at -17. He made bad decisions with the basketball, initiated the offense poorly and was charged with offensive fouls (pun'd!) on two critical possessions during the Sixers comeback attempt. Adding insult to injury, a normally a good defender, Jrue was torched by Jameer Nelson all night. If memory serves, Jrue always seems to struggle with Jameer. Prior to tonight's showing, Jrue probably played his best two-game stretch of the season.
- On a night we needed Jodie Meeks to catch fire from beyond, he was 1-5 from three.
- Andre Iguodala had an incredible start to the third quarter, hitting jump shot after jump shot, but got trigger-happy attempted approximately seven "heat checks" too many. Dre's been All-Starlicious this year and thriving in his role as the do-everything-amazing-and-not-take-too-many-jumpers guy. Following his hot start to the second half he reverted back to the Andre none of us enjoy – the one who's taking contested fadeaways with plenty of time left on the shot clock. But it's hard to fault him too much, since he was clearly "feeling it" and outside of Lou, no one else could create a shot.
- Louis Williams led the team in points with 21 (on 13 shots) and assists with 7 (only one turnover). He was the only Sixer who didn't record a negative +/- and absolutely carried the team, either with his scoring or distributing, when he was on the floor. He was easily the best player on the Sixers Wednesday night.
- Elton Brand played solid man-to-man defense on Dwight for the second time this year and added 13 points on 10 shots. He only had one defensive rebound, but a lot of his time was spent boxing out Dwight Howard.
- Evan Turner finished with 6 points (on 7 shots), 8 rebounds and 6 assists, but I didn't think he played particularly well. He over-dribbled a few times and struggled with Quentin Richardson defending him. His lack of range also hurts the Sixers, as he often passes up open threes. Score one for Jodie?
- Nikola Vucevic was manhandled by Dwight the few times Dwight posted him, but Vooch did a decent job on the glass, especially offensively, keeping balls alive and guiding potential rebounds to open teammates.