Monroe Torches Sixers Again in 109-101 Defeat

Dorell Wright was one of the lone bright spots Monday night in what will surely be his next to last game as a Sixer.

It wasn’t the worst performance the Sixers have put forth this season; fans have lately been treated to nights where the effort simply there wasn’t but Monday night was not one of those occasions.  Philadelphia played one of their better games offensively and accrued 10 steals on the game, showing some level of defensive intensity. However, time and time again, whenever the Pistons needed a bucket, they dumped it inside to Greg Monroe.  The third-year big man once again instituted his points in the paint doctrine, tallying a game-high 27 points and 16 rebounds, including 6 offensive boards.  The Sixers should do whatever they can to acquire such a big man, I’m sure nothing could go wrong.

Following a 9 point, 5 rebound effort in the first quarter by Monroe, the Pistons jumped out to a sizable lead which they carried through the middle portion of the second quarter.  The Sixers then made their best push of the game, going on a 17-2 run to turn an 8 point deficit into a 7 point lead.  Dorell Wright scored 7 points during that stretch and had a great overall game for Philadelphia, leading the team with 22 points and 6 assists, while also collecting 8 rebounds.  I’ll say it again, I’m not sure why Wright wasn’t a major part of the rotation all season long; he will assuredly get a nice free agent contract from someone during the offseason.

The battle on the glass made all the difference in the third quarter, as the Pistons recorded a 7-0 advantage in offensive boards during the frame and built a 9-point lead.  Arnett Moultrie received plenty of court time in the game, and did a nice job offensively, but was manhandled on the defensive side by the larger Pistons front line.  2 defensive rebounds in 25 minutes is not going to get it done, and his inability to clean up the glass during the second half of the third quarter was a big factor in last night’s defeat.

Among other participants, Will Bynum had a huge game off the bench for Detroit, providing 22 points of instant offense and dishing out 6 assists.  For Philadelphia, Spencer Hawes recorded 13 points and 9 rebounds while doing a fair job on Andre Drummond, though Drummond was limited by a sore right ankle.  Jrue Holiday dropped 14 points but committed 5 turnovers to only 3 assists.  Holiday’s needed improvement as a distributor while taking better care of the ball will be one of the key things the young guard will need to work on in the offseason if the Sixers are to make any marked progression next season.  The team will travel to Indiana to send Collins off Wednesday night in his final game as head coach.

 

Sixers (33-47) @ Pistons (28-52) Game Preview (4/15/13)

The Sixers frontline will need to contain Detroit third-year big man Greg Monroe in Monday night’s contest.

Monday night features another contest between two teams bound for the lottery who cannot wait for the season to end.  However, both teams have picked their play up over the last week with Philadelphia earning victories over Washington and Cleveland after a dreadful three-game losing streak, and the Pistons entering play with a three-game winning streak themselves.  The teams split their earlier two meetings this season, with both games taking place in Philadelphia.  Greg Monroe has been a force down low for Detroit in those contests, averaging 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds against the Sixers.  Philadelphia countered with strong backcourt play, as Jrue Holiday averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 assists in those two meetings.

With trade deadline acquisition Jose Calderon missing in action with a strained right triceps, the Pistons have reverted to a Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey backcourt.  Despite the loss of Calderon, the Pistons have received a shot in the arm from the return from injury by promising rookie Andre Drummond eight games ago.  Drummond has averaged 11.6 points (on 67.8% shooting) and 8.9 rebounds since re-joining the team on the court.  He is the type of athletic shot-blocker and rebounder that the Sixers could sorely use.

Keys to the Game:

  • Pressure the ball.  Detroit has the 5th-highest turnover rate in the league, an area that will only be further weakened by Calderon’s absence.  The jury is still out on Brandon Knight’s viability as a true point guard, and his 13.73% turnover rate is well above the league average.  Try to force him into live ball turnovers to get some easy points in transition.
  • Pack the paint.  The injured Calderon is the best three point shooter on the Detroit roster.  With head coach Lawrence Frank now starting Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond together in the front court, the Pistons have major spacing issues in the half court.  Double down when the ball enters the paint and force Detroit to win the game from the outside.  

