Now that was a solid game.
Sixers came out of Toronto with a nice 94-107 W over the depleted Raptors, that were playing without Barbosa, Kleiza and Reggie Evans and lost their ninth straight (!).
The third consecutive win (20-25, .444) matches a season high for the Sixers (...), but, more important, the game showed some good signs of a growth that is continuing.
In no particular order they are the folllowing:
- huge bench production. Sixers' reserves outscored Toronto's 57-18 (!!), our bench currently leads the NBA in ppg
- balanced offense: seven players in double figure on the road is sweet
- free throw accuracy: Sixers attempted only seventeen free throws but hit 15 (88%)
- Speights is making a case to be a starter: seventeen points in the second quarter alone, 23 at the end, on only twelve shots
- 17-12 record after the 3-13 start
- Iguodala's effectiveness on both ends of the court: he sparked Sixers' run in the third with 4/4 from the field, but also made all the right choices, never forced a shot, dished the ball, defended well.
I have another couple of points to make (after the jump):no comments
They surely did in the 105-95 W over Phoenix, to sweep the season series for the first time in nine years and improve their record to 19-25 (.432).
There are two inevitable premises to be made: A) Suns do NOT play defense, and B) Suns were in the last stop of a five game road trip.
This said, it doesn't take anything from the Sixers, because they played a hell of a game - for 44 minutes.
Despite a slow start (Suns led 12-19, on 9/16 shooting), Sixers were able to turn momentum pretty quickly thanks to an impressive lift from the bench, that had 38 points at halftime (score at 61-47) on 17/25 shooting.
At the break Young (in the pic) had 14 points (7/11) + 5 rebounds, a very confident looking Turner 10, to go along with Brand's 13. Consider also that that Iguodala's first points came from the line with only 3.17 to play in the second (53-41).
A torrid start of the third by Elton Brand (3/3, 9/12 overall then) gave Sixers another push, and at mid period the lead was extended to twenty on a steal + layup by Jrue Holiday (77-57, 6.06 left). Brand scored nine in the quarter (more after the jump).no comments
No complaints, no criticisms, no negativity this time.
The 96-85 W over Utah was simply a great game for the Sixers (18-25, .419), that put together a strong 48 minute effort against a quality opponent, that got soundly outplayed on nearly every aspect of the game.
Definitely an enjoyable show for every fan, finally, the best way to put those close losses behind (at least until the next one, LOL).
An extraordinarily effective Iguodala, my MVP of the night, and Brand carried their team mates, to end a six game losing streak against the Jazz, a team we often got embarrassed by in the last years.
To be optimistic
1) the veterans carrying the load. Iguodala did everything on the floor, 22 points on only 10 shots is remarkable. Brand missed some mid range jumpers he usually makes, but was able to get himself to the line (something he hasn't been doing as of late) and hit seven of his eight free throws.
2) I liked a lot what Hawes did also. He boarded well and dished three nice dimes, two for a couple of treys that were crucial for Sixers to get a nice cushion in the third (58-47). He showed his court vision and his ability to find the open man on the perimeter from the low post.
Utah used a lot of 2-3 zone (also because of early foul trouble, especially in the fourth when they reached the limit soon) but Sixers had good circulation of the ball and took overall good shots against it (more after the jump).no comments
After the 100-97 L in Charlotte, the 17-25 (.405) Sixers would be OUT of the playoffs.
This shouldn't be any news, but today Bobcats (17-24, .415) AND Pacers (16-23, .410) would make it to the postseason as 7th and 8th seed, so the playoffs talks have to be taken seriously (?).
Consider also that Sixers are 2-4 in the last six, when it could have been actually 4-2, or even 5-1, meaning they could have been easily just under the Knicks, floating slightly below .500 in the Eastern conference rankings.
I have to be honest: I do NOT think the 2010-2011 Sixers are playoffs material. Still, they might have more than a chance at it, given the (sad) state of the conference.
