Preview and Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

Darius Soriano —  January 29, 2010

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There’s been some other news around here today, but there are actual games to discuss as well.  So, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Records: Lakers 35-11 (1st in West) 76ers 15-30 (13th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.5 (9th in league), 76ers 106.3 (18th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102.1 (3rd in league) 76ers 109.3 (22nd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
76ers: Allen Iverson, Jrue Holliday, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert

Lakers Coming In: First things first, congratulations to Pau for making his 3rd All-Star game (second consecutive) as a Western Conference reserve F/C. Yes he’s missed some games, but no one can question his value to this team or his talent level. Were other players deserving? Yes (Billups, Kaman, Boozer, Nene are just a few names that pop into my head). But that is always the case and every year there will be legitimate gripes. But, for the most part, I think the selection committee of coaches did a good job of filling out the roster and Pau is well deserved. (On a side note, maybe next year ‘Drew. Use your “snub” as motivation tonight and on Sunday.)

Now, on to tonight’s game. You can blame (or credit, I guess) the quality of recent opponents, but the Lakers’ offense is finding its stride. Players are cutting and setting better screens, the ball is moving, and the distribution of shots is much more balanced. The team just looks more in tune and focused on what they need to do on the offensive end of the floor. They also look more lively.  They have a bounce in their step (especially Kobe) and the movement of the players within the offense is more fluid than it’s been in weeks. The team is still playing a bit more P&R than I’d like to see, but Kobe is making good decisions with the ball and when he draws the extra defensive attention he’s making the right read and the correct pass (averaging 7.5 assists over his last 4 games).

Besides the offensive improvements of the last few games, a few other trends have emerged with this team and they’re tied to Phil’s rotations.  Over the past few games, we’ve seen a steady diet of Kobe at SF with Farmar and Shannon flanking him in the backcourt.  This line up has given us a speed and athleticism dimension that we haven’t really seen since last season (when the Farmar/Ariza/Odom lineup played quite well together).  This group is pushing the ball, attacking the basket, and getting opponents on their heels (even in the half court).  However, when Kobe is playing SF, that means both of our true SF’s are not.  Artest has only reached 30 minutes once in his last 8 appearances and in the last three games Luke has played 10 minutes (in a blowout), 3 seconds, and 9 minutes respectively.  You can blame the nicks and bruises that both players have endured this season, but I think you can also point to the fact that Phil has found a backcourt that he likes (Farmar/WOW) and he’s looking for the right player to compliment them at SF – so far, that player looks like Kobe.  However, both players seem to be taking it in stride – you never hear Luke complain about his role and Ron is saying the right things.  Continuing with the micro-perspective, another recent trend is a certain “machine” like player playing a bit better.  Bill Bridges explains:

It has been obvious to me that Sasha Vujacic has been playing well over the last few games. To confirm my impressions, I thought I would look at the numbers. Over the last 10 Laker games (including the win over Milwaukee), Sasha has played in 6. Over those 6 games he has played a total of 25.5 minutes, bit minutes each game. When a player gets such short runs, the expectation is that the numbers will look pretty bad. After all, good numbers translate into more PT, more PT brings numbers back to the mean. Bad numbers = continued spotty minutes. Not in Sasha’s case. On a per 48 minute basis, his 48minute “average” works out at at 37.1 points on 75% FG shooting and also 75% 3FG%, 100% FT%, 5.6 rebounds (3.7 offensive), 5.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 0 turnovers and 3.7 fouls. I roughly calculated his PER (ignoring pace) and it worked out to be about 41. So the numbers confirm what the eye sees. Impressive as his scoring and efficiency has been, he also has been playing in control, moving the ball, making correct decisions, and making no mistakes. He looks extremely facile and comfortable in the triangle and has been an agent of fluidity not turbulence. He also has been energetic on the glass, crashing the offensive boards, and playing good D without fouling too much – no more fouls under the opponent’s basket. Do you think he deserves more playing time?  I do.

It’s been tough to get minutes with a crowded backcourt lately.  But we’ll see if the coaches start to reward Sasha for his better play with a bit more burn.

The 76ers Coming In:  Earlier, I mentioned that the Lakers have not been playing the stiffest competition.  That trend continues this evening.  While a decent 5-5 record in their last 10 games, the Sixers are not playing that well and have gotten most of their wins against fellow NBA bottom-dwellers. 

