..that Sixers should/could have won.
Instead, they lost it, 93-87 in OT in Milwaukee.
If Sixers' overall record of 40-37 (.519) is still great, the 2-8 in overtime games speaks volumes of where they have to improve the most in the upcoming years.
I won't make a big deal out of a basically useless game, in which neither of the two teams was playing for a meaningful goal, especially after such a great run by the Sixers.
But it's crystal clear that there's a lot of work to be done to learn how to close games.
After Elton Brand tied the game at 79, Sixers and Bucks combined for 0/4 and 3 turnovers in the last 1.42 minutes...
To Milwaukee' credit (?), they finished the regulation shooting 0/6, making their list of late blows even longer:
On Monday they missed their last 11 shots in an 87-86 loss in which Charlotte scored the last seven points, and last Saturday they missed their last six shots as Chicago finished on a 12-0 run to win 95-87.
So, you see, we are not alone in this.
This time, though, Brandon Jennings took over in overtime, scoring nine points on 3/3 shooting to finish off a Sixers team in which Brand was the only player to show up offensively (3/4 in the last five minutes).
Speaking of late game shortcomings, here is a great article by Kate Fagan on Iguodala's well documented inability to deliver in crunch time, a subject covered here ad nauseam.
I criticized Iguodala countless times for this, but I have to say that in Milwaukee he wasn't the guy to blame, as he "simply" airballed an uncontested jumper in the 4th (just before Brand scored the 79-79) and missed a three in overtime in which he had a good look (could have made it 89-88). We saw him doing much worse, so I won't complain, LOL. (more after the jump)no comments
It's nice that the (Seventy-)Sixers reached the playoffs in the seventy-sixth game of the season, a 115-90 blowout W over the Nets.
So after the 3-13 start, now the team's record is 37-23, 40-36 (.526) overall.
How does that sound?
I think the man in the picture is the guy that deserves most of the praise.
Doug Collins totally turned things around for a team that finished 27-55 last year, didn't add much to the roster (Hawes + Turner, both far from being franchise players...) and lost so many unbelievable games early in this season that one would have thought the team was definitely cursed.
That's why reaching the postseason is a fantastic goal to reach for this squad.
So what did Collins do to get to this point? First things that come to my mind:
1) Make guys play hard all night, all the time, regardless of the opponent, the score, the lineup. That's one of the best thing a coach can do.
2) Make guys play defense. The Eddie Jordan era is forgotten, thanks God. (more after the jump)no comments
I really enjoy games like this.
The 108-97 W over the Rockets, marking a season sweep of a good team, puts Sixers one game away from reaching the playoffs (39-36, .520).
But it's the way these guys are winning games that leaves you so happy and confident for the future.
Collins went 8-man deep in the rotation this time, leaving Turner on the bench with a DNP CD, and everybody did contribute to a quality game, that was close for more than 36 minutes before Sixers took it thanks to a terrific defensive effort in the fourth.
In the final period Rockets had a stretch in which they shot 1/9 and they were held without a field goals for nearly five minutes.
Different guys had decisive plays down the stretch, Nocioni hustled for an offensive rebound that led to a put back for the 96-88, Hawes knocked down another jumper, Jrue Holiday (awesome tonight) forced a tough drive to get a call and make a pair of crucial free throws to put Houston away (100-90).
All of the above after Thad Young (my MVP) and Lou Willians had already done their job of absolutely torching Houston's defense, to give Sixers another fantastic lift off the bench. (more after the jump)no comments
Raise your hand if you thought that Sixers would have won after Korver hit that crazy corner jumper at the 3rd quarter buzzer to make it a five point game, 64-69.
You called it? More power to you. I didn't.
I thought it would have been another 12-minute agony before Bulls would complete their comeback (from -23 in the second, 25-48, to -4 later in the fourth, 68-72) and win the game.
Sixers (38-36, .514) had different ideas and, in fact, completed their own 48-minute great job winning 85-97 in Chicago.
