The Sixers 104-93 win over the Blazers (20-13) last night proved a few things : Willie Green should never start again for the rest of his career; Andre Iguodala should focus more on getting his teammates shots rather then tossing up jumpers himself; with Dalembert, Brand, and Speights the Sixers have three men who can score in the paint and this should be taken advantage of in up coming games; and if Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young are going to start than they must be able to play consistently for an entire game and not just show flashes of greatness.
There were some things in last night’s big W which really stood out and showed that with minimal change the Sixers can win against the elite teams in the League. The Sixers held the Blazers to just 42% shooting by keeping players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy in check defensively. Elton Brand and Royal Ivey (A guy who I’ve always been high on defensively.) showed what the Sixers are capable of when the whole team plays defense. Brandon Roy although hitting for 24 points on the night, clearly had a bad finish to the game due to pesky defense from Royal Ivey. After the loss in Washington last week, Elton Brand asked for a little help on defense down low and he received it last night it from Marreese Speights and Samuel Dalembert who both assisted in shutting down LaMarcus Aldridge.
Another thing which stood out last night was scoring in the paint. When Andre Iguodala puts the ball on the deck, AI9 draws extra defenders to him. Iguodala has to realize that instead of trying to shoot low percentage jumpers or forced shots in traffic as he’s been doing all season, that he has to pass the ball off down low to open big men like Brand, Speights, and Dalembert. AI9 found open bigs last night and they took advantage of the soft Portland defensive rotations (Brand – 25 & 9; Speights 14 & 2; and Sammy 14 & 8). The Sixershad 60 points in the paint last night after having just 24 in their most recent loss to the Utah Jazz. You can attribute the bulk of that positive scoring differential to simply finding the open man down low instead of Sixers perimeter players settling for a mid to long range jump shot.
The Sixers have two games remaining in December against two very beatable teams. The Sacramento Kings havebeen playing solid basketball this year behind the offensive power of Philly native Tyreke Evans, but have failed to play anything that resembles good defense. Sacto is giving up 105 ppg. on the season which ranks them 27thin the League. The Sixers last two victories came against Boston who ranks first in scoring defense and Portland who ranks third. On that fact alone I propose that there is no reason why Philadunkia’s home team can’t take down the Kings.
The Clippers are also a very beatable team as they have been a roller coaster squad all year. The Clippers like the Sixers recently defeated the mighty Boston Celtics. However they have also had some terrible losses this season, just like the Sixers. The Kings beat the Sixers in overtime in the last meeting between the teams and in that game Chris Kaman really dominated the Sixer bigs. Eddie Jordan must come up with a plan to shut down Kaman if we’re going to win the rematch on Wednesday night.
The Sixers have a chance to end 2009 on a solid three-game win streak, which would be the longest for the Sixers this season and would give the team a little boost of confidence as the New Year begins and the season nears the second half of the schedule.
Believe it or not, the Sixers are a mere 4.5 games out of seventh place in the Eastern Conference. We know that this team is capable of winning, it’s just a matter of playing consistently and not going back to bad habits. I do think that Eddie Jordan has been doing a better job of coaching recently now that his job is on the line, but where was this coaching the first half of the season? You can put the blame for the Sixers 8-22 record wherever you want, but the bottom line is that we must instill winning in this team now. It’s the only thing that will give a spark to the Sixers for the rest of this season and it certainly will help build some confidence for 2010-11.
This season is not lost, but it will take a huge team effort to save it. Our heart is back with Allen Iverson, our soul is nearly there with Elton Brand, and if our future – Iguodala, Young, Williams and Holiday can play smarter, more consistent basketball, the rest of the 2009-10 season will hopefully be brighter than the past.