It took a while to beat the Clippers, but after the 105-91 W Sixers stand at 10-15 (.400) and look like a decent basketball team, having won three straight games for the first time this year, not to mention five of six and seven of the last nine.
Tonight they will face the Lakers in what could be a turning point for the season (but we said the same before the Celtics game and we all know how it ended...), at least another, tough test for a surging team.
The upcoming schedule, with eight consecutive road games after playing host to the champs (@Orlando, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Golden State, Phoenix, LA Lakers, New Orleans) could either push the Sixers down again, to the bottom of the conference, or give them another, bigger boost for the playoffs ambitions.
So what happened to the team that was dead last in the Eastern conference at 3-13? What did change? What are the new perspectives? Let's try to make few points.
1) improved defense
In the last three games Sixers twice held their opponents under 80 points and the third game they allowed below .40% shooting. While the New Orleans game was surely a case on its own, something unique (at least I hope so. For the Hornets, I mean), the last two are a more serious indication, even factoring in the modest value of Nets' and Clippers' rosters.
In general, defense on pick and roll has got significantly better. Adjustments have been made, there is more aggressiveness in not letting the guard take a step back for the open outside shot, double teams on the guy with the ball are quicker, just as the recover on the big man.
But mainly, it seems to me that Sixers now play good help defense. at the beginning of the season each guard beating one of our guys on the perimeter used to see a sort of "red carpet" towards the basket, finishing pretty much at will with lay ups or easy shots. Now the second and third "line" (=forwards and bigs) know when and how to come to help, making those shots tougher, causing turnovers or somehow bad passes.
To sum it up rotations in general look more efficient.no comments
Jeez, this was really a pain to watch.
Sixers (9-15, .375) snapped a 8-game road losing streak pulling out a 77-82 W over the Nets, that had their seven game losing streak extended to eight...
As you would assume, it was far from a memorable game, in fact perhaps the ugliest of the season.
But we'll take the win, Hawes' night and few highlights before moving on, trying to make seven-of-nine.
So let's quicky forget the long series of terrible offensive possessions (by both teams, to be honest?), the turnovers, the laughable bricks, the bad passes, the spacing (?)... 48 minutes of really bad basketball.
To be optimistic
1) Hawes had a monster game offensively.
He hit two threes + another jumper while stepping the line (the typical "long two pointer", the # 1 of my "Most hated shots" list) + a turnaround corner jumper from 18 feet as the shotclock was expiring... it won't happen often so let's enjoy the season high 18 points just as much as the four dimes and the two blocks.
2) Holiday came up big down the stretch, closing the game with a tough drive (basket + foul, 69-78 with 1.25 to play)
3) Uhm... not much else, honestly, except the nice effort by each player and some stretches of good defense against a bad team that was missing many players (Morrow got injured immediately, also)
To be worried
1) We nearly blew even this one in the final minutes.
Nets made it a one possession game when Outlow knocked down a transition three after an horrible turnover by Iguodala (75-78 with 35 seconds to play). Fortunately the same Iguodala and Jrue hit all of their free throws to seal the game.
2) we got ABUSED under the boards all night.
NJ got 51 vs our 36 and nobody could box out to save his life. A desperate Collins started the 4th with Hawes AND Battie to limit Humphries & the Nets' bigs... but even that didn't work.
Unbelievable how Brand grabbed only three defensive rebounds in 38 minutes, how Turner was our top rebounder with six, how Hawes (plagued by foul trouble, though) stopped at five and mainly how we let New Jersey have 19 second chances...no comments
Early tip off, early lead, early blowout win.
It took Sixers basically only two quarters to make a quick work of the slumping Hornets and send them home for their eight loss in the last eleven games, which for us meant the fifth win in the last seven: 88-70, 8-15 (348).
It was a really strange game, in which Hornets piled up a pretty impressive series of negative records:
- 23 first half points
- 1/20 shooting in the second quarter (!)
- the most unbelievable to me, 1 first half assist !!! By Chris Paul, if you want to know it...
- in the same two quarters, Hornets shot 6/42, "good" for an unbelievable 14% from the floor...
- Hornets finished with ONE player in double figure
And so on, I'll save you the rest.
