Well, at least the 76ers didn’t completely bend over like Saturday’s degrading defeat in Milwaukee. Monday night was wild in Utah, featuring a lethargic first half, a roaring fourth quarter comeback and (of course) more interesting late game strategies. The Sixers (34-33) fell in overtime to the Jazz 112-107 and now own a wretched record of 2-6 in games that go to the extra period.
I was yawning in the first half, wishing the contest was a video game so I could simulate the rest of it. And I bet most of the Sixers would’ve paid for my simulation suggestion. The Jazz scored 60 points and led by 18. The 7-6 behaved like they didn’t want to play basketball, allowing the Jazz to shoot 55 percent in the first half on masses of wide open midrange jumpers. Elton Brand and Jrue Holiday combined to go 2-for-15 in the first two quarters, simply unacceptable for a team gunning for the fifth seed. Holiday seemingly took the night off, scoring four points with four turnovers.
Coach Collins was as angrily vocal as I’ve seen him the entire season in the first half. Dougie had several choice phrases beginning with the letter F. He channeled that negatively energy skillfully in the locker room, because the Sixers looked like children on a caffeine rush. Philly opened up the quarter on a 7-0 run and slimmed down Utah’s lead to 13 entering the fourth, a doable comeback by NBA standards.
And the Sixers did it. They stormed back rapidly, almost at the blink of an eye, overcoming 30 and 17 from “Big Al” Jefferson. The Jazz were using a strategy all too familiar for Sixers fans: trying not to lose the game. They lollygagged up the court to kill the clock trying to play the exact opposite pace of what the Sixers were doing, pushing the ball. Iguodala and company trailed 99-91 with 2:12 left and then went they kicked the comeback into full gear.
I feel like I have to paint the picture of how ‘March Madness-esque’ the last two minutes were. Here’s how it went down…
Lou Williams (22 points, +16) sailed in his patented off balance runner. Then a stop. Iguodala proceeded to cross up Andrei Kirilenko on a beautiful elbow jumper, cutting the lead to 99-95, a score which seemed impossible to anyone who watched this game in its entirety. The Jazz would throw the ball out of bounds and Iguodala hit another contested three — his second meaningful one of the quarter — and all of a sudden the Sixers trailed by one. In Google search engine like speed, Iguodala seized a loose ball, slammed home a dunk and giving the Sixers a 100-99 advantage with a minute left, their first lead of the entire game.
The Jazz were forced to go into fouling mode. Lou Williams hit both his extending the lead to 102-99 with 19 ticks left. Utah was chaotic on their next possession but somehow, some way, Jefferson managed a tip in. The next foul should’ve sealed the game. Jodie Meeks, a 90 percent charity stripe shooter, missed the second free throw, making a Jazz comeback all the more likely now only trailing by two 103-101.
Utah coach Tyron Corbin pulled out an old trick from Jerry Sloan’s bag and freed up guard CJ Miles (19 points, 8 boards) to tie it up at 103 with nine seconds left.
At this juncture is where most of you are going to chastise Andre Iguodala, but I refuse to believe he did anything wrong in regulation Monday night. Even before inbounding the ball and getting it back from Brand, it was clear AI9 was taking the last shot. Dre had 14 points in the fourth quarter and had the hippy looking Kirilenko shaking in his Nikes. Iguodala missed the same 16-footer he nailed earlier in the quarter as time expired. Most of you cannot believe he didn’t take the ball to the bucket. I don’t care. He earned the right in this game to choose his closing play with the basketball.
Who knows how a drive would’ve even worked out? Maybe free throws, which he could’ve easily missed (71 percent) and given the Jazz ample time to feed Jefferson. So I’m defending Iguodala here for even putting us into a position to force overtime.
In the last two overtime games (Thunder, Jazz) the Sixers have been outscored 18-8. No one can grab a rebound. The only plays drawn up are isolation plays for Iguodala and Lou. AI9 did go shooting happy in overtime, completely forgetting to attack the basket. But he had no help. Thaddeus Young’s game to me is irrelevant down the stretch, in a half court setting.
Elton Brand only had 3 rebounds. The 51-44 Utah advantage doesn’t even seem close to how easily Utah patrolled the paint. I’m probably not as irritated as most of you with the loss. I’ve known all along a slump was coming to this team.
Still, a loss in LA Wednesday against the Clippers will be unacceptable.
- Iguodala seemed to be limping periodically during the game and after the loss the Sixers annonced he has right knee chondromalacia (irritation on the underside of the kneecap) and is listed as day-to-day.
- The Sixers are now 2 games back of the Knicks in the loss column.
- The 76ers are now 12-22 on the road.
- Of course NBA.com has highlights of the Sixers disappointing loss last night.