The Sixers didn't play well tonight. And when this current group, one that is lacking in talent pretty much across the roster, doesn't play well, the results are going to be ugly.
This will come off as somewhat of a backhanded compliment, but this Charlotte team reminds me a lot of those Andre Miller-led Sixer teams. At this point of the season, those teams would run, run, run any bottom-feeders off the floor with the type of swift precision that made watching them a true treat (Of course, before they reached the playoffs).
There are probably two major differences: One, with the exception of Al Jefferson, this Charlotte team relies on mostly younger players. And two, they don't play the type of up-and-down style that those Sixer teams showcased with Miller pushing the ball ahead and Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala filling the wings on the break.
But they sure do suffocate their opponents defensively, making it hard for them to run any of their sets. Tonight, they bumped every cutter, communicated well, switched correctly when they had to, and largely cleaned up the defensive glass. It's no mistake that they are the 8th-best defensive team in the league. Hell, they might be higher after tonight. Much credit goes to Steve Clifford, as the Bobcats are extremely well-schooled on that end of the floor.
The Sixers' hectic defensive scheme has a way of conceding almost comically wide-open jumpers, and on some nights, their opponents have trouble connecting because they're almost too open. Monday was an example of such a game, and the Sixers were competitive wire-to-wire. Other times, a team makes a couple of threes and then remains red-hot for the rest of the night. Tonight counted as one of those. Here's the rest of an abbreviated recap, in bullet points:
- Believe it or not, Michael Carter-Williams actually played a solid game. Besides Elliot Williams, I don't think any other Sixer can claim a positive performance. He made a nice mix of jumpers, floaters, and layups, shooting 10-18 (2-4 from the line) for 22 points to go with seven boards and three assists. Last time these two teams met in Philadelphia, Carter-Williams used his size to his advantage against the smaller Kemba Walker. Tonight, he followed a somewhat similar blueprint.
- Gerald Henderson shot the ball well, going 5-8 for 14 points. Last time in Philly, he shot a nightmarish 2-14 from the field. The Episcopal product is pretty impressive when his shot is falling, showcasing extremely fluid athleticism on fadeaway jumpers.
- Malik Rose brought up an interesting point that I'll ask as a question: Do you think the Bobcats could give the struggling Indiana Pacers trouble in the first round (if that remains the matchup)? I'm inclined to say no, but the Pacers will have their work cut out trying to score against this Charlotte defense. Still, it feels like a gentleman's sweep to me.
- Cody Zeller defended Thaddeus Young well tonight. He might end up as an effective player in this league, just in a different way than he was projected to be.
- Poor Henry Sims. Jefferson was just toying with him. Unfair.
- Down thirty with 12.5 seconds left, Brett Brown called one of his "teaching moment" timeouts. The camera panned to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller in their warmups on the bench, both sporting bemused smiles. It was pretty funny.