I think one of Philly’s main issues has been adjusting to their new coach and his offensive scheme.  Eddie Jordan was brought in this season and he’s installed the “Princeton” Offense made famous by Pete Carril and adopted by several NBA coaches (Rick Adelman most notably).  This scheme is a good one and can be very effective when run properly.  However, Jordan doesn’t really have the personnel to run this scheme effectively.  He’s got ball dominating guards in AI and Lou Williams and big men like Brand and Sammy Dalembert that don’t exactly remind anyone of Bill Walton.  And he’s got them running a system that is based off reads and cuts and lots of motion.  So, the passing is suffering (third from the bottom in assists per game) and the offense is not as efficient as it could be.

Keys to the Game:  On offense, this is another game where the Lakers should go inside early and establish their size advantage.  Dalembert has traditionally struggled with ‘Drew (some of Bynum’s best games as a pro have come against Philly) and Gasol has a big height advantage over the undersized Brand.  Pound the ball inside and continue to cut and screen off the ball to get better shots for everyone.  Kobe is coming off a very efficient game and that could continue this evening with either Holliday or Iverson being the primary defender.  If the Sixers go to Iguodala to guard Kobe, look for Ron to be a primary post passer and then get hand-offs or duck-in passes when he clears the side and tries to pin a smaller defender under the hoop.  Also, the Sixers are one of the better teams at forcing turnovers (5th best opponents turnover % in the league) so taking care of the ball is a must.

On defense, the Lakers need to focus on getting back on defense and limiting penetration.  Philly does not play at a fast pace, but they have guys that can get out and run (Iguodala, Thad Young, Holliday, Lou Williams) and they will take advantage of the openings you give them.  And any team that features Iverson will rely on penetration for buckets so the Lakers bigs must be ready to help on the driving guards.  One other play to look for is Iverson driving the paint and looking to Dalembert for the lob finish.  AI and Sammy have a good chemistry from their previous stint as teammates and the boost in Dalembert’s offensive game and activity is one area that has improved with the return of the Answer. 

Lastly, the Sixers have some talented players.  Besides Brand and Iverson, they have a nice group of young talent (the afforementioned Williams, Holliday, Iguodala, Thad Young, and the not yet mentioned Speights).  They are at home and they will come out and play hard.  In a down season, nothing feels quite as good as taking down the champion of the league.  So, the Lakers need to come out focused and ready to play on both ends of the floor.  They do that and they could close the door early.  However, if they relax or come out uninspired the home team will hang around and keep this thing close.  Let’s hope we see the former tonight.

Where you can watch:  4 p.m. start here out west, on KCAL 9. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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72 responses to Preview and Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

  1. This one’s for Warren . . . and Kurt!

  2. And the first official post goes off without a hitch…

    Interesting point about the Shannon/Farmar backcourt with Kobe in at SF. I noticed this recently and then also noticed that this was related to less PT for Ron…and that was a big reason the offense seemed to be moving again. Maybe it’s the injuries, maybe it’s the triangle, who knows, but Ron has played particularly poorly on offense. The guy plays to his weaknesses like no one I can remember lately.

    In the meantime, gotta love the extra burn and confidence this is giving our younger guards.

  3. Nice job on your inaugural “preview and chat” post, Darius. Glad to see things won’t change TOO much around here.

  4. San Clemente Steve January 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    This type of game really concerns me! The Lakers are 0-2 versus the Cavs and say what they will, the spectre of a nationally televised showdown with the Celtics has to be on their minds. I would really like to see the Lakers take advantage of their size and Bynum’s feelings about being snubbed to set the tone early and often so they can get some rest for Kobe’s assortment of ailments along with Artest’s feet in the fourth quarter.

  5. Long-time lurker here at the BEST Lakers site. Best of luck to Kurt going forward. And welcome Darius. With all the other great posters around here, the site is in good hands!

  6. Definitely ready to see LA build on what they have been doing the last couple of games on offense, and a little more energy on the defensive side. I like the athletic combo of Farmar/Wow in the game, it makes LA look energized and less predictable and old. Energy is what this team definitely needs the most, besides the usual going through the motions and surviving on talent alone. Lets get Philly tonight so we can get a good rest and handle them Greenies Sunday.

  7. Exciting times at FB&G. I just saw the news, and at first my jaw dropped a bit. Once I found out that Darius was stepping in, however, my panic ceased. I have 100% confidence this blog won’t skip a beat. I just watched Godfather last night, and I don’t think there is a more fitting movie for the news! Congrats to both of you on the opportunities!

  8. Kurt did an amazing job on this site, and I know Darius will continue to do so.

    This is a “get-well” game. The Lakers can get some momentum going into the game against Boston and maybe get some rest for Kobe and Pau. Also, we can get the bench some confidence and get them playing better within the offense. Maybe Artest can gets some looks as well, and we can see some solid integration of him into the offense.