The +22 lead at the break (45-23) wasn't sliced at the end of the third (67-46), something that I was honestly fearing, and the fourth was pure garbage time.
I don't know how "seriously" you can take such a weird game, but still...
To be optimistic
1) not only we were aggressive from the start, but we didn't relax after building such a lead, that for a young team is always a risk.
Loved how Collins immediately called a timeout in the third after Sixers missed their first three shots and looked lazy: Elton Brand put New Orleans away with some nice low post baskets, including a sweet lefthanded hook.
2) Iguodala played a great all around game, hitting even his first three shots from behind the line. 16, 10 and 5 in only 32 minutes is excellent indeed, well done.no comments
Now this will be interesting.
After the 109-91 W over Charlotte (6-14, .300), that I missed, and the 117-97 demolition of the Cavs (7-14, .333), fourth W in five games, that I fully enjoyed, Sixers suffered the fourth heartbreaking loss of the season, falling 101-102 at home against the Celtics, to set their record at 7-15, .318.
There is enough to stop for a while and try to make a fair assessment of this team, at 1/4 of the season: I've read about "Making the playoffs" (words by Thad Young), turning point, "nearly the defining win of the season" (Kate Fagan) and so on.
I don't think it's a turning point, it would have been so had we won against Boston, but there is plenty of reasons....
To be optimistic
1) Let's be honest, Sixers have been playing pretty good basketball over the last two weeks. Defense is tough, the offense seems finally to be clicking, intensity is there for 48 minutes.
Guys keep playing hard, as a team, regardless of their record. You surely gotta give credit to Doug Collins for that, but also to the players. As a fan, you can't but appreciate.
2) key players are in very good shape (read also below) and are carrying their team mates. You have a nice mix of guys that - for many reasons - seemed to be lost now bouncing back (Brand, Young, even Hawes), totally unexpected surprises ("Meex" of course), some expected-but-still-enjoyable confirmations (the talent of Holiday)
3) I saw some signs of negative trend(s) that hopefully can be reversed.
Watching Iguodala score TWO big buckets in the final minute of a game like the one vs Boston was huge, and is perhaps the most important. God knows how Sixers desperately need a go-to-guy, a "closer" in those situations, and while I am not sure Iguodala can be the one, or at least not always, we have to say that everyone else that tried failed so far: only this year Williams, Brand, Nocioni etc.no comments
I know God up there is proud of me.
And he's proud of all of us, Sixers fans. He loves our dedication and is always with us, game by game, pain after pain, blowout after blowout, collapse after collapse.
That is perhaps the only thought that keeps me continuing watching this team and its unbelievable shortcomings.
Last example, the 93-88 L in Atlanta (5-14, .263), against a JJ-less Hawks team.
Only the last of an already long list of epic fails.
To be optimistic
1) Extremely hot start: 12-20 Sixers, Hawes with a 9 point-5 rebound first quarter. (We wasted even that. When will it happen again?).
2) Dominance under the boards, a key factor to build a 32-50 second quarter lead. Ton of second chances and good box outs (again, how many times did you see this?).
3) a 50-67 third quarter lead with Hawks reaching their foul limit at -6.24 (Obviously we didn't attempt a single free throw after that mark, settling for a ton of 17-foot jumpers. But this was perhaps the least...)
4) a 13 point-fourth quarter lead (72-85) with 8.45 to play and a sloppy Atlanta team nearly done.
To be worried
1) outscored 21-3 from that point to the final buzzer.
2) 1/13 shooting to end the game, 4/20 overall in the fourth, 0/8 in the final 3.13 minutes.
3) five 4th quarter turnovers
4) went scoreless in the last 2.18 minutes
This year there isn't a game that can't be lost for these Sixers, that's the saddest part.
If you are a half full-type of guy, you can think "These losses help the young guys grow and are good lessons to learn", if you are a half empy-fan you will probably think "These guys will get used to lose, lose confidence and develop a losing mentality". To be honest, I am slowly moving to the second group...
The missed dunk on a 2-vs-1 fastbreak for the potential +11 with 4.30 to play (Lou Williams), getting blocked by Mike Bibby (!!!) on a key three pointer (Holiday), the awfully bad shots in crunch time (Iguodala), the easy jumpers missed in the final possessions (Brand), the sissy foul for the decisive "and one" (Battie: you don't expect that from a veteran, right?), the unbelievable turnover off the inbound pass (Meeks) etc etc....
