Bunch of Good Things But No Win For Sixers Against Grizzlies

Bunch of Good Things But No Win For Sixers Against Grizzlies
January 28, 2013, 4:57 pm
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Well phooey. With a 33-point first-quarter that saw just about
everything go right for them, the Sixers looked like they were in pretty
good shape to finally win a second straight game (imagine!) tonight
against the Memphis Grizzlies, and even after the Grizzlies cut the lead
to shreds and then took the lead in the second, the Sixers persevered
and gave themselves several opportunities to win the game. But in the
end, gravity was not on their side tonight, and the Grizzlies eked out a
103-100 win that left Malik and Zumoff reaching for the peach schnapps.

It's a tough loss to swallow, because there were so many
positives you'd like to take out of a game like this. Evan Turner was a
marvel tonight, scoring from all over the court on the way to his
season-high 27 points and seven assists. Jrue got stymied a bit in the
second half but was absolutely on fire to start, still ending with 18
points and ten assists. Thaddeus Young scrapped his way to 23 and seven,
and played lockdown D on the other end against one of the NBA's
toughest post matchups, holding Zach Randolph to just four points. It
was an astounding group performance from our young core trio.

Unfortunately,
as good as Thaddeus was on Z-Bo, that's about as poor as Spencer Hawes
was on Marc Gasol. Not entirely Spence's fault, since Gasol is a rough
cover for anyone, and the Sixers made the conscious (and as it turns
out, very poor) choice to let Gasol fire away from the perimeter, which
he did to the tune of a season-high 25 points. Hitting from the
perimeter was a recurring theme for the supposedly ground-and-pound
Grizzlies, and Jrue and Evan also probably deserve a good deal of the
blame for some poor defensive switching and ill-timed help that left the
likes of Rudy Gay (26 points) and Jerryd Bayless (21 points, also a
season high) open to fire away from all over the court.

Really,
though, as with last week against the Spurs, this loss can be blamed on
poor late-game execution. Up 100-97 in the game's closing minutes, the
Sixers had several chances to give themselves some breathing room, and
ended up with the following series of possessions:

1. Jrue attempts a jumper double-teamed in the corner (strip, turnover)
2. Jrue finds Thad in the corner (??) for a three (clang, rebound Grizzlies)
3. Jrue pulls up for a contested two 22 feet away from the basket (clang, rebound Grizzlies)

Three
straight poor, low-percentage decisions from Jrue, 0 points for the
Sixers in three trips. Brilliant as The Damaja has been this season, and
much as we want him to be an all-powerful devourer of worlds at just 22
years of age, this is something that he's struggled with a bit this
season, and you hope and expect that this is just a matter of Jrue
needing to get his reps in these late-game stretches, and that the calm,
cool Holiday we know from the game's first three-and-a-half quarters
will soon start showing up reliably in the last half of the fourth as
well. But in the meantime, it gave the Grizzlies just enough time to
edge ahead by one with about 12 seconds to go.

The play that the
Sixers ran there to take back the lead ended up being unsuccessful, but
it was minorly encouraging just the same. Dribbling into the half-court
as the clock wound down to single digits, Jrue drew the double time
driving to the basket and whipped a pass to Thad in single coverage,
where he hoisted a five-foot jumper for the lead. It missed, but it's a
high-percentage shot, and one we've seen Thad make countless times
before, so you can't be mad at the team for the play ran—which in itself
is a victory of sorts for the Doug Collins 76ers. (Derek Bodner of
Liberty Ballers also points out that had Thad spotted Hawes creepeing up the baseline, Spence might've had an uncontested dunk. Next time.)

With
losses like this against superior teams, you have to keep in mind that
for large stretches of this season, it would be rare that the Sixers
even stayed in the games for this long. If you told me before the
Sixers' home games against the Spurs, Knicks and Grizzlies that they
would win one in a blowout and fight to the end in the other two, I'd
have been perfectly happy with that. (Wish they hadn't lost to the Bucks
in the middle, but such is life.) As long as Thad, Jrue and Evan keep
playing at this high a level—and it's worth pointing out that after
slumping for about a month straight, the Extraterrestrial is finally
back up in space, averaging 22 points, 6.8 boards and six assists over
his last four games—and as long as that funny-looking kid with the big
hair keeps getting healthier and healthier, wins and losses are really
not the most important thing anyway.

And if you really want
wins, there might be some to be had in the not-too-distant future. The
Sixers play their next six at home, with the next five being against the
Wizards, Kings, Magic, Pacers and Bobcats. Now the Pacers are good and
the Wizards have improved lately, but you'd still hope the Sixers could
get at least three of those, and perhaps even—wonder of wonders—two in a
row at some point. And if not, well, Jrue plays in the All-Star Game
soon after, and we (presumably) get Bynum back not long after that.
There is still much in life to look forward to.

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