    So that obviously is not going to happen. This is most likely a tough game tonight with us looking ahead to the ABC game. Its would be nice to see more of the type of fluidity that that was on display on second half of the Indy game, but they truly are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They definitely don’t have the size and athleticism to defend us. On the other hand, the Sixers are a bigger more athletic team, and it will be interesting to see how the offense works against them.

    I like the Bynum getting “snubbed” motivation. He’s not an allstar yet, but he has been playing great lately (except against the Lebrons). I like his aggression and feel. I hope these trends continue.

  9. Allow me to be the first to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” for more playing time for Sasha.

    The team is just starting to get its groove back. Let’s not go crazy and start tinkering with a distribution of minutes at the guard spot that is finally starting to work right.

  10. Regardless of the rotation, it’s good to see Sasha playing so well (albeit, small sample size). His length and shot fit in with the triangle. I think the consensus has always been that his major problems have been mental with regard to him simply contributing. Also In the case we were to make a PG upgrade by deadline, hes showing signs he’s still capable of being an adequate reserve for spot minutes on a contender.

  11. does anyone have a link?

  12. 7. “I just watched Godfather last night, and I don’t think there is a more fitting movie for the news!”

    Where’s snoop for the comedic response to this?

  13. I haven’t seen too many tip-offs, but that’s the first time I’ve seen Andrew lose

  14. Lakers are doing a poor job rebounding to start this game and not boxing out and protecting the glass

  15. The offense is ugly to watch right now.

    Say Darius, how does it feel to do what we usually take for granted from Kurt?

  16. Gotta love Odom’s first 2 possessions: a bricked pull-up 3 and a vintage missed layup.

  17. Let’s see if they can play a solid game tonight. Hopefully these easy ones can help them gel a bit more.

  18. Hard to complain about a lead when Kobe and Pau start off 0-5.

  19. arrg… ron’s feet…

  20. Ron Artest’s problems are caused by the Chinese… First the Chinese almost get T. Mac into the all star game, and now are messing with his feet!!!

    Think they switched the shoes no him after he left the Rockets?

    Nice job Darius

  21. have to agree with sixers announcers, they need to change the rule on shot clock violations, ridiculous

  22. Lakers seem to have stepped up the intensity in this 2nd quarter. Prolly has something to do with Kobe getting back in.

    And Shannon’s jumpers are so wet.

  23. The D seems improved with the Farmar-Brown-Kobe-Odom-Gasol lineup too.

  24. Our offense would be so much more effective with a few real three point threats out there. The 2008 machine, Radmanovic, and younger Fisher weren’t great players but they sure did spread the court and get us some easy points with all those 3s. We just don’t have anyone that can do that now. Our bigs would be killing the Sixers if they had more room to operate.

  25. LAMAR!!!!

  26. The offense was ugly to start with, but since then some of the passing and movement has been beautiful to watch.

  27. improved passing and cutting really showing

  28. WOW. Odom throws it down with authority

  29. LO a +14 and farmar +13 with that speed unit.

  30. Kobe’s pretty off today. Lamar and Pau are picking up the slack.

  31. I love Lamar’s game so much more when he’s cutting from weak to strong side accross the lane and diving from the top of the key into the paint. I can live with some of the three point attempts if he just commits to more activity in the paint overall.

  32. Pau showing why he belongs on the All-Star team this quarter. What an effort!

  33. haha, Igou should have just let Fisher try the layup… that would have been the better defensive move.

  34. 32

    I think Odom’s best stretch as a Laker was after Gasol was acquired, for precisely that reason. He really thrived making dive cuts of Gasol’s passes from the mid-post. As many things as he can do as a scorer, I love when Odom keeps it simple.

  35. off topic but this year’s west team might be the best all star team ever

  36. Darius, are you going to be involved in the Truehoop Network like doing special articles or chats or participating in the Daily Dime Live?

  37. Ron Artest, the one-man fastbreak machine…not

  38. Oh come on. Is somebody sticking pins in a Kobe voodoo doll this season?

    Not that it’s really working mind you.

  39. The only way Philly gets back into this is if you let them get out and run, by turning the ball over and long jumpers early in the clock. SO STOP DOING THAT!

  40. any links working?

  41. Great, where the hell did 2001 AI come from?

  42. a timeout would be nice phil

  43. Wow – that was a sudden Iverson explosion. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

  44. And we got 2001 Shaq at the FT line…disguised as Kobe.

  45. I’ll see your Allen Iverson, and raise you one Kobe Bryant.

  46. One part of me loves when KObe decides to take matters in his hands in BOTH sides of the court, but there’s the feeling there, that we were playing great BB in the second Q through triangle (mostly through Pau who got 5 ass) and that’s gone completely in this Q.