You got it, it was a total team collapse.
ALL guys look paralysed with the game on the line, regardless of their skills, experience, role. It's like they know they will eventually, somehow, end up losing, and each of them "contributes" with a crucial mistake, always in the worst possible moment.
OTHER, QUICK THOUGHTS
- first NBA start for "Meex". I didn't like the move when I saw it, but it apparently benefited both him and Evan Turner, who played a solid game off the bench. Let's see in the long term, though.
- fourth different lineup in less than 20 games...
- why no Hawes in the fourth? (I never thought I could write this...)
- I know it's easy to say now, but woulnd't Nocioni's toughness have been useful in the fourth? Marvin Williams was abusing Iguodala, that was also bricking shot after shot on the other end...
- Nocioni is the second player that goes from starter to DNP CD in Collins' rotation (Kapono was the first)
- "What a gift for the Hawks", Dominique Wilkins on Iguodala losing the ball after Crawford missed both free throws
- "He tried to shoot it before he caught it" Nique Wilkins again, on Meeks' nearly comical turnover that ended the game in style for the Sixers.
(I couldn't recap the 88-79 W over Portland, that extended our winning streak to...two (5-13, 278). It immediately stopped, of course)no comments
Apparently Sixers are still able to win games as they defeated New Jersey 102-86 to improve (?) their record to 4-13, .235.
Let's be honest, after the last tough stretch another loss, at home, against a below .500 opponent would have been a disaster.
Playing for the fourth time in five days, Sixers showed they can play good basketball and finish teams off. Of course it was only the Nets, but the most important thing was to stop the bleeding and savour the taste of a win again.
To be optimistic
1) eleven players scored, five in double figure, and everybody brought something to the table last night.
Battie, to name one, got off the bench late but and played the whole 4th quarter (while Brand sat) adding toughness, rebounding and some unexpected scoring. He even hit a long three in Sixers' last possession of the: it was "one of those nights", in a good sense this time.
2) Sixers shot 15/19 in the 4th, if I am not mistaken. That's pretty impressive, but the good thing is the variety of solutions they had. It was a balanced mix of outside shots, drives, fastbreak and transition points, mid range jumpers. Young (7 pts to begin the period) and Iguodala carried the offense, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday did a great job also, creating for others and scoring themselves.
3) speaking of our back court, only 5 team turnovers are the best news of the night to me. Holiday ended with a terrific 13/1 assist/turnover ratio, while Lou was 5/0 and Iguodala 4/1. Of course it's a totally different game when our "playmakers" take care of the ball like that. Sixers shared the rock extremely well and made things look easy.
To be worried
1) even in a night like that, where nearly everything was going in the right direction, Spencer Hawes was awful. The two quick fouls in the 1st are to take for granted, same for the bricks from the line (8/22, 36% for the season...). To his credit, he had a couple of nice dishes from the top of the key, he is good at that.
2) Brook Lopez was unstoppable for most of the night. I like this guy a lot, he is big and skilled as low post scorer but has also a soft touch from the outside. He is great at drawing fouls (10 fts in the 1st Q !!) and kept the Nets in the game in the fourth hitting also some long jumpers. A star in the making, definitely.
OTHER, QUICK THOUGHTS
- Meredith Marakovits during the broadcast: "Nice to see some life at the Wells Fargo center". LOL !!
- 45-39 rebounding edge, wow.
- Petro knocked down TWO 17 footers...
- not impressed by Favors, honestly, but he's still adjusting to the NBA just as much as Turner I believe.
- solid double-double for Brand, when he rebounds like this on the defensive end Sixers can run more and score easy points no comments
No, it's not that Meeks (in the pic) is short.
And no, Meeks is not to blame for our last loss 99-90 in Miami.
In fact he was the MVP in another game in which Sixers (3-13, .188) played hard, fought well, only to come up short down the stretch.
Again, loved the effort, the attitude, saw some good things/signs, but when it counted the most, there was no one to lead the team to a more-then-possible win. against a struggling opponent.