Prediction:

Despite Philadelphia playing good ball over the last two games, winning on the road on the second game of a back-to-back is a tough task for anyone.  Detroit has a formidable front line, which has given Philadelphia difficulties in the past.  The Sixers stay in the game but ultimately go down at the hands of the Pistons.

Sixers Honor the Past with Blowout Victory over Cleveland

83 Champs

Maybe the 2012-2013 Sixers team will be memorialized 30 years from now; then again, maybe not.

Three particular ovations stood out among the others in the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon.  The first was for Moses Malone, as the 6’10’ hall of fame center walked out to center court during the halftime ceremony honoring the 1982-83 championship team.  The second quickly followed as Julius “Dr. J” Erving was rightfully announced in the anchor position of the ceremonial proceedings.  My father who was at the game with me described him as one of the best to ever play, right there with Jordan and Wilt.  While statistically or from a titles perspective, Erving doesn’t quite fall into that group, for many Philadelphia sports fans he’ll always be remembered in unsurpassed company.  Dr. J and the rest of that team brought this city a championship, something that doesn’t come easy in this town, and that’s worth more than scoring records or the place in ‘The Book of Basketball’ to a lot of people.  Which brings me to the last ovation, following the Sixers’ 91-77 win over the Cavaliers.  This season has been an abject disaster, but Philadelphia came out with one of their better performances in the final home game of the season, and the Sixers faithful showed their appreciation for the effort and the hope of a better tomorrow.

Throughout the first three quarters before the benches were emptied, the Sixers moved the ball around as well as they have all season.  The team had 53 points at halftime without a single player in double figures, as they were refreshingly more concerned with finding the open man than any individual agendas.  At the end of the game, 6 different players had reached double figures in points (paced by Dorell Wright’s 15 off the bench), and 5 players recorded 4 or more assists (led by big man Spencer Hawes with 6).

Defensively, the Sixers swarmed to the ball, forcing 18 Cavaliers’ turnovers; Hawes also had a nice game protecting the rim with 4 blocks.  Kyrie Irving was held to just 4 points as he was limited in the first half with foul trouble.  After picking up his 4th and 5th fouls three minutes into the third quarter, Irving hit the bench, never to return as the lead continued to grow and the starters from both teams took a seat.   The most memorable part of the Cavaliers’ offense was remembering how much Marreese Speights likes to hoist up 18 footers early in the shot clock.

All in all, it was the type of performance the Sixers should put forth against lottery teams on a regular basis.  If today’s play had been the norm throughout the season, Philadelphia would be playing games beyond next week.  Maybe Adam Aron and Sixers management can bring out past Sixers champions for each home games next season.  Philadelphia will finish out the season on the road against Detroit Monday, and Indiana Wednesday

Sixers beat Cavs

Sixers (32-47) vs. Cavaliers (24-55) Game Preview (4/14/13)

Another game, another young star point guard to face, as Kyrie Irving and the Cavs come to town.

In the final home game of the season, Sixers management will honor the 1982-83 championship team, rolling out Dr. J, Moses Malone, and numerous other members of that roster.  The event should provide a welcome distraction to the disappointment of the 2012-13 season.  On the court, the Sixers will take on a Cavaliers team they defeated 97-87 two weeks ago.  However, Cleveland was without all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, as well as rookie guard Dion Waiters, in that contest; both will be in uniform for the Cavaliers in this one.

Irving has seemingly made the leap to elite player in his sophomore season, ranking 16th in the NBA in PER.  In between a couple injury stints this year, Irving has averaged 22.9 points on 45.6% shooting (including 40.2% from three), and 5.9 assists per game.  During the all-star game, Irving was part of the Eastern conference’s crunch-time line-up, which shows the esteem the league currently holds for him.  I also hear his Uncle Drew is a heck of a player.  The Cavaliers have a bright future with he and Waiters apparently having the backcourt situation locked down going forward.  After Waiters struggled with his efficiency early on, he improved to 16.5 ppg on 46.5% shooting in 13 games following the all-star break.

