Uhm, maybe I should have added a question mark at the end of the title... anyway.
The 14-21 (.400) Sixers play host to the Bulls tonight after the nice 109-97 W over Washington - that I watched, and fully enjoyed, live.
They will be without Iguodala again but I think it could be time for a nice win over a Top 4 team in the conference.
Yes, I know, the Chicago massacre was few days ago, and our butts still hurt.
And I know - and wrote - we match up badly with the Bulls, that was perhaps the main reason why we got embarassed there.
There are some things that "feed" my optimism and that could overcome what on paper looks like a really tough game, even for a Sixers team with its full roster, I mean.
Remember how spirited was the game Sixers played in Boston the day after the blowout in Chicago? (They eventually lost it, but let's not give too importance to such stupid details...). Well, now they have a chance to give back what they got from THAT team (more after the jump)no comments
That was ugly. Really ugly.
Sixers started the new year just as they finished the previous one (= with a loss, 84-77 in New Orleans), to complete their eight game road trip at 3-5, lowering their record at 13-21 (.382).
For the last stop of such a tough stretch, Sixers were Iguodala-less, Hawes-less, energy-less, and it showed, in a display of really poor basketball, especially on the offensive end. But you gotta love the effort, one more time.
Brand is right when he says that Sixers were "in control of the game", even when they were trailing, They always had a chance to win it, and when they fell to -13 in the fourth (75-62) they gave themselves another, final shot, going on a nice run to cut the margin to only three (78-75, with 3.10 left and 80-77 with 40 seconds).
In a play that summarizes our night well, trailing by five with 2.25 to play, Kapono missed a more-than-makeable baseline jumper, Turner grabbed the rebound and.. airballed the putback (I just saw on Nba.com play-by-play that Okafor gets credited with a block on that play, I happen to disagree...) and Brand was eventually called for a traveling violation in a rare sequence of three unwatchable plays in a two second-stretch.
Later on, Kapono missed another open three for the potential -2 and Paul closed the game with a nice drive (82-77, with 19 seconds left), leaving the Sixers nothing but regrets for what could-have-should-have been a win.
Unfortunately there is always that old rule that says that in order to win games you have to knock down shots, and scoring 32 points in two quarters (2nd and 3rd) or shooting 19/66 from the second Q to the final buzzer didn't help much in this aspect.
I didn't understand many things in the rotation used by Collins last night (Speights' minutes - too few -, Turner minutes - too many), but now it's time to move on and try to get some indications from this long road trip (more after the jump).no comments
(Happy 2011 Sixers fans !! It can't be worse then 2010, so let's smile !!)
It's the first day of the year and I hate to be too negative, but I can't be happy for the 102-98 L to the Lakers in the last NBA game of 2010.
I know, Sixers (13-20, .394) played very good basketball despite Iguodala sitting for the third straight, stayed in the game, even scared the Lakers but.... they ended up losing a close game again.
So we come down the stretch against the Wizards and we lose in an unbelievable way (1). Then it happens again, against the same team, and we lose for the second time, in a even weirder fashion (2). Then it's Atlanta's turn, and we simply collapse in the final minutes (3).
Then we play host to the Celtics and we allow a last second layup (4). Then we go to Boston, play a very similar game to last night's - making everyone proud, I mean - and we lose by four (5). The we finally head to LA and... lose by four (6).
By my count Sixers' record in close games is 0-6. Ok, let's be fair, throw in the Denver game, that was decided in the last minute and a half, so it's actually more like 1-6. Still disappointing.
How about losing 2,3, even 4, and then winning one? I don't see any improvement in this aspect of the game (one would agree that it's quite important, right?), that's my point. We are flat. (more after the jump).no comments
Time to give myself credit when credit is due.
Again, here is the excerpt:
Sixers extend their winning streak to three beating the revamped (?) Suns, aging and badly assembled. Phoenix is a place where Sixers played great games and had some nice Ws in the last years, even when they were really bad (worse than this year, I mean...).
I am now 4/5 (80%) in those predictions. Obviously, I hope the % will decrease with Sixers (13-19, .406) stealing one in either LA or New Orleans !
Sixers were without Iguodala for the second consecutive game but had Lou Williams back (and contributing) and Nocioni replacing Andre again and playing his best game as a Sixer - he was not alone in this, as we will see.
Collins used a 8-man rotation to beat a Phoenix team that saw Vince Carter making his (not impressive) debut as a Sun.
If you love GOOD basketball you probably didn't like much these shootouts: in real games teams are supposed to play some defense... Nonetheless, it was entertaining, and the final outcome made it sweeter, of course (more after the jump).no comments
If you want to find someone to blame for the 110-95 L in Golden State, (12-19, .387) stay here.
