A Bust? Evan Turner Delivers
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A Bust? Evan Turner Delivers
The best moment of last night's game was when Evan Turner threw down a dunk on a fastbreak. You probably remember the play, a toss out from Jrue Holiday and Turner checked over his left shoulder for LeBron James and then tossed in a two-handed slam in the open court. What was great about that play was Turner's reaction in the moment afterwards. You might have caught it, you might have missed it. Turner was on the rim, hanging for a split second, when LeBron cut slightly underneath him to grab the ball and take it out of bounds. LeBron's shoulder caught one of Turner's legs as he was coming down and it threw Turner, just a little bit, off balance. When Turner landed, he turned and looked at LeBron, tilting his head and raising his arms with a definite look of: What's that about? You're going to run under me on a dunk? Immediately, Turner let the look dissipate, probably because he saw that LeBron did not intend to run under him, perhaps because he instantly remembered who he was messing with.
It was only one second, but it reminded you that Evan Turner is legitimate. His swagger was, finally, on display last night. For 76ers fans who left the arena, or watched on TV, the best takeaway was Turner's performance. He played unlike anything we've seen through a month of preseason. It's too early to expect Turner to play like that every night, but there it was, against Dwyane Wade and LeBron, and you know it's in there and at some point down the line it might be there every night. The confidence, the ability to create, the effort on defense, the talent to get a shot -- and a good shot -- almost whenever he wants one.
If nothing else going forward, you can watch the Sixers just to see how Turner will play.
Here were a few other takeaways from last night:
*Jrue Holiday looked bad. There just isn't another way to put this: He was just really bad. Holiday didn't play well during the preseason, except for one really good game at the Toronto Raptors, but because he gained some experience last season there was an assumption that the preseason would matter little to Holiday's game. Guess that was a wrong assessment. At the start of the third quarter, Holiday didn't even look like he belonged on the court. His performance was made even worse when compared to Turner's. And it becomes especially glaring when, realistically, you consider that the two of them play the same position. (Although the Sixers would like to believe they can co-exist, which would be the dream-like scenario if it could happen.)
Couple Holiday with center Spencer Hawes, and the Sixers' starting lineup had two massive holes in it. When the game was being decided, through the third quarter, neither Holiday or Hawes had scored. And Holiday had five turnovers. Perhaps because it's the first game of the season, and because it's too early to truly lament the on-court absence of Samuel Dalembert (think you'd ever hear that?), the one good thing about Hawes is his passing ability. He did have a few nice dishes in the halfcourt, which is helpful for opening up the lanes. But other than that, he was basically non-existent. Which leads to the next point:
*The starting lineup did not look good enough. They make the team's second unit look like All-Stars, that's how unproductive the starters were last night and have been throughout the preseason. It's nice to have Turner, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Andres Nocioni, and Marreese Speights scoring bunches of points off the bench, but what is that going to matter if the score is 80-54?
Realistically, though, there isn't a clear-cut answer to the problem. Doug Collins' starting unit makes a lot of sense, especially plugging Kapono into the lineup to spread the floor. A huge difference in last night's game was that Miami's shooter, James Jones, made all of his shots, while Kapono didn't. Don't expect to see the starting lineup change anytime soon. Against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, it'll still be Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Kapono, Elton Brand, and Hawes. Collins is going to have to trust that Holiday's game is much better than he showed, because if Holiday starts playing like we think he's capable, he'll provide the punch that was missing last night.
*Accountability. After the game, Brand said something that rang true; he said that Collins will put guys out there until he finds a unit that's willing to play hard for him. That's what he did all game on Wednesday night, just kept figuring out who would give him what he needed. Collins was willing to play Holiday limited minutes because Holiday wasn't doing what he needed. Collins isn't caught up in what Speights might be able to do on the offensive end, he read his body language and impact and he gave those minutes instead to Nocioni. Which was the right thing to do.
Friday's game against the Atlanta Hawks should be a more accurate reflection of where the Sixers are right now. Playing the Heat, who are in a strange place themselves at the moment, it was impossible to compare. Are the Heat monsters of the Eastern Conference right now, or a newly-assembled team trying to figure out how to play together? Did the Sixers lose by 10 to the best team in the NBA, or a team that, right now, would be beaten by any number of more-cohesive units. Atlanta is a little bit more stable and should provide a better barometer for how good the Sixers are at this early stage.
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