76ers fans will not only have a chance to see their team for the first time this season, they'll also get a chance to see the much-talked-about backcourt of second-year point guard Jrue Holiday and rookie shooting guard, Evan Turner. Tonight will be the second consecutive game that Sixers coach Doug Collins starts Holiday & Turner, and also the second consecutive game that center Spencer Hawes will miss with a lower back strain. The lineup will likely be small: Holiday, Turner, Iguodala, Young, and Brand.
There should be a video embedded in this post of Collins talking about specifically how he needs Holiday and Turner to play together.
There are other interesting items to watch during tonight's game -- mostly how the Sixers manage inside the paint with Brand, 6-foot-8, as the starting center against Jermaine O'Neal -- but let's focus on just one: Holiday & Turner.
We've killed a lot of blogging space talking about the play of Holiday (a Top 5 PG in the NBA?) and Turner (can he be a shooting guard?), but now it's time for everyone else to begin forming their opinions. What follows are a few insights to help tonight's viewing: Sixers vs. Boston Celtics, 7 p.m., CSN.
1.) First, let's look at Holiday. This preseason has not been kind to the team's future star. He's averaging 8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists a game in 29.7 minutes a game. He's also shooting 29 percent from the floor and averaging 5.0 turnovers a game, which is about triple the next highest (among those playing steady minutes). Big man Marreese Speights is next, averaging 1.7 turnovers a game. A lot of Holiday's problems can be chalked up to unsteady offensive philosophy. That's no mystery ... anytime Holiday is over-dribbling outside, waiting for a play to get set, his game is carrying a heavy load. You'll probably see some of that tonight: thinking a guy is going to curl, but he fades, or misreading where a cut might go. You can see turnovers like that dwindling as the regular season begins. No problem.
But something to also keep an eye on is Holiday's offensive effectiveness during reaction, breakdown plays, and his decisions in transition, which shouldn't be affected by the offensive sets. Maybe it's impossible to separate his issues, though. Perhaps he's struggling in all facets of his game because he's not yet set in the offense, as if the upheaval is all-around rattling. Two of Holiday's plays standout from the last preseason game: first, early in the game, he split the defense on a pick-and-roll, got into the lane, and finished with an and-one off the glass. He made the free throw. Right after this play, I turned to one of the scouts sitting near us and raised my eyebrows. In response, the guy nodded. It's clear very few guys could make this play. A little later in the half, Holiday was running a break, pushing the ball down the left side of the floor with either Andre Iguodala or Thaddeus Young filling the right lane. A two-on-one, which should have ended in a layup. Nets' center Brook Lopez was the lone defender. Holiday dribbled well past the left wing and then -- in a pretty egregious error in judgement -- tossed a soft alley-oop lob towards his filling teammate. Lopez barely had to jump while spiking down the pass.
Tonight, Sixers fans will get a first viewing of this season's Holiday, who is no longer the rookie everyone wishes would get more time, but the starting point guard expected to blossom into something big.
2.) Next, Turner. Against the Nets on Saturday, Turner looked pretty good. Through three games, he's averaging 10.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 turnovers in 30.3 minutes a game. The biggest concern in those numbers is that Turner is shooting 25.0 percent from the field (6 for 24). What to watch? A couple of things. First, Turner has gotten 20 of his 32 points off the foul line. And he's not getting fouled in transition, or after making a dive cut and collecting the pass, or off an offensive rebound. Turner is getting fouled by dominating the ball, faking, crossing over, spinning, and leaning into his defender. It's interesting to watch how he gets himself into the game -- it's not selfish -- it's just heavy with the ball. Second, keep an eye on Turner's ability off the ball. He's been doing better lately, actually shaking his defender a few times a game, but often he seems slow in his curls and cutting decisions. Specifically, when Holiday is running the point, Turner will run the cluster set on the low block, and he'll often be the first cutter off of it -- and very rarely does anything come of it.
3.) Finally, Holiday & Turner together. Will they split time with the ball? Which player will first prove himself more effective off the ball? So far, neither seems all that great without it, so it seems to make more sense to pair each with a guy like Iguodala or Jodie Meeks or Jason Kapono, all guys who only need the ball for a second in order to score. The positive thing coming from the most recent preseason game, which also featured a Holiday/Turner backcourt, was the unit's ability in transition.
But that was the Nets. And tonight, these are the Celtics.