Sounds weird to call like this a Miami team with James, Wade, Bosh that toyed with us in the second game of the season, but that's just the truth. Right now the Heat are far from the powerhouse that everybody predicted would have dominated the League, or at least this conference.
Another team, more experience, more confident etc etc, would have beaten Miami in a night like that. Good for them they met the Sixers...
Heat played frontrunners for the whole night, but Sixers always stayed close. I counted three times in which we had the ball to tie the game, and perhaps get some momentum, but every time we came up... short.
Third quarter, 70-68 Miami, Iguodala goes to the line with two free throws and misses both (...).
Couple of possessions after that, 71-68 Miami, Lou Williams takes a three but can't knock it down.
Start of the fourth quarter, 75-73 Miami, Speights attempts a long jumper that hits only the rim: it's the beginning of a 10-0 Heat run that basically seals the game.
Another honorable loss...
The pic of the night: Hawes can't finish on an easy alley oop and the tv shows Collins keeping his head in his hands, in disbelief...
OTHER QUICK THOUGHTS
- Meeks'explosion in the second quarter was shocking: 18 points in 9 minutes with 7/8, including 4/4 from three point range. His shooting form is really nice.
- I have to admit I was wrong on "Meex", I never thought he could have been a real NBA player but instead he played his butt off, took advantage of the chances he was given and deserves his spot in the rotation. He's perhaps the best outside shooter we have right now, with Williams in a slump and Kapono out
- I have no words to describe how annoying is seeing so many free throws missed...
- Brand's inability to finish under the rim is amazing: 4/13 and 5 TOs, also
- decent outing for Hawes (for his standards, I mean): 8 rebounds in 22 minutes are ok
- 20/9/5: is Iguodala getting back to his usual numbers? Will he keep it up? no comments
(Sixers4guidos, where late recaps happen)
Dear old Reggie Evans taught the young Sixers (3-12, .200) a good lesson as he led his Raptors to a 106-90 W with a memorable 12 point-22 rebound effort.
According to special S4g statistic, Reggie's last double-double dates back to the summer of 2000 when he was playing pick up basketball with friends in Iowa.
With this wire-to-wire loss in the second night of a back-to-back, Sixers' secured the last place in the Eastern conference. Happy?
Uhm, I'm starting to think about being happy: I am close to switching to tanking mode after just 15 games, as sad as it sounds. The problem is: will it serve any purpose?
Or will the Sixers become the Clippers of the 2010-2020 decade, piling up losses to get high draft picks, that lead to more losses? I know this sounds really negadelphian, therefore shouldn't come from a european fan, but follwoing this team is becoming more and more frustrating.
I mean, getting to the point where you really miss Reggie Evans is not good, right? And not simply as a fan favorite, but as a basketball player, a key contributor to your team's successes (?).
Don't get me wrong, I really like Evans, always liked him, I wish there were more Reggies in this league: aside from his "blue collar" attitude, the toughness, the intensity bla bla bla, he is a pretty unique example of a (marginal) NBA player that continues to work hard and play his butt off even after getting a (too long, too) fat contract.
This said, getting beaten by a team almost literally carried by Reggie Evans, allowing him a career high 22 rebounds, to go with three three point plays (!!) gives you the idea of the current Sixers' situation.
OTHER QUICK THOUGHTS
- 62 first half points allowed ? to the Raptors ????
- how pathetic is Spencer Hawes? He missed all of his first five attempts
- is Craig Brackings the next Willie Green? He shot the first ball he touched, in his Sixers' debut
- speaking of Brackings, he finished the third quarter in style, airballing a three...
- why always such bad decisions in key possessions?
- what's with all those missed layups in the first half?
- will Sixers have an inside game, one day? no comments
(Sixers4guidos, where late recaps happen)
Please explain how can you lose 116-114 in OT in Washington after:
1) you led by 17 in the third quarter (44-61)
2) you led by 15 in the fourth (75-90)
3) you led by 5 with 28 seconds to play (99-104)
4) you led by three with 20 seconds to play (101-104) and had just to inbound the ball
5) you led by three with 8 seconds to play (103-106) and had to shoot two free throws
6) you still led by three with the same 8 seconds to play and all you had to do was avoid to foul anyone attempting a three pointer
7) you had the last shot in regulation to win the game (106-106, 3.5 seconds to play)
8) you had the last shot in overtime to tie it (116-114)
Sixers (3-11, .214) did ALL OF THE ABOVE and found a way to fall against the Wizards in one of the most unbelievable losses I ever experienced (not that I saw few...).