Evan Turner has played very well in three games against the Cavs this season, averaging 18.0 points on 52.4% shooting, 9.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists.  Cleveland fouls its opponents more than almost any team in the league, in addition to having the second-least amount of blocks.  Those defensive lapses play perfectly into Turner’s reckless, attack the basket offensive game.  The Cavaliers are the ideal opponent for Turner to bounce back from his 0-11 performance against Washington.

Keys to the Game:

  • Force the ball out of Irving’s hands whenever possible and make Waiters run the offense.  Waiters has improved as a scorer but his distribution game is still very much a work in progress.  The easiest way to lose to Cleveland would be to let Kyrie Irving dictate the flow of the game.  Take a page out of other teams’ playbooks and double Irving well past the three point line, much like the opposition has done to Jrue Holiday all season.
  • Use the energy of the crowd to your advantage.  There should be a larger than usual crowd on hand given the halftime ceremony and the conclusion to the home schedule.  Start the game with some fire and the audience should help the Sixers rise to the occasion against a Cleveland team looking for the season to end just as much as the Sixers are.

Prediction:

It’s the final home game of the season and NBA hall of famers will be in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center.  Those factors should be more than enough motivation for the Sixers to come out with their best effort.  A balanced Sixers attack overcomes Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers as Philadelphia ends the home schedule on a good note.

Blast from the Past as Sixers Win

John Wall looks like the real deal, but a familiar balanced attack by the Sixers was enough to secure a Philadelphia victory.

Things started out in a familiar fashion for the Sixers Friday night.  John Wall showed off an improving jumper to go along with his incredible quickness getting to the rim, on his way to 13 first-quarter points.  Offensively, Evan Turner had a shot hit the side of the backboard and a dunk attempt blocked by Wizards guard Garrett Temple.  Dorell Wright even saw the ball slip out of his hands and fall behind him out of bounds on a three point shot attempt.  The Sixers were down 31-24 after 12 minutes and it looked as though they were on their way to another disinterested blowout loss.

Then, a surprising thing happened and the Sixers began playing like the team that made the playoffs last season.  The team began to show some energy defensively, collecting 6 steals and forcing 9 Washington turnovers by halftime.  Those live ball turnovers allowed Philadelphia to get some easy buckets in transition, getting more players involved offensively, and leading to the type of scoring balance that has been a staple of the Sixers’ success in recent years.  That floor balance combined with some incredibly cold outside shooting by the Wizards (just 1-13 from three for the game), enabled the Sixers to break open the game in the third quarter and coast to a 97-86 victory.

Five Sixers players scored 13 points or more, led by Jrue Holiday’s 22 points and 7 assists.  Thad Young had his second straight excellent outing, recording 18 points, 13 rebounds, and leading the defensive charge with 4 steals.  The lone disappointing performance was Evan Turner’s atrocious 0-11 shooting from the field for 0 points, although he did tie for a game-high 7 assists.  For Washington, Wall was the only player to score over 10 points, finishing with 24 points and 7 assists.

The game was an encouraging sign that the Sixers haven’t completely given up on the season.  Although the Wizards were missing Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza to minor injuries, they’ve played better ball over the second half of the year.  Philadelphia’s next game is the home finale against Cleveland; the Philly faithful will hope to see a similar effort from the hometown team.

Sixers (31-47) @ Wizards (29-50) Game Preview (4/12/13)

John Wall and Nick Young will reunite Friday night to remember the glory days.

Two lottery teams meet Friday night trending in opposite directions.  The Sixers franchise features management rumored to be hoping their icon coach quits after this year, an all-star who has played like anything but one 80% of the time during the second half of the season, and a team that has clearly given up over the last week.  On the other hand, the future looks bright for the Wizards as the team is actually 24-22 when their star point guard, John Wall, is in the lineup.  If not for his knee injury suffered over the summer, the Wizards would likely be a playoff team.  Of course, the Sixers could say the same thing regarding Bynum, but Wall is actually part of the Wizards’ foundation going forward.

