Hard nosed Kyle Lowry, that is. Taking my hat off to him.
It was the Philly native point guard with three phenomenal plays down the stretch to give Rockets a 93-87 W in the last game before the All Star Game.
So Sixers slipped, a couple of times literally, to their fifth straigh loss (20-14, .588).
Rockets outscored us 10-3 in the last two minutes of the game, in which we weren't able to make a single field goal. If you think you have already seen this movie, you are right.
Lowry had an impressive sequence with two extremely tough "and one" plays completed, both drives that made it 86-84 and then 89-85, that sandwiched a charge he took by Thaddeus Young on the defensive end.
On the following possession Williams slipped for the second time in the night and stepped out of bounds, and the game was over.
It's disappointing because this (ugly) game could have been won and Sixers did many things well, some extremely well.
The defense was there, again, and kept Houston scorers were quiet for extended stretches. Too bad Kevin Martin exploded for 14 points in the final period, after having just two on 1/5 in the first three quarters, and Lowry had that final explosion. Rockets scored 32 in the fourth.
Sixers won the battle under the boards, also (40-38), whis is remarkable considering they were without both their starting big men again. Rockets were held to ZERO offensive rebounds until late in the third and finished with four. (more after the break) no comments
Your Hawes-less, Brand-less Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers lost their fourth straight (20-13, .606) mainly due to a terrible start of the game: the score was 15-7, 27-7, 30-9 and finally 30-10 Grizzlies, largely helped by our 4/20 shooting in the period.
Sixers actually fought back nicely and made it a game already in the second (it was 47-42 at the break) but were never able to complete their run(s), always stopped by a bad turnover, a makeable shot missed or a big basket by Memphis.
For example late in the third Williams knocked down a (horribly forced) three to make it a four point game late in the third (64-60).
Well, Grizzlies responded with one of the most unlikely 5-0 runs you'll ever see: a three by Pondexter - currently 4/20 for the season - and a layup by Haddadi (** insert curse **), to close the quarter up nine, 69-60.
Same story in the fourth: again, Williams hit another three for the 74-70, but Grizzlies connected with two big treys to take a 80-72 lead that essentially was never threatened.
Many weird things happened in this game. First off the starting lineups.
In Brand's forced absence, Collins decided to give seldom used Nocioni a start (!!) at PF but pulled him after less then six minutes and never used him again. This was probably meant as a way to keep Thaddeus Young coming off the bench and at least try to use some argentinian toughness against Grizzlies' tall starting frontcourt of Gasol and Speights. (more after the break) no comments
I just "relax" and wait, to get to know HOW Sixers will lose them. Missing the last shot? Allowing one? That's the only question that has to be answered.
The bad part is that the close losses never stop, and I cannot see any improvement. Not even baby steps. Zero, zip, nada, niente.
Take the recap of the Denver game, the Nets game, the Clippers game and you'll probably read the same things. And I'm not even goint to remind you of the many crazy finishes (= defeats) of the last year. Or of two years ago. Three?
Coaches, players, opponents change through the seasons, but the only consistent thing is that Sixers basically always lose games that come down to the final possessions/shots. Maybe one day I'll have the guts to make a deeper reasearch. As for now, just the thought pains me.
Am I overreacting after the 92-91 loss in Minnesota? No, and I honestly don't give a damn that it's the third straight (20-12, . 625), fifth in the last seven, bla bla bla...
It's HOW it came. And no, I'm not talking about the CRAP call that sent Kevin Love to the line with 0.1 seconds left. It wasn't a foul, probably, and anyway it came at least a second before, so the clock should have been reset. (Obviously Sixers wouldn't have even been able to take a shot off, so what I'm just trying to say here is that it was a bad call from every point of view...)
It's the ton of mistakes made before that play. Sixers didn't deserve to win, let's be honest. But they could have taken it, and pretty easily if you ask me, even after playing a subpar game. An elite team would have found a way to prevail, for sure.
What is more disturbing/worrying? I'll tell you. (more pain after the break) no comments
Please take your hat off to the reigning NBA champs, winners of a 75-82 game in Philly.
The loss came after a really good and even exciting performance which I would file under the "Step in the learning process" category.
No big deal, therefore, but a night that should teach/remind the Sixers (20-11, .645) many things.