Forget the absence of Iguodala (sixth time this season, uhm...) and Lou Williams and focus on this post by Sixers4guidos, written before the trip West began and containing my predictions.
I'll save you some time, here is the excerpt about the Warriors game, that was supposed to be a win in my book:
Another back-to-back, but I refuse to think we will lose in Oakland. Unless Warriors, losers of 13 of their last 15, knock down like 10+ threes, of course...
They actually hit 15, a season high. The biggest problem, though, was that they attempted "just" 23, for a stunning 65%.
If you combine that with the Sixers' 4/17 (23%) you have an idea of what happened at the Oracle Arena. The loss snapped my streak of correct predictions at a modest three.
This was a....golden missed chance, because Warriors were without Biedrins and Gadzuric and had to start
bum former Sixer Louis Amundson at center. But torrid outside shooting (9/13 from behind the arc by half time !!!) made up for the front court mismatches and the inevitable rebounding issues (54-44 Sixers).
On the other hand, Collins, having to manage an undermanned back court, kept Jrue Holiday and Meex on the floor for 43 + minutes.
To be optimistic
1) another game with monster numbers for Elton Brand, 16+16 (third straight double double) with three assists: shooting pctg wasn't great but he didn't get some calls he should have got IMO.
2) Jrue Holiday was very effective offensively all night, mixing drives and outside shooting. The seven turnovers ruin his stat line a bit, though, Sixers as a team didn't take care of the ball as they usually do (17 giveaways, many totally unforced) and that started from... the head (more after the jump).no comments
I admit I NEARLY thought it was over.
Trailing by twelve in the fourth (82-70, 8 minutes to play), with a veteran PG like Billups leading them, Nuggets seemed in full control of the game.
Instead, that's exactly when Sixers started a 24-4 run just as decisive as unlikely, to give them the final 89-95 W in Denver (12-18, .400) - and to push me to 3-on-3 on my pre-road trip prediction.
It was a Melo-less, Harrington-less (for 3 quarters) Denver team, playing in the second night of a back-to-back vs the well rested Williams-less Sixers but still...
To be optimistic
1) the final rally, obviously. It didn't happen many times before, so let's enjoy it !!
Any come-from-behind win on the road has always a special taste, and this team has already experienced so many disappointing losses on the other side that this one looked huge. Even more than it actually is, probably.
2) Jrue and Thad's performances.
Holiday was burned by Billups early in the game (10 points in the first Q) and was limited by foul trouble but was able put up phenomenal numbers in just 26 minutes of action. He scored from deep, off drives, from the low post, drawing fouls: simply unstoppable. Jrue also found Meeks for the decisive three (86-92 with 47 seconds left), "reading" a double team just like a great point guard should do (more after the break).no comments
How to win down the stretch?
Apparently it will take some more time, since the 84-80 L in Boston had a familiar end for the Sixers (11-18, .379), unable to finish a game they could/should have won.
In the words of Elton Brand: "We are working on closing games". Well, probably not hard enough.
Still, a huge improvement over the untolerable 48-minute long butt kicking of the previous night. But we knew that, right?
And then again, we are here to talk about a good game by the Sixers, that led for most of the night, fought well, played hard bla bla bla, and... lost.
Add this to the "Moral victories" list... fuck.
I'll keep this short because this post comes as late as a Spencer Hawes' help, so let's skip directly to what is usually the last part of the recap.
- Somebody to explain me why Meeks (zero basically in all categories except missed shots, 3, and turnovers, 3) got 31, t-h-i-r-t-y-o-n-e, minutes, while Lou Williams (who had 12 on 5/8 in a close, low scoring game) got 22...
- nine missed free throws (71%), lost by four...
- speaking of free throws, it was 21/29 Sixers vs 4/7 Boston at the end of the third (!!). Then, in the fourth, Celtics went 12/14, while Sixers stopped at 1/2.
- not blaming Iguodala for the loss, but 0/6 in the second half and 0/2 in the final minute surely aren't great numbers for his fans to use. He played great defense on Pierce again, though.
- if I am not mistaken, Sixers are now 1-8 in games decided by 7 points or less
- great game by Battie, wow !!
- I absolutely hate Nate Robinson, the new Eddie House (2)
- one more time, Sixers lost composure and failed to execute in the final minutes
- Tom Heinson thinks he's funny with his "blatant homerism" comments on officiating but he's just boring. Sorry, old man.
- Pierce closed the first half with 0/6 shooting and Celtics just 2/3 from the line (which sparked the rain of predictable comments by the aforementioned idiot).