After an adjustment period coming back from the injury, Wall has been brilliant this season, averaging 22.9 points on 48.1% shooting, 5.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists over 23 games in March and April.  Only LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have averaged at least 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists over the course of this season, elite company for John Wall to occupy.  Wall has come out and stated his belief that he deserves a max contract and he’s certainly playing like it.

Unfortunately for the Wizards and fans of watching talented young players, Bradley Beal is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his right fibula.  He and Wall had really started to develop a good relationship out on the court and it will be exciting to watch that backcourt grow together going forward.  Still, the Wizards have other weapons the Sixers will need to account for if they care about winning basketball games anymore.  Martell Webster has done a great job providing spacing for this Wizards team, shooting 42.2% from three.  In the front court, Brazilian veteran Nene is the hub of the offense when Wall isn’t running the show.  Although Nene’s averages of 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists don’t jump off the page, he provides a needed calming presence in the half court offense and he and Emaka Okafor do a good job orchestrating the Wizards defense on the back line.

Keys to the Game:

  • Win the transition game.  Wall loves to use his blazing speed in the open court to get the bulk of his points, as his outside shot is still a work in progress at this point of his career.  On the other side of the ball, the Wizards sport the 8th-best defense in the league and it would behoove the Sixers to get some easy buckets on the fast break.
  • Pack the paint on defense.  Wall’s offensive game springs from his ability blow past his defender and get into the paint.  Hopefully, Jrue Holiday rises to the challenge of playing against a rising young star, but if not, his teammates will have to help off their men to prevent Wall from getting to the rim.  If he kicks it outside and guys like Cartier Martin or A.J. Price beat them, so be it.

Prediction:

The Wizards are a solid 22-18 at home this season, made even better with Wall’s inclusion in the lineup.  The Sixers’ road woes have been well-documented and given their recent play, there’s no reason to believe that trend reverses itself.  John Wall goes off for over 30 points against a disinterested Sixers defense as the Wizards win.

Sixers Go Through the Motions in Loss to Hawks

Torero Clip Art

The Sixers played matador defense in allowing 124 points, the Hawks’ highest total in regulation this season.

The Sixers must have really been dreaming the impossible dream because after being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend, fans have seen a different team out on the court.  During the past two games against Brooklyn and now, Atlanta, Philadelphia has put forth some of the least-enthused professional basketball performances you’ll ever come across.  For the second straight game, the majority of the opponent’s starters were out of the game after three quarters, as Atlanta breezed to a 124-101 victory.  Although the Sixers weren’t pummeled on the boards again last night, there was visible lack of defensive intensity that allowed the Hawks to get wherever they wanted to on the floor.  Atlanta scored at least 29 points in every quarter as their 124 points were their most in a non-overtime game this season.

The assists told the story as the Hawks held a 34-21 edge, working the ball around against a Sixers defense disinterested in making the proper rotations.  Josh Smith set the tone early with 11 points and 6 boards in the first quarter, on his way to 28 and 11 in just 29 minutes of action.  Once again this season, Jeff Teague greatly outplayed Sixers all-star Jrue Holiday, recording a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists in 31 minutes.  Even a pair of rookies off the bench were able to score at will, as John Jenkins and Mike Scott tallied 21 and 17 points, respectively.

The lone bright spot for the Sixers was a rejuvenated Thad Young, who bounced back from a poor performance in Brooklyn to score 28 points on 14-20 shooting.  His usual energy stood in stark contrast to his teammates displayed even less fight than usual.  Nick Young also shot the ball well, draining 3 of 5 threes on his way to 19 points off the bench, though most of his points came when the game was already decided.  Holiday shot just 4-14, including going 1 for his first 10, for 12 points, and only recorded a single assist compared to five turnovers.  90% of the team looked like it wanted nothing more than the season to be over with, and if this is the level of effort in store going forward, fans feel the same way.

Sixers vs. Hawks Game Preview (4/10/13)

Arnett Moultrie and other young bench players should see more run during the final games of the season.

