X's & O's: Sixers Analyst Bob Salmi breaks down Philly's Game 1 Victory over the Pistons

A Shift in the 76ers Lineup Pays Big Dividends

I think Maurice Cheeks deserves a lot of credit for the Sixers winning Game 1. He shuffled the lineup, starting Thaddeus Young in his first playoff game, and put him out on the floor to match up with Antonio McDyess. Maurice was willing to trade off the possibility of Detroit offensive rebounding the ball, which they did quite well ending up with 20 offensive rebounds for the game, for some of Thaddeus’ energy in the open floor. In his first playoff, he proceeded to go 5-for-8, score 10 points and he was the guy who got it done early for the 76ers. And Reggie Evans contributed when he came in late through his energy, rebounding and big plays down the stretch. By starting Young it shifted the lineup, moving Dalembert to guard Rasheed Wallace. Letting Thaddeus start and guard Antonio McDyess was a big risk for Maurice Cheeks to take but it paid off.

Maybe the lineup change surprised Detroit. It is something that Maurice Cheeks has toyed with all season and for the most part it has been based on the size of the other power forward. If it was a bruising power forward like an Antonio McDyess, a guy who can offensive rebound the ball, then Maurice Cheeks had for the most part gone with Reggie Evans to start. If they were matched up against a team that went small, then Thaddeus would get the nod. But I think Maurice Cheeks wanted to run and that’s the Sixers best chance for success, when they’re out in the open floor and they’re running. To get 16 fastbreak points, which is a little below their season average, in a playoff game, that says a lot about Maurice Cheeks lineups and this team’s ability to get out in the open floor against a team that does a pretty good job of transition defense.

Cheeks’ Confidence in the Sixers’ Youth

Going back to Cheeks, I could name 25 head coaches that would have pulled some of the young players in the game when they had made some mistakes. Coaches say they want to let people make mistakes, they want to let them grow, but in playoff settings it’s rare to see a coach like Maurice Cheeks allow a young player like Lou Williams to make some careless errors and keep him in the game, even down the stretch. But again that faith was re-paid as Lou Williams made a big shot down the stretch. Cheeks has said all along that he trusts his young players and he has demonstrated just that by leaving them in, allowing them to make mistakes, and allowing them to grow in a playoff setting.

A Combination of Good Play and Good Fortune for the Sixers

Detroit talked about missing a lot of easy shots following the game. There must have been something about that basket because the Sixers missed five or six layups on that same basket in the first half. Both teams missed open shots, and I’m sure both teams are upset by that, but there’s no question in my mind that the 76ers energy, Reggie Evans and Andre Miller in particular, allowed them to take the game from the Pistons. They made it happen.

The Tireless Reggie Evans

Maurice Cheeks is debating whether or not to put in a new play. I think he is going to call it “30 special” where Reggie Evans gets the ball at the top of the floor and he does a little one-on-one spin move and knocks down an 18-foot jumpshot. I don’t know if that is going to actually be in the playbook, but when it’s going for you, why not? The shot clock was winding down, Reggie Evans is not a great perimeter shooter, but really had it going on. He had the confidence to shoot that, knew the clock was winding down and knocked it down. But aside from that jump shot, his energy on the boards was tremendous. If you were unemployed and had to go to the unemployment office and the only job left was to block out Reggie Evans, I would ask for another job. He is relentless on the offensive boards. He is an impossible block out, doesn’t take no for an answer, and his energy in the second half was huge in bringing the Sixers back from 15 down.

The Leadership of Andre Miller

He is having a career year this season. During this series he is matched up with one of the best point guards in the league in Chauncey Billups, but the best in the game seem to bring out the best in Andre Miller’s game. Every time he matches up against a good point guard, he’s been able to deliver this season. He matched up with Steve Nash and played well in a nice win on the road in Phoenix and now in the first round of the playoffs matched up against Chauncey Billups he had a great second half and made some big plays down the stretch for the Sixers.

The Pistons’ Defense on Andre Iguodala

It’s not a secret that the Pistons know that so goes Iguodala, so go the Sixers. As a result, they geared their defense to shut him down and match up Tayshaun Prince on him. He’s got the length and quickness to stay on Andre and affect his perimeter shots. At the same time every time he got by Prince, there were two and sometimes three defenders coming at him so Andre had to make some plays for his teammates and he had eight assists in the game. As much as he struggled from the floor shooting 4-for-15, he was able to find teammates when that weakside rotation came to stop him at the rim.

Take Notice, Rookies

think Cheeks’ handling of his young players is great for the NBA. Other young rookies throughout the league watching are saying, You know what, maybe I can do that too, maybe we can sneak into the playoffs. I know first year guys who are watching Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams and saying, Wow, I want a taste of that.

What to Look for in Game 2

There is that old cliché in the playoffs that says an NBA playoff series doesn’t get started until somebody loses at home. Well guess what, it’s on and the Pistons are going to bring their A-game on Wednesday night. There’s no question that the 76ers had better batten down the hatches because the Detroit effort on Wednesday will be high end. You look at the boxscore in particular of the Pistons starters, and they went 24-for-69 and shot 35 percent. I don’t think that is going to happen again in Game 2. The Sixers are going to have to brace themselves. Maurice Cheeks is going to have to come up with some ideas, look at some of the pluses and minuses of how his team played and take a look at whether or not giving up 20 offensive rebounds was worth it or if he can do that again in Game 2. It’s a chess match that starts now, especially when a team loses a home game as the Pistons did. They’re going to come up with some ideas and look at some matchups and switch things around to get them back to being able to score the ball the way they have all season.

Bob Salmi joins the 76ers broadcast team as the full-time analyst, providing insight to the game while working courtside with Sixers play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff. Salmi has an extensive television and basketball background, including his work as an analyst on Comcast SportsNet’s Sixers Post Game Live and more than 500 NBA telecasts during his career.

A graduate of Florida Southern College where he played for three seasons, Salmi continued his career in basketball as an assistant coach at Kings College (Pa.) and Muhlenberg College before joining the NBA ranks. Salmi spent two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers (1987-89) as the team’s video coordinator and shooting coach, working under head coaches Matt Guokas and Jim Lynam. Salmi went on to work with the coaching staffs of the New York Knicks for five seasons (1989-95) working with Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, Don Nelson and Jeff Van Gundy. He also had a stint as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks during the 1996-97 season, as head coach of the CBA’s Rockford Lightning (2001-02) and as an advanced scout with the Washington Wizards (2001-03).

Salmi continued his career as an analyst for NBA game broadcasts and has been awarded two Emmys for his work as NBC’s “Coach in the Truck.” This ground-breaking program utilized Salmi’s coaching background in the production of the game to bring that unique experience to the viewer. He has served as an analyst for Comcast SportsNet, ESPN and NBC, working alongside personalities such as Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Doug Collins, Mike Breen, Al Michaels and Bill Walton. Salmi’s broadcast experience has given the opportunity to work as part of the production team for every NBA Finals since 1997.

Salmi currently resides in Bryn Mawr, Pa., with his wife Erin and two children: Bradley and Alexandra.