The last few 76ers games have shown us that the absence of Andrew Bynum isn’t necessarily the difference-maker this season; the team is lost with Jrue Holiday. Holiday, who suffered a foot sprain foot during last Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, has been sorely missed. Since the loss to the Bulls, the 76ers have lost four consecutive games to the Indiana Pacers, the dismal Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks and last night’s loss to the Houston Rockets. Not only did they lose, they lost winnable games. The Lakers have been a mess, the Pacers are nothing to write home about, and the Mavs are playing without their star Dirk Nowitzki. For all the talk this year of Bynum being the most important piece of the fragile 76ers puzzle, it seems apparent that it’s actually Holiday’s presence (or lack thereof) that affects the team the most.
So let’s break it down.
Without Holiday, Evan Turner has taken over the role of handling the ball for the team. While Turner has really started to reach his stride this season after somewhat of a slow start, he and Jrue are astronomically different players, and it has showed. First of all, Evan is much more of a formidable guard when he’s being fed; he is not necessarily capable of creating plays. This was evidenced in the loss to the Lakers. The 76ers had a relatively high shooting percentage, but most of their shots were made by isolation. Each player seemed to be picking up the slack of the missing Holiday, and the resulting play looked highly improvised and almost arduous. Turner managed 16 points but only 6 assists which, while being good for him, is not enough to fill in for what Holiday does. The biggest beneficiary of Turner’s assists was Nick Young however, who ended up with 30 points on the board in the 111-98 loss to a struggling Los Angeles team.
If anything, the loss of Holiday has shown that Evan Turner can be really great on defense. But that’s not where he was needed while filling in at the point guard position. For example, in the loss to Indiana, he managed to rack up 10 rebounds but only 5 assists. He did manage to score 22 points, but once again the team was playing an isolation game. Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young managed to hit a few threes, but it was like five men on the court playing random positions, not the tight, organized game that follows with Jrue at the lead.
The reason Holiday is so important is because of the way he plays like almost a hybrid guard, not necessarily a pure point guard. While I’ve constructively criticized him for this before, with him out of the game I now see where and why that type of play works so well for the 76ers. This team is not a team full of All-Stars, and quite frankly still looks somewhat green. When Holiday is in at point guard, he is astute enough to set up the big plays, and if that can’t happen, he picks up the slack and handles it himself. The rest of the team is not good at getting around defenders, and it shows in the lack of time they’ve spent at the foul line this year. Furthermore, Jrue’s passing far surpasses pretty much anyone else on the team, as it unequivocally should, but was insurmountably highlighted in the type of single-man play that has been the majority with him out.
Basically, the Sixers need Jrue Holiday. He’s the star name and the star player on the team. Although he’s not as big a name as Bynum, the Sixers have won without Bynum; they haven’t managed to win without Jrue. So it’s a good thing they handled that contract with him earlier this year, because he is clearly the glue that is holding the Sixers together. While it is not certain when Jrue will return, it will hopefully be within the week. He has stated that his foot is feeling a lot better, but Doug Collins, understandably, wants to be careful with it. So for now we will just have to wait and see.Tags: Doug Collins, Evan Turner, injury, Jrue Holiday, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young