Brett Brown debuted a new starting alignment against the Hornets, but the results aren't changing for the Sixers, who fell to 0-13 after suffering a 25-point defeat at the hands of Charlotte.
After our own Marc Whttington suggested a shakeup earlier today, Brown obliged by sending Nerlens Noel to the bench. The results were mixed to say the least; Okafor was able to get deep position and receive entry passes early in the shot clock with the extra space, but his defensive awareness is still a glaring issue. Okafor got caught napping several times throughout the evening, letting drivers waltz into the paint with troubling regularity.
Okafor doesn't take one step to contest this layup. Not one. That's not athleticism. pic.twitter.com/H98uXTZm0B
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) November 21, 2015
To Noel's credit, he turned in a fairly solid effort off of the bench, registering 16 points and nine boards in 27 minutes. The problem is the categories that are his areas of domain -- steals and blocks -- were empty for the second night in a row. As Derek noted on Twitter, after registering at least a steal, block or assist in every game of his career up 'til Wednesday's Indiana massacre, that's two in a row without making his mark there.
Where do you point the finger? I don't know that I have enough on my two hands to pass the blame around. This wasn't even a particularly bad outing for some of the Sixers role players! Nik Stauskas went 3-8 from downtown and Isaiah Canaan turned in a mostly solid effort off the bench. When two of the team's consistently harmful players turn in better efforts and you still lose by 25, you're in a deep, dark hole.
With all due respect to the Hornets, there's no reason the Sixers should be falling into deep deficits to Charlotte early in the game. But that's exactly what happened -- Al Jefferson went off for 14 points in the first quarter alone, and the home team was able to coast on that hot start without the lead ever getting uncomfortable.
The crushing thing is that the Sixers showed some of their best flashes of the season throughout the game tonight. Okafor made some absolutely tremendous passes, including a one-handed kickout through Charlotte's whole team that became a hockey assist for a Robert Covington and-one layup. Stauskas' found range was supplemented by a few nifty plays, like a nifty pocket pass that led to a Jerami Grant dunk.
Perhaps it's as simple as this -- the Sixers play has been emblematic of their two most talented players. There have been few (if any) stretches where the team has been able to dig in on both ends of the floor at once. We see flashes; Okafor's brilliance in the post, activity and athleticism on the defensive end, but rarely both at the same time.
Will the team combine their strengths on both ends? It's impossible to say. The march continues toward all-time futility, and regardless of silver linings and hopeful futures, it's hard to feel good about that.
- Robert Covington still does not have a made three this season. It's hard to know how much the injury issues have sapped his legs, but they desperately need him to be a threat from outside
- Jerami Grant, despite the absence of a three-point shot, is one of my favorite players in this current group. Attacks the rim ferociously, jostles for o-rebounds, and uses his long stride to great effectiveness driving to the basket. If he could pick his head up a little more and look to find teammates when the D collapses on his drives, his game could rise another level.
- Spencer Hawes stopping Okafor on three straight possessions made me unreasonably sad, and I'm glad Okafor was able to dunk over him following that stretch, even if it only made a difference for my personal sanity.
- Something I never want Marc Zumoff to have to say again -- that someone on an opposing team "[has] time to check his wristwatch" while gearing up to shoot a three.