Following one of their more disinterested efforts of the season, the Sixers head back home to take on Atlanta Wednesday night.  Currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks have lost three straight including a blowout defeat to the Sixers in Atlanta less than a week ago.  The recent stretch has washed away any chance of 4th place for Atlana, as they now sit 4.5 games back of Brooklyn.  However, it may be in the Hawks’ best interest to avoid the 4/5 match-up and a potential second round series with Miami.  As a result, Hawks’ coach Larry Drew pulled a classic Gregg Popovich move in the team’s loss to the Spurs Saturday, resting Al Horford, Josh Smith, Kyle Korver, and Devin Harris.  Coming off three off days, expect to see a full line-up out on the court for the Hawks in Philadelphia.

For the Sixers, expect to see plenty more playing time for some of the young guys off the bench.  Jrue Holiday recently came out and said he’s been fatigued by playing a career-high 38.3 minutes per game.  Thad Young has also logged a career-high in minutes, averaging 35.0 per game.  The Sixers’ two best players certainly looked worn down last night, with Holiday neglecting to attack the paint and Thad Young uncharacteristically shooting poorly and lacking effort on the boards. 

Whether they’re physically beat up, or emotionally drained from having to carry such a heavy load for a losing team all season, there’s no sense extending the starters’ minutes when there’s nothing to be gained in the standings.  In last night’s blowout loss, Arnett Moultrie did log 24 minutes, the most time he’s received in a game in over a month.  The Sixers gave up a future first-round pick and a second-round pick for Moultrie; it’s time to give the rookie every opportunity to carve out a place in the rotation going into next season.  Charles Jenkins and Justin Holiday should also be given more time to determine whether they can be effective role players for a team that will need a back-up point guard.

Keys to the Game:

  • Show some heart on the boards.  We mentioned last week that the Hawks are a poor offensive rebounding team, so on paper, the Sixers should control the defensive glass.  That being said, given their (lack of) effort in that area last night, who knows what to expect from the Sixers.  If the starters don’t want to put a body on Horford and Smith, maybe some of the bench guys eager for more playing time will.
  • Work the ball around on offense.  Although the Hawks are a solid defensive team, one area where they struggle is defending the three ball, as opponents are shooting 37.8% behind the arc, the third-worst defending rate in the league.  Do not settle for shots early in the possession and force the Hawks to rotate around the perimeter until Holiday, Wright, or Turner (from the corner) get an open look.

Prediction:

Philadelphia will be playing the second night of a back-to-back, while Atlanta has used the past few days to rest a number of minor injuries.  The embarassing loss to the Sixers at home last week should be fresh in the Hawks’ minds and drive them to put forth their best effort.  Even given their better play at home throughout the season, the Sixers fall to the Hawks.

Kronum League Season 4 – Week 1 Recap

The Work Horses had no answer for Ryan Coyne in Week 1 as he scored a league-high 44 points.

Nimble Jacks 145, Work Horses 97

The Nimble Jacks entered Week 1 action determined to shut down the Work Horses’ leading scorers Phil Cavalcante and Luke Dougan.  With Jacks defenders shadowing those two players, it was up to the rest of the Horses to pick up the slack.  Things started out well for the Horses as they jumped out to a 20-13 lead behind some hot shooting from Matt Kump and a 4-point ring from Dave Slusser.  However, it was all Jacks the rest of the way, as the rabbits went on a 36-9 run to end the period and lead 49-29 after one.  It was more of the same from that point on as the Nimble Jacks continued to score at will, cruising to a 48-point victory.

The Jacks shot a league-high 51.2% as a team, scoring from all over the field as they reached double-digits from each of the four zones.  Seven different players reached double figures for the Nimble Jacks but Ryan Coyne was the main catalyst for the attack.  The veteran ranger shot 66.7% from the field in tallying 44 points, 13 more points than any other league player scored in Week 1 action.  Matt Kump finished with 22 points to lead the way for the Horses.  After both averaged over 23 points per game last season, the Jacks’ shadowing tactics held Dougan and Cavalcante to 12 and 9 points, respectively.