Wire-to-wire, in the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, against the team that has the best record in the East, and is tied for second overall in the NBA, coming off fourteen consecutive home wins.
If this is not a huge win, I don't know what is.
I have a hard time picking the MVP of the game as at least five Sixers played at a very high level against an elite team like Chicago.
Maybe I should give it to Spencer Hawes, because, after all, he's been everyone's favorite whipping boy for many months, and now he's playing well and, listen to this, closing big games.
Yes, Spencer effin' Hawes knocked down the decisive baskets down the stretch, two jumpers from the same spot to extend our lead back to double digits (76-86 with 3.45 to play) and another 17 footer from the other side to basically finish off the Bulls (80-88, 2.10) before Sixers had a steal and Jrue Holiday went for an easy fastbreak layup.
But Young absolutely abused Taj Gibson and whoever tried to guard him in the first half: he had 17 when he dunked for the 25-48 with less than five minutes to play in the second: a nightmare for Bulls' defense, that put even Boozer on Thad, only to see also him scored on. (more after the jump)no comments
The 111-114 OT L to Sacramento was like this.
Non-Sixers fans were probably just entertained, because, well, it was a fun game.
Sixers fans should be pissed off because the team missed a golden chance to improve its record, now at 37-36 (.507).
Not that the game will change much in terms of seed, position etc (and then again, just making the playoffs is a great achievement in itself AND we won't have a real chance to advance much, so finishing 6th, 7th or 8th and getting Boston, Miami or Chicago doesn't make a difference to me).
Still, you simply can't lose games like this: coach, players should blame themselves and work hard to avoid this happening again.
It was the same (bad) team that got buried few days ago in Sacramento, the team that was 19-52, the team that was 0-5 in overtime this year, the team that tried its best NOT to win tonight (Kings committed a 5 second violation + a stupid offensive foul - guess by who? - in OT).
Instead, Sixers' spoiled Hip Hop's birthday and Hawes' career game...
1) Doug Collins. Why he played Iguodala at all, and why he played him so much? Why he didn't go with Jrue Holiday (or Jodie Meeks) for the last shots of regulation?
That is beyond me. Jrue was 7/7 in the second half (!) and had scored nine consecutive points to put Sixers up five with 2.03 left (96-91, initially ruled a two, then corrected to a three): he never took a shot since. (more after the jump)no comments
I don't care much about the 111-99 L in Miami, honestly.
Of course I would have liked to beat the hyper-hyped Heat, but anyway... they got their usual load of praises also after this win, predictably.
Sixers are nearly sure of a playoffs spot at 37-35 (.514), with a 7 1/2 games edge over the 29-42 Bucks, currently at the ninth place in the conference, meaning out of the postseason.
That's why I really don't see any reason to play THIS Iguodala. Or to play him this much.At this point.
Iguodala (in the pic) is clearly bothered by the tendinitis in his knee, so putting him on the floor is a risk that is NOT WORTH taking now, in my opinion.
He looks evidently tentative, in the fourth he had an airball and a couple of bad, crucial turnovers: I'm not even considering the 3/10 shooting, that is secondary, really.
So why the 36 minutes of playing time? Are we trying to make a desperate run to save the season? No. Does it make a REAL difference to finish 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th? I say no. While it could make a real difference to have a 100% healthy Iguodala in the post season, and prevent him from worsening the injury (knock on wood).
Speaking of players we need to have back at full strength, Brand's stats in the month of march are worrying me a little bit: 12 + 8 on below 42% shooting in the last ten... (more after the jump)no comments
Not the biggest, but to me one of the most 'promising' wins of the season.
The 105-100 W over Atlanta sent some messages to the rest of the League.
First off, Sixers (37-34, .521) won't be an easy opponent in the first round of the playoffs, regardless of who they'll meet.
Second, they are not done with their rise yet, and the fading Hawks, losers of 14 of their last 21, 3-7 in the last ten, better watch out, as their edge is now reduced to just 2 1/2 games.
