There were a lot of bad omens heading into tonight's game. First off, a team coming in on a three-game winning streak had so little fan interest that tickets were on sale for a whopping four cents apiece. Also, the statistics board in the arena wasn't working, which I guess made it difficult for anyone on the Internet to find a decent box score.
And yup, it continued to be one of those nights. For the Sixers, there would be no emotional win coming in the game directly after losing a key player (which you often see in the NBA, Boston having made it an art), Thaddeus Young in this case. Instead, they looked exactly what you'd expect a team now missing two of its top three players to look like, undermanned in an 88-69 loss to an Indiana team that was playing its third game in as many nights.
Before getting to anything else, it should be said that the Sixers' inability to score in this game wasn't shocking. Coming in, they sported the second-worst offense in the league and were going against the Pacers' top-ranked defensive unit. Indiana is an excellent defensive squad, and with an extremely loose whistle like there was tonight, one that can take a team out of pretty much anything they want to do. Make no mistake: The Sixers rallied late to reach their final point total. For most of the game, the offense was much, much worse.
Let's talk about that Sixer offense, specifically how they shot eight threes and got to the line seven times. We've already beat the "An offense based around long two point jumpers never has a chance to be good" drum to death (I did it here), but for whatever reason, the Sixers keep deciding to shoot them. There's not much to say about it, except that playing that brand of basketball still doesn't work. And it's a major part of the reason that the Sixers are objectively one of the least enjoyable (if not the least) teams to watch in the NBA. Aesthetically, they're they're just a really tough team to watch.
At one point during the broadcast, Marc Zumoff (who I actually like a lot) quoted Doc Rivers in saying "It's a make or miss league, and the Sixers have missed shots tonight." I couldn't help but think that this line of thinking is exactly what is wrong with the Sixers. Basically, they think that way, too. It's a team that doesn't seem to be concerned about what types of shots they're getting on the offensive end, but more about the end result.
Without getting into a "Coaching vs. Talent" debate, which is really the Sixers' own version of the chicken and the egg, Doug Collins deserves a fair amount of blame here. The Sixers don't look prepared offensively, and his explanations of "asking them to move the ball more" really don't inspire a ton of confidence. Collins would probably point to his players' talent level to explain the team's anemic offense, and he'd be right. But going forward, it's fair to wonder how much offense he would get out of a more talented roster. The fact that they do many of the same things wrong, night in and night out, is frustrating to say the least.
- The Sixers as a group played really hard defensively until the latter stages of the fourth quarter, and they should be commended for that. Zumoff and Malik Rose were talking about how they collectively matched the Pacers' physicality, something I agreed with. This team isn't giving up on Collins by any means.
- Dorell Wright's energy really stood out in in the first half. He somehow accumulated a +3 while playing 30 minutes of this blowout, which is quite an accomplishment.
- This game was a little different than your typical jumper-fest from the Sixers. Collins said in his press conference that the Sixers got 50 shots in the paint, and he appears to be correct after looking at the shot chart. Holiday took a ton of five to seven footers on plays where Roy Hibbert was sinking into the paint off ball screens. The problem was that with his man trailing behind him and Hibbert's in front of the rim, Holiday was in effect double teamed on these shots. That's because the screener, usually Lavoy Allen or Spencer Hawes, was flaring for a low percentage jumper. And smart defenses like Indiana will give those guys that shot all day, which puts Holiday in a tough spot: Should he kick it for a two-pointer that's going in less than 40 percent or take the tough baby jumper? Holiday struggled mightily making the correct decisions tonight, even if I'd argue that there are no correct answers in that scenario.
- Arnett Moultrie came out of nowhere to shoot 6-9 en route to 12 points. I was impressed with his ability to actually catch and finish layups and dunks around the basket. You would hope that there will be plenty of Holiday-Moultrie pick and rolls in the near future. I can't stress enough how much even the threat of a guy rolling to the basket would open up things for Jrue.
- Allen played well tonight on both ends of the floor, I thought. And even though he has the ability and potential to be a solid two-way big man, 12 points on 13 shots shouldn't feel like a good offensive game from him. Over the summer, Lavoy has to work on his game in an effort to create easier baskets. Oh, and he has to play with this effort more consistently.
- Evan Turner had 9 rebounds and 4 assists, but he only shot 1-10 for 2 points and had 4 turnovers. This goes without saying, but that can't happen from a guy that the team is counting on. He did do a nice job defensively on Paul George, though.
All this said, this was a really undermanned team (that wasn't all that deep to begin with) going against a team playing really solid basketball. Not a complete surprise, but still really hard to watch.