Just as if the first game in Washigton wasn't unlikely and horrible enough, this time was even worse.
This made me come to the conclusion that I'd take any -30 blowout over such dramatic finishes.
Unbelievable, even for a Sixers fan that saw Devin Harris connecting on a half court shot at the buzzer with 1.8 seconds to play. At least that was quick. Here it was a calvary. Long, painful.
Sixers (losing) basketball, baby. Makes you forget the good things.
Ok, I'll list some of them anyway, in a desperate effort to stay positive after this epic choking job.
OTHER QUICK, THOUGHTS
- Brand's first half was phenomenal: 17 + 3 on 8/10
- Brand's second half was less then pathetic: 2 points, 0/4 from the field and a stupid flagrant foul on McGee that made him deserve an ejection (in the pic) and fueled Wizards' comeback (not saying it was the decisive play, though)
- Don't know how you can be a 6'9 PF, play 26 minutes and fail to grab a single defensive rebound. Maybe I'll ask Brand directly
- Speights' fourth quarter was terrific: 10 points and a lot of clutch plays
- John Wall's play reminds me a lot of Nikos Galis, especially when he drives
- Why is Nick Young red hot ever time he plays us?
The fact that Sixers are a damn young team and they have a damn long way to go was soo evident last night.
They had to beat the Bucks basically three times before "escaping" with the final 90-79 W, that snapped a 5-game losing streak (3-10, .231).
The funny (?) thing is that after this huge (??) win they remained last in the Eastern conference because Toronto won as well.
Why am I saying that they won three times?
Well because Sixers had full control of the game twice, but they couldn't close it, eventually finishing Milwaukee only the third time.
This is the prove that they have to learn also HOW to win.
To quote Collins himself: "We have to learn how to finish games better".
First time: Lou Williams knocked down a three to give Sixers their largest lead of the night, 83-65 with 7.25 to play in the fourth. Bucks looked done after that dagger.
Instead they got back into the game, with Maggette singledandedly carrying their offense: 8-0 run in the following two minutes to make it a ten point game, 83-73. Uhm.
Second time: with Sixers sensing a comeback and the tension increasing, Nocioni had a key steal on Maggette, that had to stop his fastbreak committing a flagrant. After Andres made both free throws, Brand knocked down his only field goal of the night to make it 87-73 with only 4.30 left.
That looked like the decisive, momentum-swinging play: fourteen points should be a pretty comfortable lead, right? No way. A couple of horrible offensive possessions and Milwaukee cut it to eight, 87-75 on a (too) easy dunk by "the monster" Brockman with 2.35 to play. Uhm (2).
So it took Williams' three (90-79 at -1.38) to give Sixers this much needed win. Whew !
To be optimistic
1) well, the win, obviously. The good thing is that everybody gave a good contribution, also the guys whose stat line might look poor (Speights, very good on D also) or unimpressive (Nocioni, Hawes and also Turner).
2) Thaddeus Young had a terrific all around night, flying everywhere to finish fastbreaks, getting rebounds, dishing assists, drawing fouls.
3) the defense was there: we didn't allow Milwaukee to score much in the paint, keeping Jennings away and limiting Bogut. They did their part, also, missing all of their twelve threes, many wide open.
To be worried
1) Can we put together a streak? Can we keep this going?
2) How come our decision making down the stretch is so poor? What's with all those turnovers, charges, awful shots getting blocked etc? We really need to improve that.
3) Brand and Jrue slow start really affected us. They combined for 0/7 I think.
OTHER, QUICK THOUGHTS
- Zero free throws attempted in the first Q, 23 in the following 20 minutes: that was huge, a decisive factor.
- Brand's fourth foul after 20 seconds in the second half was totally idiotic, you don't expect that by a player of his experience
- Defense initating offense: never as true as yesterday
- Loved the tall lineups, with Thad as SF, his real role (to me)