APTOPIX Bobcats 76ers BasketballWas Elton Brand trying to make a statement on Wednesday night?  Let’s hope so.  Were Eddie Jordan’s harsh words earlier this week about Elton Brand “not being a 40-minute player” any more and that he might start Rodney Carney ahead of Brand meant to inspire better play from the former All-Star power forward?  If so, “genius” we say.  Could Mo Speights injury and resulting absence from the Sixers lineup produce something positive (a return to form by EB) in the long run?  Possibly.  We may never know the answer to these questions and we’re not sure we care either. 

What we do know is that if Elton Brand continues to play like a man possessed as he did vs. the Bobcats, the outlook for the Sixers in the 2009-10 season will be significantly improved from the preseason predictions.

Simply put Elton balled last night.  Brand had his mid-range going, he blocked shots, rebounded, made steals and dove on the floor for loose balls.  It was a thing of beauty to watch, but the scary part was the 76ers needed every ounce of Elton’s game to narrowly escape with a 86-84 W over the hopeless Bobcats.

Bobcats 76ers BasketballBrand’s box score line — 19 points, 11 boards, 6 blocks and 3 steals — does not do justice to his efforts against Charlotte last night.  Brand set the tone for the Sixers early with a block.  He followed that swat with a steal that he then picked up and took coast-to-coast for the flush.  But Brand didn’t let up after establishing an attitude for the Sixers in the 1st quarter and hitting for 13 point overall in the 1st half.  He played over 41 minutes and led by example from tip-off to the final horn by diving for loose balls, going strong to the tin, running down long rebounds and even leading the break once or twice.  At times we were literally giddy watching EB play.  We’re sure Ed Stefanskiwas too. 

As for Jordan statements earlier this week, well the head coach admitted after the game that EB “proved me wrong”.   We bet Jordan has never been happier to be incorrect.  We realize this was only one game, against the Charlotte Bobcats no less, but it’s hard not to get pumped as we actually saw a glimmer of hope for this season during the Wednesday night’s game.  Hopefully it wasn’t a one-night stand by Elton and there are more games like this ahead for EB and the Sixers.          

1st Half Notes:

  • Rodney Carney did a nice job of contributing in the 1st half with two 3s.
  • The Sixers forced two shot clock violations in the first half.  Again it happened against the ‘Cats, one of the most offensively challenged teams in the League, but for the defensively challenged Sixers that has to count for something.
  • The Sixers had to big runs in the 1st half :  The first was the 13-1 run to close the 1st Q and the other was an 8-1 run to close out the 2nd Q.
  • With 6:54 remaining in the 2nd Q, the Sixers ran a low post isolation play for Jason Smith and Smith made a nice move to free himself for a step back J.  We know the Princeton offense does not believe in one-man or two-man games, but we’d still like to see Smith’s number called more often in that manner as he has great touch on his shot and could contribute more buckets on a nightly basis.
  • With 2:30 left in the 2nd Q, EB put the ball on the deck, drove down the lane to cup hard and scored a tough bucket.  It was the single best play we have seen from Brand so far this season and we had to smile after the ball went down.
  • Although he was solid last night (19 & 6), Louis Williams’ play continues to be a roller coaster ride…At the 3:20 mark Louis was pushing the rock on a fast break where he did not have numbers and instead of backing it out, he made a terrible decision to go to the rim and forced an awful shot that never touched anything.  Charlotte grabbed the ball, went the other way, got a bucket and cut the Sixers lead to two points.  It was a mistake that a good high school point man would not have made, so an NBA point guard should absolutely have better court awareness.  Then a little over two minutes later, Louis kissed in a runner that so sweet it nearly made us forget the previous mistake.  We’ll provide another example of the roller coaster coming up.

