Monday, January 23, 2012

Wizards at Sixers: Teams Divergent

The distance between Philadelphia and Washington D.C. is 137 miles. The distance between the Sixers and Wizards is orders of magnitude larger.

The Philadelphia Sixers were off to a hot, albeit surprising, 11-5 start going into Monday's game with the Wizards. Beyond their record, they had a +11.4 point differential, best in the NBA. Their defense was also the most efficient and their offense number 3. Diametric is an appropriate way of describing the Wizards. They had 2 wins, neither of which came on the road, and the league's worst offense. More bad news for Washington: they had already lost to Philadelphia earlier in the month, twice, on consecutive days.

If things going into the game seemed inauspicious for the Wizards, the first possession turnover that led to an easy Sixers' bucket didn't improve the outlook much. They did convert on 4 of their first 6 shots and even held as late as 7:45 left in the first. After that though, it would be all Sixers. Philadelphia went on a 15-0 run that was aided by two Jodie Meeks 3-pointers. At the end of the first the Sixers led 33-14. And they just kept piling on. With 1:41 left in the 2nd, the Sixers had already scored the most points in a half (57) for that season. Jrue Holiday nailed a 3 with 20 seconds left and the 62-32 Sixers lead would have been further augmented had Evan Turner not run out of time trying to convert a dunk attempt at the end of the half.

The Wizards were unable to take advantage of the Sixers injury woes. Both Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic were out with an Achilles and knee quad injury, respectively. However, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche combined for just 15 points and 6 rebounds on 5-15 shooting. McGee's lack of production was most frustrating. At the beginning of the 3rd he missed a 15-foot jumper and 9-foot hook on two possessions without even trying to get better position on the depleted Sixers' frontcourt.

Despite not hitting a single three pointer (0-7 3FG), the offense was not Washington's biggest concern as they actually scored 1.07 points per possession, which is decent compared with their season average of .918. Instead it was a medley of poor rotations, split double teams, and lazy closeouts on defense (the worst of which came from Rashard Lewis whose defense can best be described as cardboard cutout-like) that really killed them. At one point Elton Brand caught the ball at the foul line and instinctively pump faked, except there was no defender to try to fool. He finally canned a jumper as two Wizards made a cursory attempt to close out.

The Sixers ended up shooting an excellent 51.8 percent from the floor, but just 55 percent from the line. Three bench players ended up in double figures including Lavoy Allen, who was 5-5 from the field in just his third game of the season. Meeks went 3 for 5 from three and Iggy totaled 11 assists. Washington was unable to move the ball effectively; they assisted only 15 of their 32 field goals. The Sixers assisted 30 of 43 while only committing 6 turnovers.

These two teams will not meet again until their final match up in March. If current trends continue, Philadelphia will be comfortably heading towards the playoffs while Washington will be thinking about the bounce of ping pong balls.

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