The Sixers (5-14) are a hard team to watch.  The pregame glare from Mark Zumoff and Eric Snow’s shiny heads hurts my eyes and the team’s bizarrely inconsistent play frustrates my sense of basketball rightness. 

This frustration is exacerbated when they play the Hawks and I can’t help noodle over what might have been had Stefanski pursued Josh Smith rather than Brand that fateful Spring of ’08.  Brand suffers for this comparison, especially when Smithblocks him from behind with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter of said game.  Wounds, meet salt.

The Sixers lost to the Hawks last night 93-88 and I’m unusually bitter about it.  Why?  Let’s start at the end.

Midway through the final period, the Sixerswere holding an 85-72 lead and, by all indications, were coasting to their third straight win.  They had already withstood the Hawks’ best punches — they weathered a 19-5 run at the end of the second that trimmed their once proud lead to three, then pushed it back to eighteen with a run of their own in the third– and looked poised to step on the serpent’s head.

Then they stopped scoring. Suddenly, completely, invariably, they were taking shots like a blacked-out sophomore.  Indiscriminately.  And, like bad shots have a tendency to do, they didn’t go in.  After hitting an even 50% of their first 72 shots, they missed their last 11.

And the Hawks didn’t.  They snuck back into it.  Then, with 1:20 left, things got weird.  I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I took these notes in real time —

Al Horford (who has been contained nicely up to this point) hits a jumper to cut the lead to two, 88-86.  Doug Collins’ head explodes.  Panicked, Michael Curry calls a timeout and draws up a play while the bench hurriedly reassembles their coach’s head.

The play (one that Collins had evidently installed this morning) doesn’t work, but Brand grabs a huge offensive board (one of his season-high 14) only to miss the following shot.  On the other end, Horford gets a layup and draws a foul.  Eric Snow’s head explodes.  Horford hits the subsequent free throw.  89-88 Hawks.

The Sixersmiss another shot and are forced to foul.  Jamal Crawford misses both free throws (Huge break: is the luck going our way?!) and Iguodala grabs the board, but loses the ball back to a guy named Zsa Zsaon Atlanta (of course not you silly moron).  We foul again, and this time Crawford hits them both.  91-88 Hawks.

At the other end, after a timeout, Iggy inbounds it to Jodi Meeks but he DROPS THE *$&#-ING BALL and Horfordscoops it up and skips jauntily to the other end where he gets fouled and hits both his freethrows.


— By the time I regained consciousness, the final seconds had ticked off.  93-88 Hawks.

What we learned

The big question entering this debacle was how Evan Turner would respond to his demotion.  Would he rise, fight, and prevail — threatening Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game scoring record and perhaps performing a successful Heimlich maneuver on a child choking on a mouthful of crab fries during a first quarter commercial break, along the way?  Or would he fold:  sucomb to a nervous breakdown and take a swing a Darius Songaila before curling into the fetal position at center court, delaying play until stadium staff can peel him off the floor and deposit him in the visiting the locker room?  The answer, as it turned out, lay in the middle.

ET sat almost the entire first quarter, then looked tentative (read: bad) until he got a cherry picker’s dunk off a long outlet pass from Iggy early in the second that seemed to wake him up.  He hit a couple jumpers from there and looked sentient for the remainder of his minutes.

But while he played well-ish (11pts/4rbs/1ast), he displayed symptoms of the illness that got him benched in the first place: drive-failure.  While ET went 5/7 from the floor, outside of the aforementioned dunk and a nice layup plus one in the third, it was all jumpers, including one ill-advised 3PA.  Also from the Bad News for Turner Dept: his demotion doesn’t seem to have been purely symbolic.  After averaging nearly 28 mpg on the season, he only played 19 in this one and sat during crunch time.  The benching, it seems, has some teeth.

Did anything even remotely positive happen last night? Seriously, give it to me straight.  I’m too old and too tired to get jerked around.

The rundown:

Elton Brand had a season high in rebounds against a tough frontcourt.

Spencer (“For Hire”) Hawes had 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first period, though he didn’t score after that.

Iguodala, while only shooting 4/12 was very active defensively and grabbed eight boards to go witheight assists.  He also made a beautiful strip of Marvin Williams in the third. Iggy jarred the ball loose with his left hand, then cut to his right — around and behind Williams — to take possession and draw the foul.

The frontcourt held Al Horford and Josh Smith to 24 points on 9/30 shooting.

Jodi Meeks played like an NBA starter.  He didn’t try to do too much, took open threes when he got them, and went to the rim agressively.  I hope you were watching Evan.

And as much heat as Philly has gotten for its hardwood apathy (often deservedly) Atlanta fans are much worse.  It’s unconscionable to me that a team coming off a 53-season and with a 13-7 record through this year’s first 20 can’t fill an arena to more than half-capacity.

Philadunkia Notes:

  • How about the free fall Andres Nocioni minutes have taken?  He started the seven straight games earlier this season and averaged 9.2 ppg. on 24.8 minutes of tick during those starts.  Recently he was demoted to 7th man and then last night he hit rock bottom with the dreaded DNP-CD.  
  • If you were watching the Comcast SportsNet broadcast of the game last night then you caught the crowd shots of Lou-Will’s (Atlanta area native) family and mom.  Did you notice anything odd about about what they were wearing?  We certainly did…One would think that a player making $5 million this year might be able to float his mom and kin a few bucks so that they don’t have to wear those ugly 76ers jerseys from 2008-09 with “Sixers” written in cursive across the front.  C’mon Lou…

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