By Sean Kennedy
They say rest does the body good, but I don’t think that applies to basketball teams with the roster the Sixers are throwing out there these days. Despite having a full week off and playing a Phoenix club on the tail end of a back-to-back, Philadelphia had no energy/looked disinterested/were blatantly tanking down the stretch of last night’s game, dropping the first of their five-game west coast road trip. The loss marked the 13th-straight on the road for the Sixers, who have still not won a game in regulation since November 8th.
In what was a sloppy game by both teams, the difference last night was the lack of a true rim protector on the interior for Philadelphia, as Phoenix enjoyed an 11-3 edge in the blocks department. The main man on the night for the Suns was emerging big man Miles Plumlee, who finished with a career-high 22 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 posterization of Thad Young.
It was mostly great things for Thad Young on the night, however. With Evan Turner sitting out with a sore knee, Young took on more scoring responsibility and had 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 made threes for the second straight game. The three straight games of 25+ points is the longest stretch of his career (h/t @MaxRappaport). This stretch of play looks like the ultimate F-U to management in regard to the team’s tanking philosophy: “I’m going to try to win despite some of the castoffs you’re teaming me with.” Where many players sulk and let their game suffer in these situations, Thad is such a high-character guy that he’s going in the completely opposite direction.
The other bright spots for Philadelphia were Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten. MCW dropped 27 points and showed off his lightning-quick hands to accrue 4 steals, instrumental in the Sixers run that saw them retake the lead early on in the third quarter. He has such great instincts defensively and will really be a force when he learns all the nuances of a proper defensive scheme. Wroten made his usual knifing forays to the rim for an efficient 22 points. I thought a hole in the space-time continuum might rip over with the speed of both Wroten and Eric Bledsoe on the floor at the same time. Alas, the play of those two was matched by the Suns starting backcourt, with Bledsoe dropping 20 and Goran Dragic finishing with 21 points. Maybe if Sixers not named Young, Carter-Williams, Wroten, or Hawes hadn’t shot 4-25 (16%), the Sixers would have stood a chance tonight. Sam Hinkie’s master plan in action.
- Elliott Williams started in place of the injured Evan Turner because
management wanted to see him get some run with the first unittanking. He went 0-5 and didn’t score in 27 minutes of action, while playing some poor defense on Dragic and others. I know the goal is ultimately to lose as many games as possible this season, but can we please Lorenzo Brown this guy to the d-league already, there’s nothing there.
- The Sixers actually hit more threes than their opponent for the second straight game. Have they turned the corner on correcting their perimeter defensive woes? No, not really. The Suns hoisted up 33 attempts from downtown, many of which were fairly wide open. It was just an off-shooting night for a normally effective three-point attack, possibly due to their game the night before. I’d expect the run-and-gun Lakers to break this trend tonight in the City of Angels.
The Sixers’ pair of young guards both had excellent games (despite the turnovers) as Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten combined for 49 points. Thad Young’s trade value has never been higher should the Sixers decide to go that route with him (not that I necessarily want them to or think they should). Still, the lackadaisical effort down the stretch from some of the team isn’t helping the killer instinct the young guys would optimally be developing, keeping this from a full 5 tanks. 4/5 tanks