Do I HOPE that they will get there? Yes. Why? First off, it looks like the 2011 draft will be a pretty weak one, and Sixers surely won't have a high pick, more like in the 12-16 range.
Second, I think we had enough trips to the lottery and good picks, we just need to get better as a team, solving the problems we have through trades and overall growth of players we already have. No need to add another 20 y/o "project", you know what I mean?
In this scenario, a first round sweep by Boston or Miami will help us more that people generally think. Sniffing the playoffs atmosphere will probably be another step in the right direction, contributing to leave that losing mentality this team still has.
This said, waiting for the next game vs Utah, I have some other thoughts to add (more after the jump).no comments
The four point play was missing.
As you all know, Sixers lost countless games in unbelievable ways this year, but none of them on a four point play. The 99-98 OT L in Orlando was decided this way.
I just needed it.
To make things even more "unique", Sixers (17-24, .415) decided to allow the Magic TWO four point plays in crunch time, one dumber than the other.
Many thanks to Iguodala and Williams for being so... uhm, naive ???
Not only (?) that. We had also the - dubious - privilege to enjoy the following:no comments
Maybe a small sign of things starting to go in the right direction.
Sixers got even lucky in their 96-92 OT W over Charlotte in a game that probably few days ago would have ended in another disheartening loss.
Instead, nearly at mid season, with their 17-23 (.432) record, "good" for the 8th place in the Eastern Conference, Sixers eye the playoffs and the .500 mark, as weird at it can be.
Sad? Probably. Teams playing .400 basketball shouldn't be in the playoffs picture in a "normal" league, but that's how it has been for the last XXX (= many...) years in the East, so nothing new here.
It's the second straight game in which that the opposing teams misses a wide open potential game winning shot in the final seconds.
It's the first time we win a game in overtime this year (1-3 now).
We knocked down a huge shot at the end of regulation, on a perfectly designed play off an inbound pass: Lou Williams's tied it with a corner three, after a smart pump fake, with 4.7 seconds left (86-86).
Then Stephen Jackson misfired on a three pointer at the buzzer, to send the game to overtime - despite having a pretty good look at the rim.
Then Iguodala made a huuuuuge jumper from 17 feet to give us the lead for good: 92-90 with 37 seconds left. That's exactly the shot I do NOT want Iguodala to take, especially down the stretch, but I'm digressing... I'm just happy to be proved wrong this time.
Then we got a huge steal with Thad Young intercepting a (dumb) cross court pass by Kwame Brown and finally Evan Turner hit 4/4 from the line in the final 16 seconds to ice the game.
I mean, if you think about it, NONE of the above would have happened some weeks ago, right? I do think so.
So let's celebrate (in the pic).no comments
I don't know if you can be upset after a close win, especially after you were 0-7 in games decided by three points or less.
Anyway that's exactly how I felt after Sixers escaped with a 95-94 victory over the Bucks.
They now stand at 16-23 (.410) and must feel somehow relieved after realizing that opponents can also miss their last second shots.
The point is that we should have never, ever come to the final possession of the game, because we were facing an offensively challenged, to say the least, Bucks team, playing without Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino.
Sixers built a pretty comfortable fifteen point lead in the second quarter (51-36) but saw it progressively reduced as Milwaukee took advantage of some evident Sixers' defensive issues.
Bogut toyed with Hawes in the low post (one would think that after your opponent goes left four straight times, you should make some adjustments, but it never happened with Hawes...), Brand couldn't stop Gooden in the 4th either, as the Bucks forward was red hot from mid and long range (4/4, all jumpers).no comments
In Iguodala's comeback after seven missed games, Sixers lost 103-111 at home to Indiana to help Pacers snap a 9 road game losing streak (...) and drop their record to 15-23 (.395).
Not a good thing when you lose at home against a mediocre (just as much as Sixers, ok?) team, allow Dunleavy to score 18 in the first half (!), can't get a defensive stop the whole night, giving up 57 first half points and, after the break, you quickly find yourself trailing by seventeen at the beginning of the third (51-67).
