01/04/10 12:24 pm EST
At this point in the 76ers debacle of a season, we’ll take a win anyway we can get it and last night the Sixers got an ugly win, but it still counts. The problem is that’s really the most positive thing we can say about last night’s game in Denver. Sunday night, the Sixers (10-23) who were on the last game of their 6-game road trip, played a Nuggets squad that was missing All-Stars Carmel Anthony as well as Chauncey Billups and during the 2nd quarter lost Chris “Birdman” Anderson to a sprained ankle. So in theory the Sixers should have walked home with an easy W vs. the significantly depleted Nuggs.
Instead, the 76ers decided to take us on a dramatic and unnecessary rollercoaster ride on the way to a lucky win. Philadunkia’s home team of course started slow, fell behind by nine points in the 1st Q, made a comeback thanks to the second unit, built a 15-point lead in the 3rd Q, nearly blew the game on the FT line and then miraculously held on for the victory. Against most NBA teams this game would have been a loss for the Sixers and against a healthy Nuggets sqaud it would have been a blowout loss.
Again this was just an ugly game for the Sixers and it’s hard to find many positives in this victory. The Sixers came out of the locker room and looked slow and disinterested in the game. Iguodala struggled mightily on 2-9 shooting. The Sixers got out rebounded 44-35, including 11 offensive boards for the Nuggs. They turned the ball over at key moments. They’re defense was no existent — thirty-six 1st Q points for Denver (more on that in a minute). They coughed up a 15 point lead thanks to a late 9-0 Denver run. Finally, they bricked free throws in clutch time.
After the game last night, Eddie Jordan and his controversial first-five should have taken the Sixers reserves out to dinner, because it was the bench that delivered what we felt was a must win for the Sixers. A “second unit” comprised of Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday, Willie Greeen, Rodney Carney and Jason Smith won this game and there’s no debating that fact. That “second unit” put up 45 points, 11 assists and 14 rips. Smith was an especially big boost as he scored 7 points in eight minutes during the end of the 3rd quarter into the 4th Q, and supplied the Sixers with some much needed defense and energy. In fact this unit’s defense was so good that it forced Jordan a.k.a. “Mr. Put Shot Makers on the Floor” to utter the following sentence during post-game that actually acknowledges defense is a factor in the NBA, “our defense was really good in the second half, the third quarter especially. Our guys just stuck with it.” Hey coach Jordan, for the record, last night the “second unit” held the Nuggs to 8-for-20 on FGA. That stretch also included a Nuggets scoring drought that lasted 5:24. However we doubt the surprising quotes from Jordan or the revealing stats will inspire the head coach to realize that defense is part of the NBA game and thus convince Jordan to change his basketball ways.
Lastly, one could also argue that two players (Brand and Holiday) from last night’s “second unit” which was so key to the victory should be starting for the Sixers, but we’ll save that post for later this week.
Speaking of the Sixers and defense…with Samuel Dalembert in foul trouble nearly the entire 1st half, the Nuggets led by Ty Lawson (23 points & 9 dimes) took advantage of the Sixers ole’ defense and penetrated the lane at will for lay-ins and flushes. When Sammy D was on the court last night, he had a huge impact and did a great job of closing down the Denver expressway. Our question is, “When will Sammy D learn to stop committing the horrendous fouls that continually send him to the bench early in games?” The fouls he commits drive us crazy here at Philadunkia because for all of his offensive deficiencies and lack of basketball fundamentals, we’ll be the first to admit that Dalembert is an absolute game changer on the defensive end. Since Jordan refuses to regularly play a lineup that has a clue on the defensive end, Sammy’s presence on the back line becomes even more important to the Sixers under the current head coach. If the Sixers are going to turn this season around, they have to play better defense. That can happen in two ways…(1) Jordan can alter his lineups to focus more on defense (Try not to laugh too hard at that one.) or (2) Sammy stays out of foul trouble and on the court. So basically the season is on Sammy. That’s a scary thought.