In no particular order:
1) you won't win many NBA games shooting 9/42 in the second half, 1/14 from three and 33% overall (lol)
2) you should never feel too comfortable holding a fifteen point lead in the second quarter (41-26) against a veteran team that "plays the right way"
3) veteran teams knows how to bounce back after a rought start, or even a half, because ...veterans think about their next shot and not the ones already missed, even if they are many (Nowitzki was 2/11 and Marion 1/7 at the break)
4) defense often wins close, ugly games. Dallas closed all doors in the second half, and our offense simply stallled, with the players (and the ball) moving too slowly, sometimes not moving at all
5) maybe the whole "need of a closer" thing is overrated, as many Sixers fans seem to think, but having a proven one helps... (more after the break) no comments
Sixers (20-10, .667) were overwhelmed for nearly 48 minutes, and the Magic were in one of those nights in which their inside/outside game was too good to handle.
You think you've already heard this before? You are right.
Brand did a decent job on Howard, but Ryan Anderson was red hot from the start (see the pic), scoring 14 in the first quarter (!) to help Orlando jump on us quickly: 23-6 lead, 5/7 from behind the line, to go with Sixers' unusual four turnovers.
Two treys by Turner and Williams, at the quarter buzzer, made me happy to be down by just thirteen points at the end of the period, 29-16.
I think a key stretch of the game came at the end of the second quarter, when Orlando went on a 10-0 run to close the half holding a 55-39 lead. Nelson had already dished out eight dimes, and the Magic connected on seven of its thirteen attempts from behind the line.
It was Iguodala to give us some hope after the break, exploding for eleven points with Sixers shooting 10/12: when Brand cut the Magic lead to just four with a nice lefthanded driving hook (66-62) I thought we had a game. I was wrong.
Jrue Holiday capped his horrible night by committing two charges at the beginning of the fourth and the Magic controlled the game with double digit leads until the end.
Of course shooting 15/25 from three point land is a stat that usually gets you wins in this league, especially if your center adds 17 + 14... (more after the break) no comments
That must be the case, because I REALLY felt disappointed after the 89-98 W in Charlotte.
It wouldn't have happened just a couple of years ago, or even at the beginning of the last season.
"A win is a win, especially on the road, regardless of the opponent and the way it comes", I would have thought. Same for many of you, I guess.
Well, this time I was more in "It shouldn't have come to the final possessions against this collection of scrubs" mode. Despite the 20-9 record (.690).
No offense for the Bobcats, that by the way were playing without DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson, they played hard and left it all on the court.
They are simply a bad team that has lost its 15th consecutive game (franchise record) for a reason.
Chalotte even pulled a couple of rabbits out of its ass in the fourth quarter, with Kemba Walker hitting a three fading to the baseline to beat the shot clock (76-79) and then banking in an off balance up-and-under 17 footer prayer (84-91) that had me spit my soda on the keyboard. Truly unbelievable.
Fortunately Lou Williams (in the pic) and Nikola Vucevic combined for some nice plays down the stretch and we eventually managed to come away with the win. But really, with a fifteen point cushion early in the second (20-35) and leading 67-77 at the beginning of the fourth, the game should have been closed way before.
Whatever, let's focus on the positives (after the break): no comments
Luckily there is not much to say about the 84-99 W in Cleveland.
And there is not much that the Irving-less, Varejao-less and Parker-less Cavs (all sidelined by ...Sixeritis, I think) could have done to avoid a loss in the second night of a back-to-back.
Sixers (19-9, .679) did exactly what they were supposed to do in such a situation: just keep the foot on the pedal and outrun their opponents, playing with energy.
The decisive break came in the second quarter, when the second unit, carried by Lou Williams and Thad Young and remarkably directed by Jrue Holiday, built an eleven point lead (19-30), that soon ballooned to sixteen (23-39, 7.33 left) and eventually to twenty-one (33-54, 2.40 to play).
Cavs basically could never overcome that, or even come close.
Doug Collins called a timout after 1.34 minutes in the third quarter, because Cavs went on a ...4-0 run, to trim the seventeen halftime lead to thirteen (45-58): he was clearly sending a message, and his players responded quickly and put the game out of reach, managing margins around 15-19 points from there to the end.
I'll make this quick as well, because, honestly, overanalyzing this game would be nonsensical - and that's not a knock on the Cavs. (more after the break) no comments
That is too simplistic, I know, but, as WIDELY predicted, those perennial woes from the stripe would have ended up hurting the Sixers sooner or later.
They did that last night, to hand out our second consecutive loss, for the first time this season (18-9, .667).
