For the past few games, Coach Brett Brown has been tinkering and experimenting with the 76ers line-ups. As it is the end of the season, in games that are basically inconsequential at this juncture, doing so isn't surprising nor a big deal.
Specifically, Nerlens Noel has been pulled away from his natural position to play the 4 spot, getting some experience for the arrival of his eventual front court partner in Joel Embiid. Unsurprisingly, he has struggled. It's hard to break instincts and proclivities, and will take time and experience to find his comfort zone.
Unfortunately, moving your best rim protector out of the paint is probably not the best strategy in trying to prevent the other guy from scoring, especially if you're now expecting Henry Sims or Furkan Aldemir to pick up that role. Of course, the Washington Wizards saw the void left in the paint, pounced and didn't relent.
The Wizards, without John Wall, didn't miss a beat as they time and time again continued to roam free in the paint and make uncontested shot after uncontested shot. You'd think after watching Marcin Gortat school the Sixers every meeting this year, he'd be the one guy to have a guy on all the time, right? Well, let's put it this way: If Gortat played the Sixers every night, he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Bradley Beal picked up some of the offensive load as he delivered some quick strikes to distance the Wizards anytime the Sixers began creating in-roads, both in the 3rd and the 4th. Ramon Sessions also feasted as Sixer guards and bigs (...basically Ish Smith and Sims/Aldemir) were unable to muster any type of defense to him getting into the paint. The 70 points in the first half were indicative of the pitiful defense and so was the ridiculous 65+% from the field.
During the broadcast, Marc and Malik were discussing how the Sixers kept switching on defense (specifically on picks), as the team kept getting burned on dives and kick-outs. I wonder how much of this is on the players and how much is it by design, however. I agree that the lack of effort or energy is troubling and the players should be accountable. But if players do it (switch) and fail for 90% of the game, how much of it is the coach's fault for not rectifying that?
Again, this is not a big deal in the grand scheme. Personally, I think I'm just realizing we're almost at the end of the season and would just rather see it off on a high note now that lottery positions are almost set in stone. With 3 games to go, some of these current Sixers are coming up on their final breaths on this team (and potentially the NBA) so let's hope the lack of energy/effort doesn't come up again.
Odds & Ends:
- The one bright spot, and the only reason this wasn't a blow out from start to finish, was Lord Robert Covington. 27 points on 11 shots is insanely efficient. Nice to see Bob recover after a few clunkers by his standards. The guy has proven to be a rotational NBA player, at the least, and a real NBADL success story, thus far.
- Nerlens Noel at the PF spot is depressing for the most part. And that's not because he's a lost cause at the spot or anything, It's just that his best defensive strengths are nullified as he is pulled out of the paint. Furthermore, his replacements are not Joel Embiid or even a fraction of Embiid. To add injury to insult, Nerlens Noel went down with an ankle sprain late in the game. With 3 games left, it could mean the end of his season.
- As if a Bynum hasn't already tortured us enough...
SMH at Will Bynum. First, he prevents the Sixers from getting a better look at Emmanuel Mudiay in China. Then, he sprains Nerlens' ankle.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) April 9, 2015
- So yeah, Nerlens' replacements a.k.a. Henry Sims and Furkan Aldemir. If there is good, bad and ugly, this was Star Wars Prequel trilogy terrible. Neither guy has the mobility to play proper defense (Sims literally sags 10 feet off on pick and rolls, Aldemir chases guys). Neither guy can provide any consistent shot blocking. Aldemir does virtually nothing on offense but set picks and the only thing Sims does regularly on offense is shoot mid-ranger jump shots. The last time I expected a Sixers big man to not return, Spencer Hawes was re-signed. So I guess Sims will get a new contract and Furkan will get his restructured to a longer deal.
- Jason Richardson had a good shooting night! At one point after he hit a 3, he let out a big smile and I couldn't help but do the same. I can't imagine not being able to do something I love for 2 years due to health. And I try to catch myself every time I get critical of the guy when, especially on this team, all he's trying to do is play ball.
- Next, Sixers will head to Chicago to face the Bulls on Saturday at 8pm. Only 3 more games to go!