Urban Legends 121, Jet Sets 109

In the week’s most closely-contested contest, the Urban Legends overcame some injuries to edge the Jet Sets.  With one of their top players, wedgeback Kevin Glover, already sitting out the game with a sprained MCL, the Legends also lost ranger Pat Dexter to a broken leg in the first period.  Despite playing short-handed, the Legends fought tooth and nail with the Sets, as the game remained close throughout the first two periods.

Then, although he finished the game shooting just 25.0%, Legends’ leading scorer Kevin Clark stepped up when it mattered most, knocking down an 8-point Kronum to take a 5 point lead with 8 minutes left.  On the next possession, Clark hit a 4-pointer from the cross zone to put the Legends up nine and the team would not look back from there.  Spurred by that 12-point burst, Clark finished with a game-high 31 points.  Teammate Mike Ragan provided consistent scoring throughout the game, finishing with 30 points and 8 assists.  Jeff Regensburg paced the Jet Sets with 23 points and Matt Parsons chipped in 18 points.

Night Owls 108, Throwbacks 80

In the week’s most surprising result, the Night Owls showed off their new swarming defense in blowing out the Throwbacks.  After a sloppy start by both sides with neither team able to earn much of an advantage, the Night Owls went on a 27-6 run to go up 66-45 midway through the second period.  The Throwbacks called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding but Owls’ captain Kyle McGrath hit an 8-point kronum on the Owls’ next possession, effectively serving as the dagger.

Following all their talk about a revamped defense, the Night Owls backed it up on the playing field.  They sported the best save percentage in the league at 54.4%, as well as tied for most blocks and steals.  McGrath and Bob Zane led the way offensively for the Owls; McGrath scored a game-high 28 points, while Zane recorded 23 points on a spectacular 9-10 shooting.  The Throwbacks struggled to score throughout the game, but wedgeback Jim Bradley did record a double-double with 10 points on 62.5% shooting, as well as 10 saves. 

Week 1 Leaders:

Points – Ryan Coyne (44), Kevin Clark (31), Mike Ragan (30)

Assists – Scott Kennedy (12), Chris Von Tanhausen (11), Ryan Coyne (9), Nick DeLuca (9)

Saves – Sean Kennedy (14), Scott Anderson (13), Derek Clouser (11)

Blocks – Shaun Stevens (7), Dan Geiger (5), Chris Von Tanhausen (4)

Steals – Matt Parsons (4), Chris Von Tanhausen (3), Kevin Clark (3)

Brooklyn Beats the Sixers Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Half Broken Heart Clip Art

The Sixers showed no heart in a pitiful loss to Brooklyn.

During this lost season, there have been plenty of games where the Sixers fought hard but just didn’t have enough talent to pull out the victory; this was not one of those games.  The Brooklyn front court absolutely dominated Philadelphia on both ends of the floor as the Nets cruised to a 104-83 win.  Mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the first time, the Sixers displayed no hustle or desire in boxing out or going after loose balls.  By the end of the third quarter when the Brooklyn starters saw the floor for the last time, the Nets held a 51-22 rebounding advantage with nearly as many offensive rebounds (19) as the Sixers had total boards.  Brook Lopez recorded a game-high 29 points and 11 rebounds (6 offensive), while Reggie Evans bullied his way to 17 points and 24 rebounds (9 offensive).

The onslaught started early on as Brooklyn used a 19-7 rebounding advantage to jump out to a 31-18 first quarter lead.  Reggie Evans already had a double-double twelve minutes in, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Brook Lopez tallied 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the frame.  The only thing keeping the Sixers even somewhat close initially was some hot shooting by Jrue Holiday, who made 3 of 5 shots from behind the arc for 9 points.

The Sixers made one brief run in the beginning of the second quarter to pull within 5 points.  A pair of alley-oop finishes by Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young provided the lone highlights of the game for Philadelphia.  However, that four-minute spurt was all the Sixers had in them on this night, as the Nets continued attacking the glass to stretch the lead to 18 at halftime and breeze through the rest of the game.

The Sixers play again Wednesday night at home against Atlanta.  Hopefully, this sort of effort isn’t what Sixers fans can expect during these final games of the season.  It’s one thing to watch a losing team, but a losing team that stops caring is something else entirely.