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Friday, December 08, 2017

Thoughts on 76ers-Lakers Last Night

In no particular order:

1.  The 76ers are in a bit of a rut.  Losing to Phoenix on Monday and the Lakers last night, the above-.500 76ers lost to two teams who are collectively playing around .333 basketball. 

2.  The sign of a young, inexperienced team is that it can be absolutely brilliant and absolutely frustrating -- in the same game.  Name the game, name the frustration.  The team blew a 24-point lead against the Warriors and a big lead at home against the John Wall-less Wizards, only to have that gave devolve into a hack-a-Ben-athon that caused the last five minutes to take 40 to play.  Last night, the Lakers got out to a ten point lead -- but the game was not that close, only to see the purple and gold push the lead out to 16 in the second half, and then have the 76ers storm back to tie it up, only then to turn the ball over twice in the last ninety seconds (Embiid once, Reddick the other) and then to have a chance to tie again but to fail to make the shot.  If you're a fan, all you can say is "aargh!"

3.  The team is exposed defensively at guard.  At one point, the 76ers had Reddick, T.J. McConnell and Jarrod Bayless on the floor at once.  That defensive combo scares absolutely no one, and the Lakers took advantage of it.  That's not to say that Lonzo Ball was a shooting threat -- he isn't -- but Jordon Clarkson had a tidy 16 off the bench in not that many minutes and others (Kentavius Caldwell-Pope comes to mind) shot well enough to help give the Lakers the win.  The 76ers need the advertised Markell Fultz to return in a hurry. 

4.  The team missed Dario Saric last night.  I joked that the team was in a fog because of the news that they traded Jahlil Okafor and Nick Stauskas to the Nets earlier in the day.  And while those guys had good friends on the team, the team did miss the grit of Saric, who was out with what was reported as an eye laceration.  Saric does the dirty work, battles for the offensive boards, and does everything pretty well.  That's not to say that the team would have won with him in there -- the game admittedly would have been different, but the rebounding differential that existed for a lot of the game would not have been there.  As it was, back-up center turned power forward at least for the night Richaun Holmes had what might have been a career game for him, coming up with many clutch buckets as the team stormed back to tie it up.

5.  Joel Embiid is a beast.  No one can guard him, and it's hard to figure out how to run any inside offense when he's in there.  He's foul-prone now, but that's bound to change as he gets more experience.

6.  Ben Simmons had another interesting/potentially awesome stat line with some great plays, yet. . ..  12 points, 13 boards and 15 assists is pretty terrific, but he had some defensive lapses and needs to assert himself more.  He is good, but does he know how much better he can be or how good he is?  Until he gets more assertive, teams won't have to commit the resources on defense that they have to commit to, among others, James Harden and LeBron James.  While he might never shoot as well as those guys, he still can do things most players cannot. 

7.  Lonzo Ball showed everyone something last night.  He played within himself, he rebounded well, defended well enough, made some great passes and scored in the double figures.  He is very composed out there.  His shooting -- if possible -- is worse than that of Simmons, but he made a strong contribution last night.

8.  Brandon Ingram really improved in the off-season.  Last year, he looked like the overmatched skinny guy without the strength of Durant or skills more than that of a stationery shooter.  This year, he looks stronger, like he put on some good weight, and he really worked on his ability to create shots.  He had a very nice night last night.

9.  Obligatory word about the officials.  Admittedly, officiating basketball might be the hardest game to officiate, although diehard fans of other sports will argue to the contrary.  The one thing I noticed is that while hand-checking per se is called, what the officials increasingly do not call are the following -- 1) when a defender puts a forearm on the back of a player who has his back to the basket and 2) when a dribbler wards off a defender with a forearm, pushing him away.  Both teams did the former last night, and Ingram's signature move is to push off with his left forearm.  That's not to say he's the only one or that the lack of calls on him (or anyone else for that matter) cost the 76ers the game or gave it to the Lakers.  The Lakers played better, and the 76ers did not do enough to win.  It's just that it's hard to figure out where the consistency is among officials in making calls.


Blogger John Bini said...

nice post, your thoughts are so dawm right!

9:07 AM  

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