With their 108-105 win over the Nuggets on Sunday, the Sixers finished the West Coast part of their six-game road trip with a 3-2 record. It was kind of ironic that the final win was due to the great play of the bench, because it seemed if coach Eddie Jordan had used his bench, and his starters for that matter, better in the Clippers game in Los Angeles, it might have been a 4-1 trip to the other side of the country.
Jordan's rotations have been puzzling all year, to say the least. He'll get key contributions from subs one night, then be reluctant to use them the next. He often talks about matchups being his reasoning, but why not look to make matchup problems for the other team?
Rodney Carney is the perfect example. He is one of the best athletes on the team, with very good defensive skills. He can take the ball to the basket and has shown an ability to shoot from the outside. Rarely has he given bad minutes. And he always seems to make something happen. For a team that hasn't had a lot of excitement this year, Carney would seem to be a good remedy, to start.
Jordan has to find some way to floor a team that can score and play defense at the same time. He loves bringing Elton Brand and Marreese Speights off the bench, usually at the expense of Sam Dalembert. Say what you want about Dalembert, but the team is vastly better on the defensive end when he's in the game. He certainly still commits bad fouls, and too many of them, but there's no denying his presence on the defennsive end.
After the team beat Portland and Sacramento, there was a feeling like they had found some kind of comfort, some kind of confidence. A lot of it had to do with stability - Brand and Speights gave great minutes off the bench, Dalembert supplying defense, Allen Iverson supplying the calming influence (hard to believe I wrote that, but it is so true), Andre Iguodala doing everything well. And yes, good bench play from an unexpected sort - Carney one night, Royal Ivey another. It seemed so simple, and it was successful.
Then against the Clippers, it seemed Jordan thought too much. He took Dalembert out after a great defensive first quarter against Chris Kaman. He found no need to use Carney. When the Clippers started to pull away from the Sixers, it was so obvious that the ball needed to get into Iverson's hands. He can still get a good shot almost whenever he wants, or at least get to the foul line. But as the Clippers' lead grew to 6, 8 and more, Iverson didn't get a touch.
No doubt this start by the team has Jordan's head spinning. But maybe simple is better. Keep the substitutions the same for a while and let it play out. Stop worrying about matching up with the other team and worry about them matching you for a while. See how that goes. It seemed to work a little bit on the West.