Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Give Me More Holiday Time

No, I'm not talking about more paid holiday days off at work (though that would be tits). I'm talking about more time for Sixers rookie point guard Jrue Holiday.

Admittedly, I haven't watched much Sixers basketball thus far this season. Blame it on the Phillies. But last night, I watched the game against Phoenix from start to finish, and in my opinion, the Sixers lost that game because Eddie Jordan didn't let his first-round pick play enough. In the first half, the Sixers built a lead that reached as high as 16 points by beating the Suns at their own game … scoring early and often, especially in transition. And a big key to building what ended up as a 12-point halftime lead was the play of the Sixers second unit, manned by Marreese Speights, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Rodney Carney and Jrue Holiday.

Speights has been a beast in just about every game here in the early going, and he was again last night: 8-13 from the field, 4-5 from the line, eight boards, 20 points. It was particularly interesting seeing him match up against Amare Stoudemire, because the more we see of Speights, the more his game resembles that of Amare. He is becoming an offensive force who is explosive and quick, plus he has a more reliable jumper than even Amare has. And just like the Suns power forward, he is suspect defensively, but at times shows some flair, particularly at blocking shots. Perhaps the Sixers found themselves a gem last year, the new Amare. That would be nice.

But the player that really stood out for me last night was Holiday. Against one of the most explosive teams in the league, Holiday looked mature beyond his 19 years. He showed his defensive prowess, especially on an insane steal (30 seconds in) on Goran Dragic and dish to Speights for the slam:

His superb defense is no surprise, however. That's what his M.O. was coming out of UCLA after his freshman year — a great on-the-ball perimeter defender who was still a bit raw offensively, especially playing out of position at the 2 most of last season. But last night, he showcased his offensive ability, proving his potential is certainly unlimited. In just 15 minutes of action, he went 3 of 5 from the field, including 2 of 3 from beyond, for 8 points. And he added three boards, two assists and two steals while only turning it over once. When he was on the floor, the Sixers outscored the potent Suns by 11.

Which brings me back to the headline. Unsurprisingly, the explosive Suns came out firing and on fire to begin the second half. They outscored Philadelphia by 10 in the quarter, all but erasing the once double-digit lead for the Sixers. And it continued in the fourth, as the Suns took the lead with minutes left and held on for the 119-115 come-from-behind win. The comeback was led by Steve Nash, one of the best point guards on the planet, who was continually abusing Louis Williams. I mean taking him out back, beating him to a pulp and then doing it all over again in the front yard. Lou Will, never known for his defense, got lit up to the tune of 21 points and 20 assists by Nash. Williams was a -14 on the night.

There is absolutely no reason, given the way he was playing and his far superior defensive ability, that Holiday shouldn't have gotten more run in the second half, if for no other reason than to slow down Nash. Seriously, Nash was running circles around Lou, having a field day. That one-on-one matchup was easily the biggest reason Phoenix came out victorious and the Sixers wound up losing a game they had led virtually the entire way. Holiday should have gotten the chance to go at Nash, to put pressure on him defensively and make him work much harder for his shots and assists than Lou Will did.

Maybe Eddie didn't want to overexpose his rookie, but the way he was playing, he seemed ready for the challenge. And he certainly couldn't have done any worse than Williams did. It was almost as if Nash was playing like no one was guarding him, or at best, like a 4th-grader trying to cover a 6th-grader. That never went well at recess. In the very least, Jrue should have certainly gotten more than just 15:10 of playing time. He earned more than that, and Lou certainly wasn't playing well enough to warrant his staying on the floor for the 33 minutes he got.

The Sixers have the makings of a team that will be able to put up points and run the floor with regularity. What they're lacking is defense, especially on the perimeter. That's evident by Phoenix's 15-30 from three, and Nash's 20 assists. Holiday is the one Sixer who has the size, strength and speed to cause opposing point guards problems. He's easily the most talented defender they have at the one. It's time to unleash him.

Give us more Holiday time, Eddie. It's in everyone's best interest.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. Lou has been playing great offense to make up for his defense this season, but last night that didnt happen. But for some reason, Lou was still on Nash when him and Jrue were both in the backcourt. Brand shouldve played a little more I think, but he doesnt fit into that tempo game admittedly. Eddie Jordan is not making me happy so far.

    I pretty much expected the Sixers to blow it every second of the game. Its so disappointing after getting to watch the Phillies for 7 months. And the Flyers arent much better either. Im just waiting for the college season to start.

  2. See, I disagree with you there about the Flyers. Now that Betts is back and making a difference, and the defense is getting better, I know they'll be fine. Faceoffs need to improve drastically, but I like this Flyers team.

    And I agree with you about Eddie thus far, but it's a little too early I think to really judge everything. The Sixers played awfully well in the first half, but there's gotta be a point where you simply say enough is enough with Lou guarding Nash. It wasn't working. Good coaches adjust and Eddie didn't, so maybe you are on to something. Definitely will have my eye for that. And yeah, Brand could have seen the floor more, but damn, Speights is playing well. Hard to argue giving him some of Brand's minutes.

  3. I am hopin the Phils get some Halladay time next season!