May 12, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins reacts against the Boston Celtics during the second half of game one in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
I don't really buy the idea that coaches can make too much of a difference. If a team is bad, a great coach can make them mediocre. And if they're mediocre, a great coach can make them decent. When you get to the top of the pile, in the top 5-6 teams, then coaching can give you the leg up. But at the end of the day, talent wins out. That wasn't the case in last night's Sixers collapse to the Celtics in Boston.
It's true that the players are the guys on the court, they're the ones taking the shots and playing defense. But Collins, especially last night (and I'd argue Game 6 against Chicago), simply put the wrong players out there. There's no way the Sixers were given the best chance to succeed last night with a Lou/Evan/Andre/Thad/Hawes or, shortly after, a Jrue/Lou/Andre/Thad/Hawes lineup. The lineup +/- tells us those broken even in the last 3:30 of the game, but the game told a different story.
The man who deserves the most blame is none other than the Boss, Lou Williams. He was absolutely atrocious after entering the game with three minutes remaining. In the span of two minutes he: blew a 2-on-1 fast break, turned the ball over, and took the most ill-advised three pointer I've seen all season. He self-combusted with the game on the line.
And I'm with him with that. Believe me, I agree. But there's no reason Lou should have even had the chance do blow the game. He shouldn't have been in! He was obnoxiously ineffective throughout on offense, and his defense was, let's just say, ass piss. But Doug goes to his guys down the stretch, taking the ball out of the hands of Jrue Holiday (who got good shots and just missed them) and Evan Turner (who owned the first half and saw significantly less touches with Avery Bradley on him in the second), in favor of his de facto CLOSER, Lou Williams. It's despicable that he was allowed to lose them this game.
Regarding Spencer Hawes, I don't believe he played nearly as well as people are giving him credit for. The stat line is nice, but this again is why a marriage of statistics and gamewatching is the way to go. As I tweeted, most of his rebounds were uncontested. Simply being in the middle of the lane, not boxing out, and the ball falling into your hands isn't exactly a skill. On the Celtics side, of their 9 offensive rebounds, 5 of them were as a result of Spencer not sealing off his man or not reacting quickly enough to a long rebound. Defensively, Kevin Garnett absolutely ripped him apart, getting anywhere he wanted on the court and hitting that long jumper whenever he felt like it. Of KG's 12 makes, 9 of them were with Hawes covering, and only 2 were not directly his fault. Both of those were when he had to overcommit on a double team to help Lou on his man (Rondo once, Bradley once). Hawes is absolutely unequipped to handle anyone of KG's ability, especially when that jumper is falling.
That's kind of not his fault. He's been this player all year. By this point, we know what Hawes is going to give us. The fact is, he should not have been in the game for 34 minutes. He passed reasonably well and hit a few nice shots, but the defense and the rebounding just isn't there. So who should Collins have put in?
Lavoy Allen. Kid played amazing basketball last night. To the point of 1.5 points per possession from his reliable jumper, and solid defense all around. The Celtics also got zero offensive rebounds in the 20 minutes that Lavoy was on the court. Unfortunately, he didn't play after the 9 minute mark in the 4th quarter. The Sixers would be outscored by 7 once he left the court.
The final lineup critique is for Thaddeus Young. He's been awful all playoffs long, first tormented by Taj Gibson, now just used incorrectly. Doug Collins had him at center for 2:21 at the end of the first half. That's when the Celtics closed the gap from 11 to 5. The Sixers did not score. Thad had 5 points on 4 shots and 1 rebound in 22 minutes. How are you going to put him at center? He's a terrible rebounder, absolutely terrible on the defensive glass, and he had just gone to the locker room after spraining his ankle. So not only is he playing badly, but he's hurt, and Doug decides he's the guy to be playing 9 minutes in the 4th quarter.
The lineup at the end should have been Jrue/Evan/Andre/Brand/Lavoy. Unquestionably. Brand was ineffective in his 15 minutes, but I've never seen Doug yank him so quickly in two seasons here. The jumper wasn't falling, but he wasn't doing terribly on defense so I'm not sure why he got the pull so early.
And then the last string of plays to the game demonstrated just how lost he was. While Rajon Rondo was displaying his court awareness, Doug wasn't sure how much time was left or that he had a foul to give. All of a sudden there was 3 seconds left and Doug didn't use his timeout. That's bad time management that would make Andy Reid blush.
Doug says things like "I don't know what else I could have done" but that's ridiculous. Doug, you stop giving the ball to Lou Williams and letting him do whatever he wants with it. You don't play Hawes 34 minutes when he's a liability in 2 of the 3 major areas on the court. You don't play Thad when he's been terrible for weeks and he's nursing a sprained ankle. But he did them, and the Sixers lost. I like Collins as a person and as a motivator, but his in-game coaching is seriously lacking.
At the end of the day, it's the players that play. But Lavoy Allen can't box out from the bench, and Lou Williams can't take embarrassingly rushed three pointers if he's riding the pine. You never blame one person for a loss or a win, but as far as majority shares go, this one's on Doug.