Third, they are deep. Very deep.
SEVEN players in double figure for the 17th time this season, if I am not mistaken. 39-14 advantage in bench points against Atlanta. I cannot stress enough how I like this, really.
As for depth (read it again before busting my balls, I'm talking only depth...), Sixers remind me of many teams I used to like a lot: the 2004 Pistons, the Divac-Webber-Bibby-Peja Kings, where a guy like Gerald Wallace was sitting at the end of the bench, etc etc. Teams that could use effectively a ten man-rotation.
Of course, this is not a team that can have real chances to beat Chicago, Boston or Miami in the first round in a seven game series. But the Hawks? Oh, yes. And not only judging from this game, obviously. (more after the jump)no comments
Pretty predictable, honestly.
In the last of their five games West, playing without Iguodala, Sixers fell 110-101 in Portland, to end their long road trip with a respectable 2-3 record (36-34, .524).
Still, I got more positive than negative indications from this game.
Ok, not from the first quarter (36-27), when the Sixers allowed the Blazers to connect on six of their seven attempts from behind the arc (!), with Matthews hitting all of his five (!!!).
It was like the ghost of Eddie Jordan showed up at the Rose Garden...
Our poor defense continued, and Portland took advantage of it, shooting 61% at halftime (62-54), on pace to finish above 120 points...
But the encouraging thing is that Sixers had a reaction, and the bench guys did a great job to keep us in the game, especially Young (4/5, including three outside shots), Williams, who scored twelve points, and, surprisingly, Nocioni, who got a lot of minutes and had nine at the break.
With Brand out of the game due to "silly fouls" (Blazers' announcers), Thad and a red hot Lou sparked a nice run in the third: one of Young's only two misses of the night was the shot that could have tied the game at 75. (more after the jump)no comments
I couldn't watch the 80-102 thrashing in Sacramento and it surely it would have been fun.
Sixers (36-33, .521) did the best thing to do in these cases: jump on the weaker opponent early and get some comfortable separation (38-55 at halftime), to cruise in the second half and extend the lead.
Sixers won the fourth game of this road trip thanks to great defense, keeping the team with the worst record in the Conference to a miserable 34% from the floor.
Offensively, the fact that Jrue Holiday with 15 points was the top scorer is a sign that it didn't take that much effort to come out with a W.
Iguodala flirted with a triple double, that he surely would have reached had he played more than 29 minutes.
It was also the first game played against the Sixers by Sam Dalembert: 3/10, -25 in the plus/minus category and 5 TOs in 29 minutes won't give his fans a strong argument to ask for a comeback to Philly, even if the did well under the boards (13 dimes).
Hawes, the player he was traded for, did his usual, mediocre job: overall, I still think the trade didn't make the Sixers better. Imagine these Sixers with a stronger presence in the paint and, mostly, Sam's 12 millions coming off the books in few months...
Overall, a good road win that improved our record to 33-20 after the 3-13 start. To me, still unreal.no comments
(Back to the normal blogging schedule !!)
Forget Blake Griffin.
He (Griffin) will not forget Brand. And his defense.
Elton was my MVP in the 'interesting' 94-104 W over the Clippers, a much needed win in the middle of this pivotal five game road trip (35-33, .515).
Meeks gets all the praise for his great shooting night, and Holiday too for his terrific stat line and big buckets in the final minutes.
But to me the key factor for this win was Brand's presence on both ends of the floor.
Not only he limited, even frustrated Griffin with suffocating low post defense, he was effective also coming from the weak side (5 blocks) and added 19 + 12. This time the +/- doesn't lie: +26 for Brand, the best Sixer).
I said interesting because a lot of things happened, from the questionable officiating to Clippers' awful foul shooting (12/26 at a point), to Collins' ejection, in Sixers' usual run made/run allowed game.
This time it was from +18 (59-77, 2.25 left in the third) to + 8 (71-79 at -10.10 in the fourth - more after the jump).no comments