That’s what we discovered while watching the 76ers during the first two games of the 2010-11 season — you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes there have been large chunks of the first two Ls were this team reverts back to the awful habits they developed playing under Eddie Jordan — ole’ defense and settling for jumpers — but there have also been beautiful stretches were the Sixers play in-your-face defense and on the other end they drive the ball to the tin.
We realize that there is a long road ahead before the Sixers play the way Doug Collins wants them to for nearly an entire game, but we saw flashes of what this roster is capable of last night against a very good Hawks team and it was encouraging.
More recap after the jump.
76ers fans who did not watch the game last night will be led to believe by the highlights that this game was decided in the 4th Q and specifically by Nocioni’s blocked 3PA at the end. That’s simply not true. The Sixers furious 4th quarter rally which eventually fell short was necessary because they dug themselves a tremendous hole early in the second half. The 76ers came out of locker room after half-time ice cold and that’s what killed them last night.
Trailing by 10 at the half (62-52) Doug’s crew went 1-12 to start the 3rd Q and watched the Hawks push their lead to 14 points. The 1-12 streak happened because Philadunkia’s home team settled for jumpers early in the stanza and on the rare occasion where the Sixers got the ball inside, the Josh Smith swatted everything that came down the lane (3 blocks in the early 3rd Q). The 1-12 streak was finally broken when AI9 just put his head down and bulled his way to the glass for a bank-shot lay-in. The Sixers then spent the rest of third battling to get the Hawks lead back to 10 points instead of single digits as the NBA game script calls for in order to set up a 4th quarter comeback. You simply can not fall that far behind a good team like Atlanta and expect to be able to come back in the 4th Q. It’s not going to happen, especially for a team that is a work in progress such as the Sixers.
On to the 4th Quarter…Collins went with a lineup of Thad / AI9 / Nocioni / Louis / Battie to start the 4th (Brand was the first sub in) and except for two stretches where Thad lost his mind (more on that later), the 4th was a thing of beauty to watch. The Sixers pressured the ball like NBA athletes should and this caused a series of TOs by the Hawks which led to easy buckets at the other end. When the Sixers were in the half court set during the 4th, they got baskets because of good quality looks at the rim. When they didn’t get buckets, they got to the FT line. Nocioni was a joy to watch in this quarter (11 points) and his energy was infectious. In our opinion Nocioni has to be inserted into the starting lineup (Sorry JK). Again the 4th quarter of last night’s game was some of the best basketball we have seen here in Philadunkia nation since…well in a long time. Now if they can just expand that type of play so that it is sustained for 3 to 4 quarters, the Sixers will be competitive on a nightly basis.
Staying with the 4th Q…
Let’s revisit Thad’s not so well played 4th quarter…Starting at the 9:48 mark (Sixers trailing by 11), Thad had two straight awful trips down the floor. On the first series the Sixers ran a designed play for him and Thad got a decent look at the hoop in the lane from about 12 feet away, but he did not set himself and instead threw up fall-away shot that didn’t come close to going in. Then on the very next trip (with the Sixers now trailing by 13) Thad got called for traveling. Of course not many will remember these mistakes becuase Thad put a stop to that stretch with a ridiculous flush on Pachulia’s head that made SportsCenter.
Thad’s second span of boneheaded play came after Nocioni buried a huge 3-ball that left the Sixers down only 6 with 7:31 to play. On the Sixers next possession (after a T on the Hawks), Thad missed an ill-advised jumper. Then two trips later (Sixers now down 10) Thad took another bad shot and missed. We don’t know why Thad’s jumper has gone in the toilet, but it has and until he finds it again, he needs to put the ball on the floor and go to the hoop.
Why was Jrue Holiday not in on the last play of the game? Instead Collins inserted an ice cold Kapono into the lineup. We know Holiday is struggling right now, but JK had not played since the 1st Q, so we would have stuck with Jrue.
The rest of the game…
The Sixers are still having trouble defending the perimeter. At times Jamal Crawford was so open that he looked like he was in a gym by himself.
Is Elton Brand back? We’re not saying he’s a born again All-Star, but 20 & 8 against the Hawks young interior athletes is a very solid night for EB. Don’t forget he also had 12 & 9 vs. the Heat. If he can stay healthy and produce like that every night, who knows what this team could achieve.
Spencer Hawes is simply awful (3-11 shooting). Much worse then we had expected as we heard the word “potential” associated with his name often. Additionally Speights has fallen out of favor with Collins — 2 mins. of PT last night. Is there any way we can package these two stiffs for one serviceable body who can play the 5-spot for us?
Even though he had a decent 4th Q, Holiday’s struggles continued again last night. We’ve heard a couple of national NBA analysts state that Holiday may struggle for a while this season because Collins demands so much of his PGs and there is a lengthy adjustment period for the player in his first year under Doug. Lord we hope that’s not true.
Eric Snow is starting to grow on us as the Sixers color guy. At first we were not thrilled at the announcement of Snow joining the Sixers broadcast team. He certainly knows his X&Os, but he has a bit of a dry, monotone delivery. However last night Snow let his inner “homer voice” out and was openly cheering for the Sixers during the 4th Q. It was refreshing change for a Sixers broadcast as they have needed a color guy with more of a home team personality for some time.