We can blame the refs all we want about the disappointing loss in Miami -- and rest assured, we will -- but the hard fact is that the Sixers are down 1-0 in this series and it's mostly because the Heat are a better team. They were outscored, however, in the first and fourth quarters by a total of 15 points, so the outlook isn't totally glum. Still, there are tons of places where they can improve.
1. Execute in transition
It's no secret that the Sixers' half court offense isn't what's gotten them in the playoffs. If it is a secret, Derek spilled the beans yesterday. What helps during those droughts when nothing is falling and the offense is stagnant are easy buckets in transition. Andre Iguodala is one of the best players in the league in the open court, but I can only remember one time he got to operate in space, and it ended in a Marreese Speights missed layup. Jrue Holiday missed a bunny because he went up with the wrong hand with Dwyane Wade on him expecting contact but not selling it. That's an element of Jrue's game that will improve as the years go on.
As Derek said in his recap, the Sixers "push the ball to get into their offensive sets early, and weren't able to do that when taking the ball out after a made free throw, and allowed the Miami zone to get set." Which leads us to our second improvement after the jump.
2. Foul less
It's hard. I get it. The refs are after you, the league is after you, and the Miami fans are after you when they're not out tanning. Also, there are three guys on the team that are very good at basketball. It's tough. But you can't take yourself out of the game by committing silly fouls away from the basket. Don't give the refs the opportunity to blow a call.
If the defense is staying in front of LeBron James before he can make his ridiculously good first step, he'll be much less effective. Wade is not as good without a full head of steam. Both guys can make jumpers from all over the court, but they are so much more dangerous going to the basket when there's a 95% chance the ref is going to blow his whistle. Chris Bosh, Wade, and LeBron combined for 33 foul shots, a substantial 18 more than the entire Sixers team. Slow them down before they can get moving to the basket and they'll be whistled for less fouls and especially shooting fouls. Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand, and Thaddeus Young were all in varying degrees of foul trouble yesterday. There's our front court.
3. Get Jodie Meeks more involved
I've been leaning more and more towards the idea that Jodie is the most important player in the offense just because how much his being on affects the half court dynamic. Jodie should be coming off screens, running Wade into the burly chests of Brand and Hawes and Chyna. He hit two big three's that immediately forced Erik Spoelstra to adjust to him. He had his shooting touch back that was missing the last week of the regular season. He's going to be a gigantic part of this series. But in this game, Jodie took 6 shots. Do you know who took more than 6 shots? Marreese Speights. This is just the second time since February that Mo has taken more shots than Jodie. Now's not the time for that sort of thing. Which leads me to.....
4. Make better rotations, Doug.
Mo Speights looked completely lost for much of the 12:26 he was out on the court. He played for almost the whole third quarter despite not showing tremendous effort on the boards or on the court in general. Andres Nocioni had no business being on the court either. A few wide open misses are enough to take Evan Turner out, but Noce gets a few more minutes because...why? His stellar defense? He got worked by James Jones a couple times -- pretty embarrassing for a guy who is not great at creating his own shot. While Noce gives us the hustle Mo doesn't, he's not nearly athletic enough to contribute in this series. Doug should have pulled him.
Aside from getting Jodie more minutes, he needs to find more time for Turner. In the 8 minutes he was in, Evan played reasonably good defense on LeBron and even hit a confident baseline jumper to boot. He isn't a guy that's going to come in for 4-5 minutes at a time, play high energy and then sit down happy for another half hour of real time. He needs to be on the court for extended periods of time for him to get comfortable and dictate the pace. That's when he's effective and that's when he can help the team. I'd like less minutes from Brand/Dre/Jrue in the next few games because they each showed signs of wearing down over the course of the game and are markedly better on fresh legs.
5. Sell it.
Flopping is part of the game. You don't have to be Vlade Divac to draw a foul, but it doesn't hurt to go down a bit. Thad got tackled on two straight possessions (once on a fast break by Joel Anthony) but because he popped back up all loosey-goosey, the ref wasn't making the call. Sell the foul. If Doug Collins has to play some game tape of Ric Flair and Mick Foley, then that's what he's got to do. They need to get to the line more, and going down a few more times isn't a bad way to get that going.
It's different from whining (Andre...), because no one on the Sixers is good enough to pull a LeBron and coerce the refs into more foul calls. But if they can push for the hard foul, tug at the referee's sympathies, and bring out a line from the league about "erring on the side of player safety" then we could see the free throw gap shrink.
Doug will be bringing the x's and o's in the off day today, you can be sure of that. But when the clock is running, it's all about the players on the court and there's only so much a coach can do. Be smart and there's a good shot they can hang in the games long enough to steal one.