Just two days after the Sixers picked up an enormous win against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, another championship team from the past decade in the San Antonio Spurs rolled (but picked first) into the Wells Fargo Center. Beating just about every big-name team that's come to town so far this year (with exception of the Miami Heat), the Sixers looked to lock up another marquee win against a top tier opponent tonight. The Basketball Gods and Tony Parker clearly didn't get the memo as the Spurs pick-and-rolled the Sixers to death on their way to a 100-90 win.
Just a few days earlier, Parker lit up the most athletic of point guards in Russell Westbrook meaning Jrue Holiday would have his hands full from the get go. It would be his duty to keep Parker out of the paint where he is without a doubt most dangerous. Everybody and their favorite Elmo doll knew that the Spurs were going to come in and utilize the lethal pick-and-roll combination of Parker and Tim Duncan as much as humanly possible, but knowing it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to stop it. This was the case with the Sixers tonight.
Right from the start the Spurs attacked with the P-and-R, mutilating the Sixers' top ranked defense in the process. Holiday, for some strange reason, was either attempting to go over the screen or didn't even make an attempt to get around the screen for the entirety of the first half. While Parker certainly has the ability to knock down the outside shot on occasion, he's infinitely more dangerous when he gets room to get to the basket. Once he got just a hint of hole to the paint, Parker would either force a big to collapse on him opening up the weak side for a cutter to collect an easy deuce, capitalize on the weak-side help by hitting the open man in the corner for an uncontested jumpshot, or just take the ball to the cup himself. Utilizing this attacking gameplan, Parker collected 37 points (on just 24 shots), 8 assists, and a total of 13 free throws (he made all 13).
The Spurs' P-and-R offense was certainly the death of the Sixers tonight but it wasn't the only factor that lead to a Sixer loss as another compliance showed its not-so-attractive face; long two-point jumpshots.
More after the jump.
All season long the Sixers have been settling for the outside shot rather than attacking the rim. While it had been working and defying percentages so far, it was just a matter of time before the lack of the free throw attempts and shots at the rim caught up with the Atlantic Division's first place team. Tonight was that night. Sixer players not named Thaddeus Young or Andre Iguodala shot a combined 23 for 70, otherwise known as 32.8%, otherwise known as bad. The Sixers played right into the Spurs defensive gameplan as they were content with the Sixers taking those long jumpers all night long. As soon as any Sixer would get the ball in the paint, Spurs defenders collapsed, forcing the Sixers to kick the ball back out to jumpshooters who couldn't hit the mid-range or long-two shots all night.
Because of their reliance on jumpshots, the Sixers only attemped 11 free throws, 15 less than the Spurs who were attacking the rim almost every possession. While some may want to blame officiating on this disparity, I put the majority of the stat on the offensive philosophy differences between the teams. It was just a matter of time before the Sixers lack of driving to the basket caught up with them. Maybe this game will be the shining light that guides them down a new path (hopefully the one that leads to the basket). That last sentence was spiritual.
A couple other things of note:
- The rookie big men Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen were just not good tonight. Vucevic kept making poor decisions the entire game. From generating two straight offensive fouls in the same exact fashion to not hedging off screens, this was the first game that Vuce truly looked like a rookie. While Allen rebounded fairly well, his jumpshot was as off as it could ever be. When your offensive game is built around jumpers from the foul-line outwards, this sort of night is going to happen.
- Jrue had some flashes where he was doing some very impressive things on the offensive end. There was a stretch in the first half where he was getting into seams and hitting open cutters for attempts at the rim. In the second half he had a run where he'd take the ball to the hoop himself as we've been asking this entire season. Unfortunately, this wasn't the majority as he took a healthy amount of long-two's again, netting 15 points on 15 shots. His defense? Well, he was guarding Tony Parker. What confused me the most was why in Andrew Lang's name was he going over screens when on Parker but going under screens when on Gary Neal? Should that not be opposite? Is it opposite day?
- The weak-side help defense was exactly that; weak. When a player cuts to the basket, it's the weak-side's responsibility to rotate and force the kick out or contest the shot. The Sixers were far too slow in accomplishing this against the Spurs who got too many uncontested lay-ups for the Sixers to overcome.
- When asked about the officials during post-game, Iguodala said you know who's going to be the beneficiaries of calls based on what team you're playing. Fineable? I say no.
- The last 4 games I've recapped have been the Knicks, Nets, Heat, and Spurs. I'll take part of the blame for this one, guys.
The Spurs won tonight's game playing the way I wish the Sixers would play each and every night. They attacked the basket every single chance they got and were content with the opponent shooting long-twos all game long. It was a game that I'd use as a blueprint if I were coaching a team.
The Sixers get back at it on Friday against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the rest of Lob City (minus Chauncey Billups). It's red-out night so if you're going to the game, make sure you wear a tight red dress.