- execution in the second quarter was simply great, Sixers made smart choices, took care of the ball extremely well and got to the line multiple times. Definitely encouraging.
- interesting how Collins started the fourth with a tall line up of Holiday-Williams-Young-Brand-Battie. Liked that.
My ugly guido butt still hurts.
I told you we don't match up well with Chicago (read the post below this) but honestly I could never, ever expect a massacre like the one I had the "privilege" to watch.
The good thing is that we play the Celtics tonight and after such a poor game the "tired because in the second night of a back-to-back" excuse can't be used: players know that.
I think there will be a reaction: if not, it would be a very bad sign.
There is actually nothing in particular to underline or explain about the Bulls' game, few points will be enough. Enough for few laughs, at least.
- 32-13 Bulls edge in assists
- 9-2 in blocks
- "Bulls are getting unbelievable looks": Chicago announcers explaining why their shooting percentage was so high (2nd quarter)
- 38 y/o Kurt Thomas stripping Brand THREE times, completely outplaying him, knocking down easy jumpers (well, he actually didn't even have to jump to take those shots) to finish two rebounds short of a double double. Kurt. Thomas.
- Collins having to call a time out with the score at 79-50 in the third and Sixers allowing a 0-11 run immediately after it...
- Bulls reaching 100 points with 9.45 to play in the fourth...
- Scalabrine beating the shot clock to give Chicago a +51 lead (118-67)
- Asik toying with Speights in the low post with the "and one" while Marreese was pulling his jersey...
- the same Asik spinning around Battie for the emphatic dunk
- the block in the pic: Turner goes for the sissy layup only to get swatted by Asik, again (no, not Dwight Howard, I said Omer Asik...)
Sometimes you have to thank the NBA schedule and its back-to-backs, that's the best medicine...no comments
The first of Sixers' eight-game road trip was a 89-97 W in Orlando against
what was left of the Magic immediately after the Carter-Pietrus-Gortat/Arenas-Turkoglu-J Rich trade.
How does the rest of the longest trip of the season look for the 11-16, (.407) Sixers? I say not so bad.
Let's take a look at the schedule and try to make some observations, remembering the team's latest, encouraging progresses. Predictions in italic.
Tue 21 @ Chicago (L)
This is gonna be bad, I'm afraid. Bulls are 3rd in the conference, 7-3 in the last ten and are a tough, complete, skilled team. I think we don't match up well with Chicago, they are just as athletic as us, with a powerful combination of reliable veterans and stars in the making.
Only advantage for us is obviously at SG, but given Meeks' recent struggles (3/20 from behind the arc over the past five games) this is not 100% sure. Sixers' might have a chance only if they manage to run.
Key player: Jrue Holiday, facing Derrick Rose (but Brand-Boozer will be interesting as well).
Wed 22 @ Boston (L)
Forget the fact that Celtics will be without Rondo: it's the second night of a back-to-back against the best (and hottest), team in the League, that already beat us playing with Semith Erden at starting C... Next.
Key player: Andre Iguodala, trying to shut down Pierce for the second straight game. (Speaking of Andre, he's 9/16 from three point land in the last five - more after the jump)no comments
We stayed closed, stayed even in front, but at the end of the night, as predicted, it was the Lakers to come out with a W, 81-93 and stop Sixers' winning streak at a modest three (10-16, .385).
I admit I believed we could have won (it happens often... I tend to fall for it nearly always...) but in the decisive moments the better team came up big, while the young one laid an egg.
A 25-6 Lakers run in the final period put the game out of reach, turning Sixers' 62-58 third quarter lead into a 68-83 deficit in the fourth. I say it's better to lose like this than on a last second play (Washington x 2, Boston etc).
Anyway I think it was an ugly game with both teams shooting horribly (a combined 6/36 from behind the arc...) but playing with intensity.
The fact that it was a sellout crowd and that we competed at their level for 40 minutes might even push me to file this game under the "Good step in the learning process" category (Sixers fans = low standards, remember).
To be optimistic
1) excellent game by Spencer Hawes, by far our MVP of the night. He was a force in the paint, fought hard vs Gasol and Bynum, avoided foul troubles and even added five "finesse" dimes to another double double + a couple of monster blocks on Gasol. Impressive, really. (Hey, is he the same Hawes ???)
2) Iguodala was solid as well. I say he was better offensively than defensively (he kept Bryant to a quite 9, but Kobe was clearly slowed by a finger injury). His outside shot was falling, while he missed a couple of pretty easy shots around the rim (more after the jump).no comments