With just one month of the regular conference season left in this year’s NBA, the attention amongst both fans and those looking to bet on the outcome, is beginning to turn to the play-offs and who might actually win the NBA title. Already the play-off qualification of some teams, including the likes of Miami Heat and the Knicks in the Eastern Conference, and Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs in the Western one, is guaranteed. These are the form sides expected to be in with a serious shout at the title, so which one from the East would a good bet?
The Miami Heat have been in lethal form during the Conference season, winning sixteen games straight, and they are the hot favourites – especially at 6/4 – to take the NBA title. However they have suffered from covering issues in recent matches and this suggests that they aren’t invulnerable. However, although the Knicks are certainly not out of the running, the best bet on them is 22/1, which shows that they could suffer due to injuries. Another team from the Eastern Conference that has to be given serious consideration are the Indiana Pacers, with 20/1 on offer at some sports betting sites, making them a good outside pick.no comments
Sixers couldn't complete what would have been a comeback for the ages against such an elite team and lost 78-84 to the Heat, for a ridiculous 10th consecutive loss in the regular season against Miami.
The "funny" thing about this game is that the Heat won it despite scoring just 27 points in the second half (!): this can be possible when you build a 27-point lead at the break.
It was your typical "Tale of two halves" NBA game: Sixers were the protagonist of the second half, but Miami unfortunately had the final word.
The first two quarters were simply horrible for us: I lost the count of the missed layups and unfinished fastbreaks we had, while after the game I learned that we remained withough a field goal for 7.45 in the second quarter (...).
Defensively, nobody could stop LeBron James (18 on 8/11 at the break), Iguodala had another tough night (in the pic) after having struggled against Granger.
When Mario Chalmers closed the second quarter with a three for the 30-57 I thought it would have even got worse from there on. Only 3 offensive rebounds with 33 missed shots (!!) weren't exactly a great sign of vitality, also, or something to build on.
But I should have known better and these guys proved me wrong once more. (more after the break) no comments
Back-to-back threes by old "enemy" Danhtay Jones and George Hill gave Indiana a 83-75 lead and great momentum that was carried on into the fourth, so that Sixers could never overcome that deficit.
Speaking about Jones, yes, he is the same bum player that already killed the Sixers a couple of times abusing Lou Williams in the low post. Not known for being a three point shooter, though...
Anyway, Sixers fell 111-94 at Indiana after playing one of the worst defensive games of their season.
It may happen, so I'm not going to complain much, especially with a record that still says 25-18 (.581).
Sixers couldn't get a defensive stop all night, and Indiana cruised to what should be considered a quality win, on their part.
But many things went ok for Sixers, starting from the comeback of Spencer Hawes, making his first appearance on the court after February 6th: Sixers' record with him before this game was 12-2, 13-15 without...
Hawes (in the pic) looked ok after such a long break, he was moving well (for his standards I mean, lol), and I think he can only get better.
The offense was ok as well, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner were terrific, combining for 16/20 (!!), same for Brand, whose jumper was finally falling. (more after the break) no comments
And that was your Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers, showing up in the NY matinée.
Five straight losses for the Knicks, three straight wins for the Sixers (25-17, .595).
If you watched the game (94-106), it didn't take much to understand why.
You had basically a team, a real team, facing a "bunch of strangers", as the immortal Larry Brown would say.
"Play the right way" vs "Play like crap", also.
Of course now it would even too easy to make fun of Knicks' superstars (= Melo and Stoudamire), that watched the whole 4th quarter sitting on the bench, or their whole team, loudly and deservedly booed by the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Luckily I am not a Knicks blogger, so I'll (happily) focus on my team.
Sixers played a solid all around game, with the right mix of intense defense and smart, effective, sometimes spectacular offense - at least for the first 39 minutes. (more after the break) no comments
Pesky are the Jazz, by tradition.
A team that never gives up, plays D, plays hard 48 minutes, on every possession, that is able to stay close even when trailing, and tough to put away.
Peskier were the Sixers, that were patient enough to continue playing, minute by minute, and finally make a decisive run against such a competitive opponent.
Final score: 104-91 W over Utah, but it wasn't easy for the Sixers (24-17, .585).
It took quite a lot, basically three quarters of old fashioned, hard basketball, because the Jazz responded every time Sixers tried to make a run.
But the 6-0 little break in the final minute of the third gave us a 78-68 lead that Utah couldn't overcome in the final period.
Not easy, surely not nice either (the pic is a good sample), but these kind of games wins should NOT be underrated, I think, because it's through them that you build a winning mentality, and a winning team.
Other noticeable facts: (after the break) no comments
In the second game as a starter, and coming off a 1-12 shooting night in the loss at Milwaukee, Evan Turner scored a career high 26 points and was by far the best player of the game to lead the Sixers to a memorable 103-71 trouncing of the Celtics.
Nearly twenty minutes of garbage time against a division rival like Boston was exactly what Sixers (23-17, .575) needed to get out of their funk.
