Thursday's loss to FC Barcelona showed the Sixers where work must still be done.
by John Schuhmann
Sixers-FC Barcelona Highlights
BARCELONA, Oct. 5
Navarro and the Barca shooters were left alone often.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
-- You could draw a parallel from the Sixers loss to Winterthur FC Barcelona to the United States' loss to Greece in the semifinals of this summers' World Championships. In both cases, the American team did not play their game and allowed the opponent to play theirs.
For the Sixers, they allowed Barca to move the ball freely around the perimeter until they found the open man, who, when it counted, hit the shot. The Barcelona guards got open off screens and then used dribble penetration to break down the Philly defense. Fairly simple basketball, but not what Mo Cheeks and his team are used to seeing.
"I just thought their offense gave us a little trouble," Cheeks said, "because we're used to playing the typical NBA offense, and their offense was moving, cutting and screening."
Basketball is basketball though, and the Sixers could have done a much better job of keeping Barca from rotating the ball to the open shooter so easily. An important concept, especially when the whole team can shoot.
"They had a lot of guys that could shoot the ball," Cheeks remarked after the game.
Namely, Michail Kakiouzis, the 6-9 power forward from Greece, who hit 3-of-4 from downtown, including 2-of-2 in the final period. Barca's star guard, Juan Carlos Navarro was just 2-of-8 from downtown, but he hit one of the biggest shots in the game, a three with less than two minutes to go to give the home team a five-point lead.
On the next possession, Gianluca Basile hit a three and drew a foul to blow the roof off Palau Sant Jordi arena (with a capacity crowd of 16,236) and put the Sixers away.
As a team, Barcelona hit 10-of-24 from beyond the arc (which was 39 inches deeper than they're used to), a .417 clip.
Iverson did not have much room to operate.
David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images
But perimeter defense was not the only problem tonight for the Sixers. Free throw shooting and turnovers were as well.
The team shot just 26-of-48 from the line, a paltry .542. Allen Iverson did his job by getting to the stripe for 13 attempts, but converted on just seven of them. Samuel Dalembert was 5-for-9. Willie Green, Ivan McFarlin and Steven Hunter each missed their only two attempts.
Philly also turned the ball over 21 times, almost matching their 23 assists, which is not a good thing. Barcelona double-teamed Iverson often, forcing him to get rid of the ball early and put in less capable hands. And he rarely got it back. In 35 minutes, Iverson attempted just 12 shots from the field. More importantly, his teammates couldn't hold onto the rock.
Defending the perimeter. Free throws. Taking care of the ball. The Sixers know that they have a lot of work to do before Nov. 1 ... and that work begins tomorrow back in the practice gym.
Not All the News Was Bad
There were a couple of bright spots for the Sixers.
Barcelona had no answer for Samuel Dalembert. He controlled the paint on both ends, blocking seven shots and affecting several others on D while grabbing six offensive boards (10 total) and scoring 21 points (all in the paint), to lead the team.
"Today, I kinda let the game come to me and I had a feel for it," Dalembert said, "so I went in and did what I had to do."
It's a good sign for a player that struggled much of last season and with his size and athleticism, has a lot of room to grow as a basketball player.
A pair of rookies also had a good showing. Rodney Carney, the No. 16 pick in the 2006 Draft, gave Cheeks 19 solid minutes off the bench, specifically on the defensive end. And Ivan McFarlin, an undrafted free agent looking to earn one of the two open spots on the roster, was active around the hoop, scoring six points and grabbing four boards in less than 13 minutes.
It's just their first preseason game, they're only six days into camp, and playing in a hostile environment like this is far from typical, so it's certainly not time to panic yet.
"Considering it's the first game after five days and we're still getting our touch and playing together," Chris Webber said, "it's definitely not gonna affect our psyche. We know what it is and we give them all the credit for winning today, but we're preparing for an NBA championship."