"Richaun Holmes seems like a nice guy." That was my one-sentence Twitter recap of tonight's game. I need to dig a little deeper than that though or else dictators Jake Pavorsky and Kyle Neubeck might remove me from the cool kid Liberty Ballers group text. What else is there to say about being embarrassed just a few minutes into the first quarter? "Nik Stauskas is a handsome man and I'm comfortable enough to say that." Okay, but what besides that?
Holy Moses Malone, the defense is in shambles right now and has been since the All-Star Break concluded. For one of the few times in my history as a game preview writer, some of the gibberish I spewed was prescient:
For all his spin moves on the low block and his scoring prowess, Okafor is just not a competent rim protector at this point in his short into his career. Given the differences in how the Sixers' defense looks between when just Noel is on the floor (104.9 defensive rating, per nbawowy), just Okafor is on the floor (112.8 defensive rating) and when both are sharing the court (111.3), Drummond could be in for a huge evening in the Motor City if he's able to replicate how well he played against just Noel and then duplicate it against lesser defensive lineup constructions.
It's not just the Okafor and Noel duo either. Hollis Thompson still doesn't grasp the rotations of team defense three years into Brett Brown's system. Stauskas is a wet blanket. I'm not sure anyone really knows what they're doing.
Amongst their other faults about rim protection, guarding stretch power forwards and spacing offensively, there's one concern about the Okafor/Noel pairing that floats under the radar: neither is much of a rebounder. Sure, Andre Drummond manhandles everyone in the league on the boards with the ferocity of Orlando-era Dwight Howard, but the fit here isn't great either.
It took Okafor until the third quarter Tuesday to get his first rebound of the night. While Noel's improved since being the mediocre rebounder he was at Kentucky, he's still not great there yet, something that could be augmented by having a better rebounder than Okafor next to each other. Holmes' performance (18 minutes, seven rebounds) in garbage time makes the rebounding margin (50-40) not look as drastic as it truly was.
What do these two actually do well when they're both on the court and what aspects of their respective games fix together? I honestly can't come up with anything. At what point do we wonder more and more about Brett Brown's coaching ability and lineup construction beyond, "He's being dealt the worst hand in the league with this this team's roster."?
Not great, Bob. Things are not great at all.