The game plan was simple and obvious: run, run, run. Against an old team, in the second night of a back-to-back, coming off a tough overtime win (over Houston) there was nothing else to do. We managed to do it well. And it actually worked.
Sixers wasted no time in pushing the ball, playing uptempo, getting easy points in transition and taking a big lead: 20-11, then 33-17 at the end of the first. That was eventually extended in the second thanks to a 14-0 run that gave us a 49-21, stunning edge at one point in the second, 55-33 at halftime.
Game over, with the Big Three and Rondo soundly outrebounded, outhustled, outplayed: in a word, silenced.
Some interesting facts to highlight in this really enjoyable slaughter. (after the break) no comments
1) the "revamped" Sixers lost at Milwaukee 97-93, falling for the eighth time in the last ten games (22-17, .564). We are now 2-8 in games decided by five points or less. This started as an "issue", then was upgraded to "serious problem", now has reached "nightmare" status, and we wil see why.
2) Elton Brand's inability to finish and overall poor production is more than alarming, and this is hurting the team. Time to state that loud and clear.
3) Evan Turner, inserted into the starting line up for... desperation, I guess, given his latest subpar outings, had one of the worst displays of offensive basketball I've seen in many years, finishing with 1/12 shooting.
I have to elaborate now.
As for the first point, I'd say that one thing is losing a game when, say, Chris Paul hits a tough turnaround fadeway jumper from seventeen feet over Andre Iguodala, or when other great players make great plays down the stretch (for a pretty complete list you might want to check the post below this).
But when it's guys like Drew Gooden, Beno Udrih and Ersan Ilyasova (= two journeymen and a less than average NBA player) to make big plays on both ends of the floor in the final minute, while the best, and only, thing you can do is give the ball to Lou Williams and pray God, well you have a POOR COACHING problem. (more after the break) no comments
In the words of the NBA.com recap:
With the game down to the final precious possessions Chicago and Philadelphia each leaned on its best player.
Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP, saw a crack in the defense, went left-to-right with the ball and scored for a four-point lead.
Andre Iguodala shot an airball and fired one attempt off the backboard.
Not much to add, quite frankly.
But please save me the "notion of clutch is nonsense", the need of a closer is "overrated", Iguodala is a "true all star" and crap like that (I've read all of the above in countless Sixers sites, not making up things here).
If you ever thought similar BS, watch this game over and over, and then come to me again.
One more time: Sixers' didn't lose 91-96 to the Bulls because of Iguodala, let's make this clear, it would be stupid to think that.
But we are 2-7 in games decided by 5 points or less (22-16 overall, . 579).
I calmy waited also for this one (the umpteenth close loss, I mean).
I am so proud of myself for not getting mad for these games anymore. I've said that many times, when it's a 3-4 point game and there are 2-3 minutes left, it's just a matter of finding out HOW we will lose.
Sadly it works. Every time. At least you preserve your nerves.
Iguodala is our best player, right? He's an All star, after all. Fact. (more after the break) no comments
Without Stephen Curry? I'm sorry, but at this point of the season I don't care either.
At the end of the day all that matters is Sixers beat Golden State 105-83, to snap a four game home losing streak and to improve their record to 22-15 (.595).
Third straight game with six players in double figure matters, also, as a sign of a balanced team that plays as a unit. All stars - TRUE all stars I mean, lol.. - are not needed. In these games, I mean.
Williams' night was simply spectacular, and in the fourth quarter he was a joy to watch: he scored fifteen points, with one of the three made treys taken from waaaay behind the line.
Twentyfive points on only fifteen shots (in the pic) are remarkable, but Lou also added three dimes vs zero turnovers, to continue on a pace he's been keeping nearly all season.
But Iguodala played a heck of an all around game as well, and even Brand put together a 8+8 third quarter.
If you take out Evan Turner (a missed layup and an airball in an "off" night"...), all Sixers played well. The best thing to me was the 51-39 rebounding edge, after the collapse under the boards agains the Thunder, with rookie Lavoy Allen finally take care of business defensively with efficiency.
Hitting eight of seventeen from three point range didn't hurt, obviously. (more after the break) no comments
But that was the final, decisive play of Sixers' 88-92 L to Oklahoma City, fourth stright at home (21-15, .583).
I am not blaming Iguodala, who couldn't keep an athletic freak like Westbrook far enough from the ball on Durant's rare miss from the line with 4.9 seconds left.
At least I am not blaming only him: Westbrook finished with seven under our glass.
Thunder's edge under the boards was simply unsustainable all night long: 56-39 at the end, but 26-12 at a point in the second quarter. At the break our total was 13, while they had 11 only at the offensive end...
That of course way a key factor in such a close game, but another one were free throws: 34 attempts vs 12 is simply ridiculous, same for the -16 differential in points scored at the line.
Want more weird numbers? This game provided us with a plenty of them. (more after the break) no comments