Sometimes a box score can just tell you the whole story. The Sixers went into Dallas to start their "Texas Triangle" road trip and were dominated 123-70. They scored 29 points in the first half while giving up 73 to the Mavericks. The game got so out of hand Dirk Nowitzki went into the locker room midway through the 3rd Quarter and proceeded to watch the rest of the game from within there.
Philadelphia finished the game shooting 29.9% from the floor, while Dallas shot 51.3%. Thursday's game was a frustrating watch. So I watched it again and was even more frustrated the second time, especially with the team's pick-and-roll defense.
The pick-and-roll is a simple concept most basketball players are taught at a relatively young age. Granted, it's an integral part of the game at a professional level, but the way Philadelphia struggled guarding against it made it look much more complicated than it really is.
Here are rookies JaKarr Sampson and Brandon Davies out on the perimeter guarding their men. Mavericks forward Brandan Wright is coming to set a pick on Sampson, so naturally Davies is there to hedge on the ball screen to make point guard J.J. Barea's life a little bit harder. At this point you would assume that Davies and Sampson would switch their assignments here, with Davies staying on Barea and Sampson now on Wright.
Obviously, you thought wrong. Sampson decided to stick with Barea, and now Davies has to haul ass back to his original assignment to try and prevent him from scoring. Wright would draw a foul on Michael Carter-Williams and head to the line for two. That's a complete communication breakdown there, and as two big boys in a professional basketball league, that type of stuff cannot continue to happen.
The pick and roll continued to haunt the Sixers all night long.
On a switch, Hollis Thompson ends up on Jameer Nelson, and Michael Carter-Williams on Chandler Parsons. Thompson tries to fight through a pick set on him by Tyson Chandler, while Henry Sims stands at the foul line. Sims has two choices here: hedge, or stick with Chandler, who is always a good candidate for a lob.
Sims simply does neither, placing himself in an abyss between both Chandler and Nelson that doesn't accomplish much. Because of his non-committal play here, this causes Carter-Williams to pinch in hopes of bailing him out on Chandler.
Nelson, being the savvy veteran point guard he is, halts play to find a wide open Chandler Parsons at the top of the key. Carter-Williams now has to run a 4.3 40-yard dash back to Parsons to contest the shot, all because Sims couldn't commit to a man.
Dallas's use of the P&R also highlighted one of Philadelphia's biggest weaknesses through their first eight games, their inability to rotate on defense.
In the third quarter, Dallas once again has Chandler set a pick at the top of the key to free up Nelson. Carter-Williams lays on the pick here as he has so many times in the past, and Sims once again decides to play the fence. The result?
Luc Mbah a Moute, formerly covering Monta Ellis in the corner, now has to rotate over to Chandler because Sims is currently located in no man's land. Now in possession of the ball, Nowitzki wisely makes a good pass to the wide open Ellis.
With Sims now back in position Mbah a Moute rushes back over to defend Ellis, but Hollis Thompson is already ball watching. This leads to a beautiful backdoor cut from Chandler Parsons, who is inevitably fouled by Henry Sims and sent to the line.
It seems as though until proven otherwise, the Sixers are better off not switching on picks. It causes too many issues for them, and the guys on this roster are currently not competent enough to make the right rotations when needed. When help is needed, it's going to mostly have to come from the defenders out on the wings. If Thompson steps up on Nelson there, Philadelphia can form a trap on the ball with him and Carter-Williams while Sims stays on his man. If Parsons were to make a cut backdoor, Mbah a Moute would be in position to step in front of him.
Re-visiting the play prior, if Noel steps out from the corner to help defend Nelson while Sims sticks Chandler, it will stunt the play and allow Carter-Williams to stick with Parsons at the perimeter.
Philadelphia's issues based around the pick and roll are pretty problematic at this point, but seem like they can be corrected with a couple adjustments here and there, which is what makes performances like Thursday's so maddening.