GM 5 RECAP: DOWN GOES ROCKY

For those of you with younger siblings, you’d understand this scenario:  A few of your friends are over hanging out, enjoying a few brews, talking about girls and occasionally dabbling in the sports discussion.  Your younger brother, too young to drink, is adamant about spending time with your crew while trying to fit in. 

No matter what you say, your brother wont leave, he continues to hang around.  That’s exactly what the Sixers did, they annoyingly hung around, consistently pestering the Heat during this five game series. 

The Miami Heat is clearly the better ball club and they knew that.  So when the Sixers continuously stayed in ball games it irked their elite players.  With three superstars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, we all knew the 76ers didn’t stand a chance in a seven game series.  And despite the kind words they had had for our young Sixers in the media, the Heat knew they should dismiss the 7-6 with relative ease. 

Yet, admirably they fought for their outmatched lives in three competitive losses, one win and a blow out over the course of the series.  In the final Game 5 97-91 loss, the Sixers went down swinging like a boxer on his final leg.  Hanging around just long enough to scare the Heat with the possibility of a drawn out series heading back to Philadelphia.

With 36 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Andre Iguodala connected on a 21 foot jumper over LeBron James.  The bucket would close the gap to 92-91 and only put the 7-6 a stop away from a chance at the lead.  Thanks to high ball-pressure and double-teaming, the ensuing Heat possession was in the hands of Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony — 9/10 times this would be a blessing for the Sixersby keeping it away from the three all-stars.  Instead, Chalmers drove the paint, left his feet and found Joel Anthony under the rim.  Anthony went up for a lay-up but was fouled hard by Jodie Meeks. 

Down by a measly point, with the worst player on the floor — Joel Anthony — at the free throw line for the Heat, things were looking up for the Sixers.  There was no way in hell Anthony was connecting on both free throws … except shockingly, he did.  The 94-91 difference would be too overwhelming after an Andre Iguodala missed pull-up, 16-foot jumper.  Season over.  Whose to say we wouldn’t have lost anyway, but come on, I want to live in a world where Joel Anthony chokes under pressure. 

The Sixers outscored the Heat 44-26 in the paint, held LeBron to his lowest point total of the series (16), witnessed the best AI9 game thus far and only turned the ball over seven times.  Attacking the rim seemed easy against the Heat, finally we exposed their flawed defensive centers.  So where did the Heat win the contest?  From the three-point line.  Miami connected on 12 three-pointers compared to only a pair treys (2-10 on 3FGA) by  the Sixers.  The X-factor was Mario Chalmers who hit a playoff career best six three-pointers (20 points total) which ultimately catapulted the Heat into the second round. 

On the other hand, our beyond-the-arc specialist — Jodie Meeks — finally had his first double-digit scoring outburst for the postseason.  I’ve been waiting for a Meeks explosion, although this wasn’t it, it was nice to see him come out strong from the tip-off.  Jrue Holiday, Meeks’ backcourt partner, took a series-low nine shots, scored 10 points and dropped eight dimes.  Reflecting back on the series, the youthful Holiday will harness this experience en route to becoming a top-ten point guard.  His 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game are good signs from the 20 year old. 

Jrue is the future, but our guys of today played exceptionally in the final bout.  Andre Iguodala, potentially on the trade market once the labor agreement is settled, had his best game totaling 22 points on 10-14 shooting and snatching 10 boards.  It was the first time in five games where he continuously asserted himself in the offense, even attacking the intimidating LeBron James several times down the stretch.  Unlike Iguodala’s unsure future with the Sixers, were likely stuck with Elton Brand and his lucrative contract. 

Brand fouled out within the final seconds of the ball game.  On his way to the bench he received a hug, followed by what seemed to be some heartfelt words from head coach Doug Collins.  He tied AI9 for a team high 22 points and grabbed six rebounds.  For Brand, it’s been a year of resurgence.  Battling back from a plagued knee and a horrendous 09-10 season, EB unexpectedly led the Sixers in scoring and rebounding for the year.  His veteran leadership has been vital to this team’s postseason’s berth.    

Elton Brand’s surprising season represents the franchise as a whole.  A playoff berthand 41 wins was unforeseeable after a 27-55 year withlittle change besides at the head coaching spot.  The exciting season ended on a sour note in Miami, but as a realist you must appreciate the direction of the franchise.  With a young core of players under the age of 25 — including: Jrue, Jodie, ET, Lou-Will, Thad, Spencer, Speights — this team is bound to make noise within several years. 

Looking at the big picture, this season is a step in the right direction.  

Philadunkia Notes:

  • We were not big fans of the 4+ minute break that Collins gave Holiday to start the 4th quarter.  For us, the season was on the line and Holiday – arguably the best 76er in this series – should have been on the floor throughout the final quarter.
  • The above statement is especially true for us because Collins had Williams in the game for Holiday.  Williams was clearly having an off night and was 1-7 at that point.  He finished 2-8 on FGAs overall.  We needed a bigger night out of Louis to stand a real chance in this elimination game.
  • The Sixers missed 4 straight FTs in the 4th Q and were 11-17 on the night.  Those type of stats simply kill underdogs in elimination games.
  • Joel Anthony had two huge blocks during a 1-minute span of the 4th.  The first came on Holiday at 5:30 of the 4th.  Holiday looked to have a sure lay-up and Anthony rejected the attempt at the last second.  The other came on a Tuner chippie with 4:20 remaining.  At the time of the each block, the Sixers trailed the Heat by only 6.   
  • Obviously we were not big fans of putting the ball in AI9’s hands on the last possession.  We’ve argued against this X&O concept all year.  But give Collins credit for staying consistent.  Right ?!?
  • From the ESPN Stats and Notes Department we learn that…the Heat shot 46.4 percent and outscored the 76ers by 17 points when Chalmers was in the game.  The Heat shot just 24 percent from the field and were outscored by 11 points when he was on the bench.
  • Of course NBA.com has highlights of the Sixers final game in 2010-11.

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