Doc Rivers Doubles Down on DeAndre Jordan Despite Awful Game 1 Performance

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Joel Embiid-less center minutes for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their second round series against the Miami Heat were an adventure to say the least.

DeAndre Jordan received the start, much to the chagrin of practically everyone in the Delaware Valley, and the results were incredibly poor right from the jump. Miami big man Bam Adebayo got off to a raging start, scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds in the first quarter with most of the damage coming against Jordan.

Jordan is too slow footed to play adequate defense at this stage of his career, especially in the playoffs. The play above, with Jordan caught standing and turning to watch Adebayo finish an alley-oop, is a perfect encapsulation of his defensive liabilities.

The Jordan minutes truly proved to be a disaster on both ends of the floor. He finished as a minus-22 in 17 minutes, failing to do a single thing well out on the floor. However, head coach Doc Rivers after the loss in Game 1 doubled down on Jordan heading into Game 2 on Wednesday:

We just felt like, we talked to our guys. They wanted a big guy, a big roller, I thought the second half that’s how he has to play every night. Those first four or five minutes were great from him, that’s what we need. We also love Paul [Reed], but we don’t need Paul in foul trouble, and that’s why you don’t want to start him. We like DJ [DeAndre Jordan], we’re going to keep starting him whether you like it or not. That’s what we’re going to do because our guys believe in him. It’s funny, at halftime, we asked all our key guys, we were thinking about it, because I thought Paul Millsap gave us decent minutes, and to a man that’s where they wanted to go.

The notion from Rivers that Jordan was the team's best option at center at any point in Game 1 can be easily disproven by both the numbers and the eye test. Jordan, in a season full of bad performances, put together one of his worst games of the season. He had no positive impact on the game and the numbers bear that out.

The Sixers do have some better options for the center minutes with Embiid unavailable due to injury. Paul Reed, who received the entirety of the backup center minutes in the first round series against the Toronto Raptors, has the ability to defend multiple positions and plays with a ton of energy.

The numbers between Reed and Jordan were not close in Game 1. Jordan finished with four points, two rebounds, two blocks and two turnovers in 17 minutes. Reed finished with four points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and five fouls in 13 minutes. He brings so many more positive things to the table than Jordan. The pair of defensive plays shown below both involve quickness and an ability to switch onto multiple defenders, two things Jordan does not have.

While Reed is both a solid rebounder and versatile defender, he is still very raw as a player. He committed five fouls in just 13 minutes. His aggressiveness and chaotic style of play can be effective when toned down, something he has struggled to do thus far in his young career.

"It’s hard, man," Reed said. "It’s hard. I’m an aggressive player, so I go out there, I give 125 percent, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out for me, like tonight. One thing I’ve got to learn is to sometimes let them score. But it’s hard. It’s pride. I don’t want to be letting anybody score. That’s one thing I’ve got to do better next game, and that’s something I will do better, for sure."

The Sixers also utilized a small-ball lineup for short spurts in Game 1. The small-ball lineup worked late in the first half. Reed, baited into the air by a nice pump fake from Miami veteran Jimmy Butler, picked up his third foul with 4:39 remaining in the second quarter. Georges Niang came into the game for Reed and played center. Over the final 4:39 of the half, the Sixers outscored Miami 10-2. The introduction of the Sixers' small-ball lineup was a success, although Rivers inexplicably did not go to it in the second half until garbage time.

The Sixers' small-ball lineup was mostly effective in Game 1 despite Niang failing to provide anything on the offensive end of the floor. He went scoreless and missed all seven of his attempts from three-point range. The small-ball lineup presented a new wrinkle to Miami, but they will undoubtedly make some adjustments against it to limit its effectiveness moving forward.

Despite the solid play from both Reed and the small-ball lineup, the Sixers were thoroughly destroyed on the glass. Miami won the rebounding battle, grabbing 47 rebounds to the Sixers' 37. On the offensive glass, Miami grabbed 15 offensive rebounds leading to 18 second-chance points. Reed did a good job rebounding overall, but the Heat blitzed him on the glass on this possession midway through the third quarter:

There is no perfect option to replace Embiid, a finalist for MVP this season. However, it should not begin with putting Jordan out on the floor. The combination of Reed and small-ball lineups (preferably with the addition of Charles Bassey to the rotation) should be the only things the Sixers rely on at center until Embiid is able to return from an orbital fracture and concussion.

If Rivers follows through on his post-game comments after Game 1 and gives Jordan significant minutes in Game 2, the Sixers will likely be heading into Game 3 down 2-0 in the series. Game 2 is on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.