So yes, the blame has to be put mainly on Lou Williams (81% this season) and Jrue (80%) for combining for 9/14 (64%), including just 4/6 in the final 1.41 minutes.
Still, the game could have been won in the final plays. Unfortunately Chris Paul knocked down an extremely tough fall away 17 footer, off a broken play, over the outstretched arms of Iguodala (in the pic).
Andre played really excellent defense in that possession, pushing Paul to take perhaps the toghest shot he could: but, you know, true all stars great players make great plays in crunch time.
On Sixers' final possession, with only 3.9 seconds left, Lou Williams got the ball way too far from the basket off the inbound pass by Iguodala, and Paul and Kenyon Martin double teamed him pretty easily, so that he couldn't even take a shot off. (more after the break) no comments
No problem at all.
Sixers fell to 18-8 (.692) but still hold a three game edge over the surging Celtics, 14-10 after winning their last five.
Every loss obiously leaves you a bit disappointed as a fan, and this makes no exception, but if you really think about it, it shouldn't be such a big of a deal.
After missing two straight, and with Hawes out again, Brand got back and played well in an old school matchup with Duncan.
Some of their low post "clashes" were really fun to watch, reminding me of the times when they were the best and (perhaps) the second best PF of the league.
The usually reliable duo of "veteran rookies" Allen and Vucevic combined for 1/11, not converting open mid range shots that they normally knock down.
They both rebounded well, though, in limited minutes, contributing to Sixers' (surprising?) edge under the glasses, 55-48. Nice to reverse that after the complete disaster of the Lakers game.
Vucevic picked two early fouls (btw both offensive) and Collins pulled him out after 2.30. But six boards in 14 minutes are a good stat, same for Lavoy's 9 in less than 19, so let the rookies miss shots as long as they hustle and play hard, it's part of their learning process.
I have more of an issue with Parker being responsible for 53% of Spurs' points (!! yes, that's what his 37 + 8 dimes gives you), working on the pick and roll with Duncan and mainly Splitter to exhaustion, and also with being torched by the likes of the same Splitter and Gary Neal (12 points in the first, playing 6 minutes)... (more after the break) no comments
Where to start? From the finish, obviously.
Lou Williams' fourth quarter burst gave Sixers (18-7, .720) a terrific 95-90 comeback W over the Lakers to send home the (too many for my taste) fans in yellow that helped to sell the Wells Fargo Center out (20,064).
Playoffs atmosphere? Check. Usual Kobe-in-his-hometown explosion? Check (but only in one half). Related boos? Check. Kobe-Iguodala outstading matchup? Check. Usual Bynum howardesque dominance under the glasses? Check.
You see, it was pretty much your average Sixers-Lakers game in Philly.
The main difference this time was the final outcome. Sixers won, to snap a four game (extremely annoying) losing streak at home against Los Angeles.
It's like I saw three or four games in one, and it's a tough race among many pretty unbelievable stats/facts that you have to recap and analyze.
- the ridiculous 55-30 Lakers rebounding edge. That would have been the story of 99,7% of NBA games. Put this in the 0,3% left.
- the ridiculous 27/4 assist-to-turnover ratio by the Sixers. F-O-U-R TURNOVERS in a game like this, are you kidding me? I think I could remember them all if I'd think for a while...
- the start of the game by Kobe Bryant, that had 14 in the first quarter alone and scored 24 of Lakers' first 50 points, on twelve shots and four made threes (!!), with more than five minutes to play in the SECOND quarter !
- the stunning fourth quarter show by Lou Williams, that simply won the game for us in crunch time by scoring 12 of Sixers' last 14 points in less than four minutes. He's easily your Player of the game, of the week and of the month, having shot 4/5 in that stretch, including two threes made and an ill advised drive, ended with a tear drop shot that I just ...loved and applauded as soon as the ball swished in for the 93-88. (Wake me up when Iguodala takes over a game like this)
- Iguodala and Sixers' defense on the same Kobe, that shot 2/12 after halftime, and 1/10 in the fourth, being constatly doubled and harassed by the guys (Turner and Jrue were also on him on the perimeter, sometimes Thad).
Meex picking up two fouls in 25 seconds (!!) wasn't a nice way to start, and the 78-84 Lakers lead with 5 minutes left and Kobe still "quiet" had me thinking "uhm, let's get ready for another disheartening loss".
But Sixers, and Lou, had different ideas. (more after the break)no comments