  47. kobe has shut iverson down completly

  48. everyone losing their heads, why take kobe out

  49. I can live with Kobe doing whatever he wants in the offensive end, but three consecutive off pos without even a pass by guys not named Kobe is more that I can put up with.

    And considering the subtitutions is also more that PJ puts up with. By the way those 3 rebounds are the main reason I’m still not sold on Bynum. That and the fact he’s been struggling against a hustle defender like Dalembert.

  50. Come on – why we making Iverson all big headed again. Shut him down!! Where’s the dang D?!?!?!

  51. Put this horrible team away!!

  52. even though Artest hit the three, I would like to see the Lakers work the clock a little more before taking a shot

  53. There’s definetely something wrong with our shooters whe Ron is the only Laker banking a 3 pointer in a whole game.

    Considering Ron’s -1 and Farmar’s +12, as right now the +/- is a complete joke from my point of view.

  54. Wow, I like Derek Fisher, he is cool.

  55. #37. emh101,
    The site will remain with the TrueHoop network and will still be associated with ESPN. But to answer your question about if I’ll be part of other aspects of their basketball coverage, I really don’t know. We’ll see, I guess.

  56. the other stephen January 29, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    i go away for a couple days, and kurt decides to step down?

    then all i can say is, thank you for everything, Kurt. you have done so well by all of us lakers fans, and you couldn’t have picked a better person to pick up where you left off.

  57. Didn’t get to see the whole game but can anyone tell me why Bynum didn’t as much playing time as he normally does?

  58. 58. Odom played much better, and when he plays well he’s gonna play over bynum

  59. agreed with stephen there, this adds a little sour taste to this sweet laker mini-roll. thank you kurt. THANK YOU enough said.

    and welcome darius. let’s keep this site as worthwhile as it is. GO LAKERS!

  60. You know, I can just see Iverson’s eyes light up every time he sees Derek Fisher’s name on a scoreboard in the arena.

  61. So how about that Boston getting swept by the Hawks tonight huh? Hopefully they still have enough mojo to be competitive come Sunday…

  62. “Considering Ron’s -1 and Farmar’s +12, as right now the +/- is a complete joke from my point of view.”

    +/- has never been meant to use for just one game. Over time the variance drops out and it becomes more accurate.

    The good Farmar +/- was a reflection of how bad Fisher was this game. If Artest is dragged down by playing with Fisher then his +/- will look bad. Farmar is the only one who didn’t have to play with Fisher, so he has the best +/- for the game.

    Eventually you do have to adjust for other players since people do not play equally with each teammate. But after enough games even unadjusted +/- can tell you something about how well someone is playing.

  63. Fisher is just horrible. Even though i’m a laker fan, i actually feel cheated when he drives to the hole, gets about 2 inches off the ground, has no desire to do anything other than create contact and cause a foul, and the refs actually bail him out. He is just horrible on the eyes. Whatever the issue with Farmar/Brown/Vujacic, for the sake of my soul, just sit fisher down please.

  64. kaveh, I seem to recall Fish making some excellent decisions on the breaks, one time passing to a Pau running just steps in front of him who converted that into an “and 1”, that was a perfect thread the needle pass.
    (like to see you do something like that)
    I really get sick of the Fisher bashers around here.

  65. I also recall Fish intercepting a pass late in the 4th qtr, when Philly was still trying to make a come back, Fish jumped up, caught the entry pass and tossed it down court to an open Laker, and when he did this, I felt like THAT was the dagger in that game.
    … experience … counts … for … something.

    you guys remind me of the party of NO when it comes to Fish, only seeing the negative.

  66. Kaveh,

    Fish is the worst fast breaker in the NBA. He makes the wrong play 9.5 times out of 10.

  67. Chris H,

    I’m far from a Fish basher, but some things are just true.

  68. Kurt – Thanks for all your help with becoming a better basketball fan.

    Darius – Good luck! I don’t think you’ll be needing it, though. You are going to do a fantastic job.

  69. new post up looking at the Celtics

  70. For the guy who defended Fisher. 2nd to worst fg % of all starting guards in the NBA. Largest point difference of any point guard in the NBA. Lowest assists per game of any point guard in the NBA. If I could find a stat of Fish in the paint I bet it would be under 15%. My 5-year old is better going to the hoop. He is by far the worst starting point guard offense, defense. These are facts.