While there may be some teams limping into the All-Star Break, the Sixers are going in with a full-fledged amputated leg, scurvy, and a possible case of tuberculosis. Yes folks, the Sixers were yet again unable to collect a win before the break as the Houston Rockets knocked them off 93-87.
The Sixers offensive execution was a major concern during the previous losses and was no different tonight. They started off running the same style that many have become so frustrated with over the course of the season. The first 11 shots taken by the Sixers tonight were not at the rim, the majority being those of the long-two variety. Needless to say (but I'll do it anyway), this style was very ineffective as the Sixers hit just 3 of their first 16 attempts from the field. Luckily the defensive effort was there as the Rockets weren't getting many clean looks and couldn't create the separation the Grizzlies made in the previous game.
Coming off the bench like they always do, Nikola Vucevic and Thaddeus Young provided a nice spark at the end of the first, getting looks at the rim that allowed the Sixers go into the second quarter down just three points. It was in that second quarter where it looked like the switch may have flipped as the Sixers attacked the basket on three straight possessions, resulting in four made free throws and a fast-break dunk off a steal by Andre Iguodala. Shortly afterwards, the offense reverted back to the stagnant variety we've seen too often over the past week. Kyle Lowry and the Rockets took advantage of the Sixers' offensive deficiencies and collected a double-digit lead with one minute left in the half. Much like the first quarter, the Sixers made a mini-run courtesy, shockingly enough, fast breaks points and free throws that pushed the margin down to four at the half.
More after the jump.More back and forth between lethargic offensive mentality and the occasional stretch of aggressiveness continued in the second half. Second half offense had been a huge issue during this losing streak but wasn't necessarily the issue tonight. While there were certainly more ill-advised shots and possessions with little ball movement, the Sixers got to the free throw line more times than they have in a million years (not an exaggeration, completely factual) and attacked the basket enough to keep them in the game.
While he was kept in check for the first three quarter (2 points on just 1-5 shooting), Kevin Martin caught fire once Andre Iguodala took a breather to start the fourth. Doug Collins tasked Jodie Meeks with guarding Martin, a player who every NBA fan knows can score a lot of points in a short amount of time if given the opportunity. And what better opportunity than when you have Meeks guarding you?
After Martin hit his first bucket of the quarter, Iguodala re-entered the game but locked on to Courtney Lee instead of Martin and his hot-hand. Seizing the moment, Martin continued to add to his point total, connecting on four of his first five shots of the quarter, including two from beyond the arc. It was at that time that Iguodala finally switched back to Martin, who did not collect a made field goal for the rest of the game. The decision to not put Iguodala back on Martin when he checked back in is something I still don't understand and would love to hear Collins' reasoning behind.
Despite Martin's little spurt, the Sixers had a one-point lead with two minutes left. These final minutes started out promising with Jrue Holiday driving to the bucket for a deuce shortly followed by Louis Williams recognizing the contact was coming and connecting for a patented and-one. Unfortunately, this would be the last time the Sixers would hold a lead as a questionable offensive foul, an and-one from Lowry, and a Lou turnover solidified the win for the Rockets.
While it certainly is frustrating that the Sixers can't seem to win anything, this game should provide the coaching staff with concrete evidence of the results from settling for jumpers versus being the aggressor. Whenever the Sixers went into an offensive drought, it was because they were settling for ill-advised jumpshots coming from little to no ball movement. When they made runs, it was from either fast break points or from taking the ball to the basket, either finishing or getting free throws. Hopefully this is something they'll take a look at over the break and correct during the time-off because it seemed very clear to me during tonight's game.
Some quick points:
- Jrue barely saw the floor tonight as he was in foul trouble all game. He didn't get to the line at all and his jumper wasn't on. During the fourth quarter he had back to back possessions where drove into the paint, finishing one himself and the other finding an open cutter for an easy deuce. I thought he did a fairly nice job on Lowry defensively, especially considering Lowry had his way with him in the past.
- Vuce had a very nice offensive game. He was establishing position on the block or in the paint, making sure he'd receive the ball in a position where he could score or kick back out. While he was being defended by Luis Scola who isn't an all-world defender, it was nice to see the rook do some work down low.
- Lou Williams. Some bad shots. Some dumb decisions. Some nice take to the basket. Got to the line more than anyone. Got burned defensively (one backdoor play stands out in my mind). Pretty much your stereotypical BOSS game.
- Evan Turner's play continued to be below average. He was just 1-8 from the floor (his one make being a dunk) and rarely took the ball inside. He settled for too many pull-up jumpshots while not taking the ball to the hoop enough. There was one encouraging moment where he spun his way down low, attempting an up-and-under that didn't fall. While it was nice to see him get to the basket, it would have been better to see him draw contact.
- Jodie Meeks continued to struggle from the outside but gave us a nice little surprise in the second half when he had a beautiful drive between two defenders. It was certainly the nicest drive I've ever seen from the Modie considering it's the only one that sticks out in my memory.
This was a winnable game that certainly feels like should have resulted in a Sixers victory. However, this isn't the case and they'll go into the break riding a season long 5-game skid. They'll look to end it six days from now when they head to Detroit to take on the Pisonts. Until then, enjoy Turner in the Rookie/Sophomore challenge and Dre in the All-Star Game.