This is a weird basketball team. Statistically and eye-testially, they seem to be better than Eddie Jordan's 2009 club, but their record says otherwise. One of the few bright spots this season has been the play of erstwhile All-Star and current bloated contract, Elton Brand. He leads the team in win shares per 48 minutes and has played consistently well enough to stir up conversation of getting traded to a contender.
Tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, however, he was basically non-existent. In 31 minutes, he was 1-7 from the field, 5 of which were jump shots in the paint that he missed. The only shot he made was a turnaround jump shot backing down Drew Gooden. He didn't get to rebounds, didn't run the floor well, and wasn't getting to the basket or getting to the line.
But the Sixers won fairly handily to snap their 5-game losing streak. Why?
The bench, which has been both a strength and a weakness at various points this season, had their coming out party, contributing 47 of the 90 points the Sixers scored as well as the high rebounder of the night.
Louis Williams led the charge early on, making it his mission to get to the line in the first half after settling mostly for jump shots since his injury. He hit all 6 of his attempts in the first half, then went back to work on the outside, nailing 3 of 8 from beyond the arc for his 19 points. While his field goal percentage has returned to earth from last year's 47% anomaly, his three point shooting has stayed great, just under 38% for the year. He continues to succeed in the role Doug Collins has him in, the Leandro Barbosa role, and though he isn't a point guard, he's growing into a very good scorer in this league.
As stated in the title, Thaddeus Young came to play tonight. He played in 38 minutes (season high), scored 23 points (season high), went to the line 8 times (season high), and even added 3 assists, also a season high. He spent most of the game attacking the basket, banging down low and using crafty moves inside for points. He was 7-8 inside of 10 feet. Though developing a dependable jump shot is something we continually harp on him about, he's best in transition and cutting to the basket. Five defensive rebounds in 38 minutes is far from phenomenal, but from the small forward position (where he was most of tonight), it's passable. After the game ended, Doug Collins and Andre Iguodala got in his face kind of like Will Smith as Mike Lowery in Bad Boys 2. It was cool.
More thoughts after the jump.
Jrue Holiday had a splotchy game on the offensive end, scoring just 10 points on 12 shots, but adding 6 rebounds and 5 assists. He turned the ball over 4 times and made a few other bad decisions with his shot. There was one play where he was bringing the ball up after a miss, slowed down, then burst through two defenders to hit a short jump shot -- that kind of playmaking ability is really great to see from a kid who still can't legally drink in America. Speaking of alcohol, he was all hopped up on Brandon Jennings' face for most of the night, holding the sophomore to just 2 points in the second half. For the game, BJ was 3-13 and mostly a non-factor thanks to Jrue keeping him away from the basket and forcing jump shots. Jennings was 1-10 on jumpers tonight.
In their own odd ways, Spencer Hawes and Marreese Speights had their best games of the season tonight. Hawes played 25 minutes for the first time this year, displaying his passing proficiency and outside shot. He still doesn't look all the way back from his injury that kept him out of preseason. I'd like him to take those jump shots he's been passing up because the guards on him that far away from the basket can't get a hand in his face. He also went inside a few times, showing off his nimble footwork even though it didn't result in points. Meanwhile, I'd like Speights to stop only shooting jump shots. He was 1-6 tonight, all on jump shots, and didn't attempt to do anything other than fade away from the basket. Be big. You're big. On the flip side, Speights was great on the boards, fighting for defensive rebounds and adding to his already impressive defensive rebounding rate of 27.6%. He took a charge again today, which I'm pretty sure is the only tangible way to tell he is playing defense. They both did a good job on Andrew Bogut, keeping the Aussie to 4 points and 6 rebounds.
Evan Turner had an efficient game, dishing out a season-high 6 assists and hitting 4 of his 6 shots. He didn't take the ball to the basket and even though his jump shot was silky tonight, that's his bread and butter so to not go to it against a team that boasts Corey Maggette and John Salmons in its best lineup, it's unacceptable to settle for jump shots.
That being said, the Sixers were the benefit of tons of wide-open looks tonight. For whatever reason, the Bucks double-teamed way too often and the Sixers moved the ball really well to find the open guy. Andres Nocioni made a few nice swing passes that kept the play alive. Even though they only hit 40% of their shots, open looks will go in more often than not, and the team did a good job of taking the right shots.
More importantly, this snapped a 2 game streak of Darius Songaila seeing court time. Fail.