Every game the 76ers play seems to create more questions. Tonight against the Miami Heat, the Sixers played hard, they played pretty well, and they lost. It's tough to praise them too much for a solid effort, considering every NBA is jazzed to play the Heat, especially in South Beach and in front of a sold-out crowd. It's not quite the same thing as coming out scrappy at the Charlotte Bobcats on the second night of a back-to-back. But, nonetheless, the Sixers did everything they could to win the ball game, they just didn't win the ball game, which is sort of the season's theme.
The complaint in the final quarter of tonight's 99-90 loss was the officiating that went against the Sixers and went for Miami stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Basically the only statistical category (outside of the actual score) that the Sixers did not tie or win was free throw shooting. The Sixers went 12 for 21, the Heat went 23 for 29. Now, as written in the game story, if you're going to discuss the difference in allotted free throws as the reason for the loss, it's only fair to point out that the Heat were awarded eight more free throws than the Sixers, not quite enough to cover the final margin. And if you're going to consider the officiating as a reason for the outcome, shooting less than 60 percent on your own attempts hinders the strength of the argument. Making superstar calls is not a fresh idea in the NBA and we could debate at length whether it's deserved or not deserved -- kind of depends on whether or not the team you root for has the superstar.
Back to the question created by tonight's game. In past games, we've left wondering what Andre Iguodala's impact on the team's effectiveness actually is (see the victory over the New York Knicks), and we've left wondering what Doug Collins should do with the team's starting center position. (Among other questions created.) Tonight, the question revolves around Jodie Meeks.
Collins put him into the game with just under 9 minutes left in the second quarter. Meeks played the rest of the quarter, scored 18 points, went 4 for 4 from beyond the arc, and basically kept the Sixers in the game. In the second half, Meeks didn't come back into the game until the end of the third quarter. He made his first three pointer, swirled his second, and didn't score again. He finished with 21 points.
At halftime, sitting there waiting for the third quarter, I was definitely wondering whether Collins would start Meeks in the second half. There seems to be an unwritten rule in the NBA that, unless something drastic happens (more drastic than scoring 18 points), the unit that starts the game also starts the second half. So although I wondered whether Collins would make the move -- especially given Evan Turner's non-existent stat line -- the prevailing conclusion was that Meeks would not start the third quarter. And he didn't.
But the big issue in deciding about Meeks is answering this question: Do you believe he is a streaky shooter who can give the Sixers big nights when he gets hot -- and nothing more? Or do you believe he should be given a chance as the team's starting shooting guard?
Considering the team is 3-13, there really shouldn't be a set lineup or a set rotation. Clearly, nothing is working. Sometimes Lou Williams is scoring 18 points off the bench, sometimes he's 1 for 7 and rather unhelpful. Sometimes Turner looks solid and near a double-double, other times he looks like a bust. So although posing the question about Meeks might reek of desperation (Meeks as your starting shooting guard? A guy that spent most of the season deactivated?), the truth is it probably is desperate.
But of all the guys on this team, he's the only one who moves on the floor like a shooter. He drifts to open areas, he finds the creases, he works well off screens, he's smart about his placement on the floor. On one play tonight, Lou was running a fastbreak and he had Meeks running the right lane with him. Instead of angling into the rim for a bounce pass, Meeks slowed down, let the defense pass, and drifted a little behind Lou for the open transition three. Nevermind that Lou didn't initially understand what Meeks was doing (for some reason Lou thought Meeks should have slashed to the hole, which shows a worrisome lack of knowledge of a teammate's preferences), the play ended in an open three pointer -- and a made three pointer. The only other guy who can do that is Jason Kapono, but Meeks is a stronger defender and can do other things on the floor. So do you give him a shot?
Early flight in the morning, have to get some sleep,
Each week, Kate will check in from the road and answer fan questions about the Sixers. Click here to ask Kate a question or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.