Sixers eventually fought back, went on a 14-0 run between the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter, to take a five point lead, 89-84. They couldn't hold off, though, letting Pacers have the final say.
It hurts a lot when the decisive shot comes on an unlikely jump hook shot by Roy Hibbert at the 24th second (99-103, 1.24 to play), not exactly known as a "closer".
It's weird that Indiana didn't attempt a free throw in the first half, and the first earned trip to the line for them came in the fourth (in the third Hawes was whistled for a tech...).
Many things were wasted in this loss: Speights' good game (loved especially the two straight charges he drew in the 4th), the seven players in double figure, Holiday's great night (7 rebounds and 8 assists, vs 2 turnovers).
On Pacers' side, Granger finally winning the matchup with (a clearly injured) Iguodala has to be underlined, just as much as Collison's phenomenal numbers (21 + 13 dimes on over 50% shooting and only one give away). Jrue couldn't limit his rival this time, anyway it was fun to watch the two kids playing at such high level.
Definitely a game that I hope we will not regret later in the season...no comments
...his last second, off balance, contested, desperation shot would have probably swished in.
Instead it bounced off the rim, and Sixers (15-22, .405) lost another unbelievable game, 112-109 in OT in Detroit.
I don't know what to say, maybe I should just "copy and paste" the recaps of the losses in Washington, Atlanta, Boston etc etc... in the last 2-3 years I think we gave up at least 12-15 games like this.
The ugliest thing is perhaps that I don't recall any win in siimilar, "unbelievable" fashion in the same stretch: if you do, please remind me, it would make me feel MUCH better.
As far as I remember, Sixers are always on the losing side of such crazy games. It can be the Lakers, the Celtics, the Wizards, the Pistons, or the Idaho Stampede, it simply doesn't matter: we always find a way to lose.
Buzzer beater allowed? Check (off the top of my head: Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Ray Allen etc). Prayer from half court? Check (Devin Harris anyone?). Last second layup allowed? Check (Garnett this year). Missed shot from point blank range? Check (Brand at Milwaukee last year, if your memory doesn't work well). Missed free throws to seal the game? Check (multiple times + last night). Missed last second shot? Check (too many to list).
I know it sounds naive, if not stupid, to blame it on only one player, so this time let's add Collins to Lou Williams, an 82% free throw shooter that misses BOTH from the line with 6 second left and Sixers up three, setting the stage for the inevitable (?) Pistons' tying three pointer on the ensuing possession, and the inevitable (??) last second miss by the Sixers - again by Williams (more after the jump).
Not to brag or anything but... well, I called it again.
Sixers put together a strong 48-minute effort to top Bulls 105-99 and improve to 15-21 (.417).
Yes, that means they are 12-8 after the 3-13 start, making a run for a playoffs spot, and seeing the .500 mark as a not-so-impossible target.
This was a very impressive win: against a tough team, that routed us by 45 points three weeks ago, for the sixth straight time without Iguodala (+ Battie).
Sixers played intense, solid, smart TEAM basketball in a nearly perfect game that could really change something in the players' minds.
To be optimistic
1) total team effort.
You won't find a single player that was in an "off" night, or that hurt the team. Everyone, and I mean everyone, contributed well, giving 100% on the floor.
2) fluid offense
Sixers' offense was a thing of a beauty last night: ball circulating well, outside shots falling in, guys getting to the line, right mix of solutions (inside/outside), even without having the possibility to run much. Yes, they were basically half court sets, all night. That to me is the biggest thing, we found different ways to score: shooting 56% with only six fastbreak points for a team like us is amazing.
In the third, Sixers' first miss came on a jumper by Nocioni with 4.35 to play (!!), meaning they were 9/9 before that shot, and finished 14/18 in the period. It won't happen often, so let's enjoy it... (more after the jump)no comments