2nd Half Notes:

  • As we wrote earlier Brand did not limit his solid play to a hot start.  In the 3rd Q he followed his own shot and missed the bucket but got fouled and went to the FT line, he had two blocks in one ‘Cats possession and after the second block he grabbed the loose ball.  Later he dove on the floor to gather in another loose ball.  To start the 4th, EB faced up and hit a huge 15-footer to push the Sixers lead to six.  And of course he had a huge block with :55 remaining in the game to trigger the Sixers comeback.  Finally, Brand deflected Charlotte’s inbound pass on the final play of the game and sealed the W for the home team.  Where has this version of Elton Brand been during the first month of the season?  On the bench that’s where. 
  • With 4:59 left in the 3rd Q the Sixerswere leading 60-55 when back-to-back turnovers by Young and Iguodala led to ‘Cats  buckets and cut the lead to a single digit.  The series reminded us of the games against the Nets this year in that one way or another, the Sixers just allow bad teams to hang around and make games closer then they should ever be.
  • Jason Kapono made his first appearance of the night with 3:30 left in the 3rd (More on this later.).
  • The 3-ball AI9 hit at the end of the 3rd is exactly the type of shot a team leader and All-Star hopeful takes and makes. 
  • The Sixers had a nasty stretch starting at the 7:17 mark of the 4th where the went nearly three minutes with out a hoop.  During that time they went from leading by seven (77-70) to leading by two.  Iggy broke the streak and restored order with a step back, but the lead wouldn’t last long as the Sixers nearly gave this one away.
  • The Louis roller coaster came down the tracks again late in the 4th starting with a nice driving layup at the 3:15 mark that pushed the Sixers lead to 81-77.  That was followed roughly forty-five seconds later by a horrible drive and off-balanced shot attempt that the ‘Cats grabbed, then broke out and drained a 3-ball off of to cut the lead to one point.  Again we didn’t need Louis to go recklessly to the hole at that moment.  A solid NBA point guard must always be aware of time and score and Louis didn’t have a clue of either on that ill-advised move.
  • When the Sixers somehow trailed the awful Bobcats 84-81 with 1:49 left, we were surprisingly confident that the Sixers would find away to win.
  • We didn’t think there was any way AI9 would get that foul call on his stumbling drive down the lane with :33 left.  But he did, so maybe he’s moved into the NBA star category of players who get questionable calls at the right time.
  • Carney played stellar defense on ‘Cats floor general Raymond Felton during Charlotte’s last possession.  When Felton drove to the basket, Carney kept him from getting deep into the lan, turned him out and forced a bad pass to the corner where Boris Diaw missed a big three pointer.  AI9 grabbed the baord, went the other way and dished to Louis for the winning bucket.

Final Notes:

  • Lost in all the Brand drama, player rotation questions, Princeton offense issues and overall poor effort so far this season has been the play of Andre Iguodala.  AI9 hit for 25, 5 and 3 steals last night, but most important in our eyes is how he got those points.  Iggy did NOT settle for long distance jumpers.  Of course he filled the lane on the break as he always does for easy baskets and dunks, but what we really liked is that in the half-court he put the ball on the floor and refused to be kept out of the paint where he also got easy baskets.  In four of his last six games Iguodala has scored 24 or more points and to us he seems close to really breaking out and not looking back, which obviously would be nice for the Sixers.
  • Stephen Jackson (26 points) was a nice addition for Charlotte and if S-jack and Gerald Wallace can get it going and Larry Brown can produce a third scorer, the ‘Cats could be a tough opponent down the road in 2009-10.
  • The officiating was awful.
  • After finally busting out in 2009-10 over a week ago vs. PHX and playing very well since that game, Thad’s shooting funk came back last night — 5 points on 2-10 shooting .   
  • It was a good thing the Cats were off from outside tonight because they fired up 24 threes, but only made 7.
  • Kapono(3:36), Smith (7:21) and Jrue Holiday (DNP-CD) have to see increased minutes.  They each bring a unique skill set to the florr that Sixers desperately need.  Which begs the question, what will Jordan’s rotation be while Speights is out?
  • Announced attendance at Wachovia Center was 11, 585.  Not a chance.  If you didn’t count local kid Gerald Henderson’s family and friends there were maybe 6K Sixers fans at the game. 

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