THE 76ERS have struggled offensively in almost every one of the 22 games they've played so far this season. Quite often their defense has been able to bail them out, but sometimes the offensive deficiencies are too monumental to overcome.
Such was the case Wednesday against the visiting Chicago Bulls, a 96-89 loss. The Sixers couldn't run, scoring just 11 fastbreak points; they couldn't get many open three-point shots, as evident by their 2-for-14 numbers; and they didn't get to the foul line, making just five of their 11 attempts, compared to 24-for-26 by the Bulls.
And many times when things are bad, they only get worse. That might be the case with point guard and leading scorer Jrue Holiday, who missed Thursday's practice due to a sprained left foot. X-rays were negative and an MRI confirmed the sprain. He is listed as a game-time decision when the team plays Friday at Indianapolis. Coach Doug Collins said Holiday woke up with his foot hurting. Surprisingly, it wasn't his shooting arm that was sore, even though Holiday launched 28 shots Wednesday.
"Chicago is a very good defensive team," said Collins, whose team is 12-10. "It could have been their game plan that they were going to make Jrue take all those shots and try to take everybody [else] out. If you look at it, we played a game there late last year, and I think Jrue had 30 and he took about 25 or 26 shots. It might be a part of the game plan that when we play them to make him be a big scorer and try to take our three-point shooters out of it, not let J-Rich [Jason Richardson] or those guys get any shots. Sometimes it's a product of game plan."
Perhaps that was the plan of coach Tom Thibodeau. But playing against a team that didn't arrive in Philadelphia until 4:30 a.m. because of a late game the previous night in Chicago, the Sixers certainly should have been able to find some ways to score. Collins spent the game on the sideline constantly giving his team the circular hand motion, as if to say "Speed things up."
"We've tried to put in a little bit of an offense where we want to push the ball to an open side and see what's there," Collins said. "And if we don't have it we now have offensive possibilities or options to play out of it. The quicker we get it up the floor the more time you have to run your offense. If you get to start running your offense at 18 [seconds on shot clock] as opposed to 13, that 5 seconds is huge because now you don't have to take so many shots at the end of the clock.
"I'd like to get us pushing the ball down the floor, looking for our early offense, and if we don't have it, get into the options that we have. That's just one thing. I don't want to play halfcourt, that's not our strength because we don't have a post-game and it's hard to play in the halfcourt without a post-game. We like transition, we like early offense, we like drags, quick swings of the ball. We're a much better quick-hitting team than we are a team that runs a lot of continuity."
The coach continued: "The Bulls, they cut real hard and they have a really, really good passer in [Joakim] Noah and they have great cutters. They've got guys that they slash into the post. We have to play more quick-hitting kind of stuff. The quicker you get into it, the more if they chase you off the first option you maybe get to the second side and then maybe even back to the other side [again]. Now the defense has got to be moving twice. We're still learning that. We're not a great executing team. We've got to get better."
Backup point guard Royal Ivey didn't make the trip to Indianapolis as he is suffering from strep throat. Damien Wilkins, out the past two games with a right calf strain, is a game time decision.