That two word sentence was uttered a few times by 76er color commentator Eric Snow.  That’s exactly how Philadelphia’s 100-98 victory over the New York Knicks felt Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The building intensity felt like the playoffs.  The resurgent fourth quarter comeback felt like the playoffs.  But mainly it was the performances of veterans Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala which sparked the postseason conversation amongst the entire fan base.  

Brand now has a new high point total with the Sixers and its 33, 19 of which were scored during the boiling-hot first quarter.  Brand also pulled down 16 boards and neutralized Amare Stoudemire, the Eastern Conference’s all-star power forward, for three quarters.  He hit 14 field goals, five inside the paint and nine soft jumpers, stretching out the taller New York defenders all evening.  Brand became the first Sixer big to score over 15 and collect over 15 boards since Chris Webber in 2005.  

Andre Iguodala is relishing in his semi-new role of controlling the tempo of the offense, often pushing it equivalent to the Knicks pace.  His first field goal didn’t come until the third quarter but that didn’t stop AI9’s keen involvement of setting up Sixer offense all night.  Dre’s career-high 16 assists (to go along with 18 points) put the cherry on top of the Sixers (23-26) best two-man show in the 2010-2011 season.

Iguodala’s memorable passing night featured assists from all ends of the spectrum.  Lead passes in during the Sixers frantic 1stquarter pace, in which the team scored 35 total points and Iguodala had 9 dimes. Then there were skip passes to a wide-open Jodie Meeks (14 points, 4 three-pointers).  And of course Brand and Thaddeus Young (10 points) were gaining perfect positioning underneath the basket thanks to Iguodala’s passing.  AI9 didn’t even commit a turnover Friday night, the first time he’s done so in six games.

But back to that astonishing comeback.  The Knicks had been controlling the tempo from the moment the second quarter started, outscoring our Sixers 61-38 in the middle two stanzas and leading by nine (82-73) heading into the fourth.  Then everything changed after an Elton Brand layup with 8:26 left in the ball game.  The veteran forward helped spark a 15-0 run that eventually turned into a 23-4 advantage for the home team.

The very best sequence during the extraordinary run started with 5:22 left, when Iguodala stuffed not only Stoudemire but seven-footer Danilo Gallinari on back-to-back mid-range shot attempts. Evan Turner (4 points, 21 minutes) collected the basketball, found Dre on the wing and the Sixer veteran buried the triple to give the Sixers their first lead of the second half.

The offense was incredible in the fourth, no doubt.  But the defensive stops were as good as they’ve been all season.  On Friday, the 7-6 held the explosive Knick offense scoreless for a six minute and 14 second time period during the run.  It was a full team effort too.  Three Thaddeus Young charges, a Lou Williams steal and several Knicks turnovers all of a sudden gave the Sixers a seven point lead.  A Gallinari series of free throws and three pointers would push this game down to the wire but Philadelphia’s suffocating perimeter defense made it impossible for New York to get a solid look in the closing seconds.  

This win was a monumental one.  It was the most entertaining game of the entire season, featuring two commanding quarters and an impeccable comeback against a playoff foe and division rival.  The win marks Philadelphia’s sixth in its last seven tries.  And the last five victories all have resulted in over 100 points of offense, showing signs that this team can now also win when the ball is in their hands.

Still there were a few things I found absolutely disturbing last night.

  • Like Doug Collins calling for an isolation with a cold Lou Williams (3-of-14) with under 20 seconds left.  Elton Brand had been unstoppable all night! Easily Brand’s best game as a Sixer, against an MVP candidate nonetheless.  And Dre had been finding his way through the lane all evening!  And still Collins chooses to lean on Williams who was 3-14 from the field last night. Doug’s love affair with Louis baffles me.  
  • Raymond Felton also continued the trend of recent point guards having their way against Jrue Holiday. Felton had 26 and I thought his third quarter supremacy was going to be too much for the 76ers to overcome.  We thought this matchup really favored Holiday and that Jrue’s success would help key a Sixers W.  Instead Felton simply destroyed the Sixers point man and Jrue spent almost the entire 4th quarter on the bench.

Those are my only two gripes from this encouraging win.

Philadunkia Notes :

  • Amare may have had 21 points but the NBA’s third leading scorer was continually frustrated by the assortment of rotating 76ers bigs.  New York’s game plan was an unfamiliar one that featured Stoudemire mainly on the blocks, rather than his patented dribble-and-drive technique. Expect the Knicks to switch things up come Sunday afternoon.  
  • The Knicks entered Friday with a 21-4 record when leading after three quarters. It was just the Sixers second win in nine tries this season in games decided by three points or less. Even though this New York team has lost six straight on the road, they are still a playoff caliber team.  Now the 7-6 trail the Knicks by only two games in the standings.
  • How about Tony Battie’s night?  8 mins…0-2 from the field…3 turnovers (including 2 three-second calls)…2 rebs. 
  • The NYK were 8-27 from deep while the Sixers hit on 5 of their 13 3PAs.  Meeks had 4 of those tres.  The Sixers also knocked in 17-18 FTs.
  •  I think Charles Barkley may owe an apology to our thriving Philadelphia 76ers.
  • Of course has the highlights of another Sixers W.

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