05/02/11 10:57 am EST
The 2010-2011 Philadelphia 76ers produced a gratifying first season under Doug Collins. The team finished first in protecting the basketball, was 6th in assists with a 20-year-old starting point guard, effectively defended the perimeter and covered up its glaring weaknesses (lack of a big man, lack of a closer, young roster etc.) as well as any squad in the NBA.
A 26-15 home record and a 16-14 record against the superior Western Conference were pleasant surprises. How about even having double digit leads in four out of the five postseason games against the Heat. The bench play behind Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams ignited a majority of the Sixers41 wins. But the change in defensiveintensity is what pushed Philadelphia from lottery front runners to one of the most underrated teams in basketball. The Sixers were 36-15 when they allowed under 100 points.
However, heartwarming it was to obtain the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers lost a bunch of close games. And by a bunch I mean 15 LOSSES by five points or less, compared to just seven wins. And this team was 2-8 in overtime. That record doesn’t entirely reflect the roster. Doug Collins has to do some soul searching this offseason and figure out a way the 76ers can close out games against superstars.
There’s five games I’ve selected that should’ve gone the other way, that should’ve pushed the Sixers above the Atlanta Hawks for the 5thseed. Remember, there was a point when the surging Sixers were just 2 games behind the Hawks and grabbing the 5th seed looked like a realistic goal.
Let’s go back and time and lokk at a few of the blemishes on the Sixers outstanding 2010-11 season.
March 27 – vs. Sacramento: Loss 114-111 (OT)
Who lost us the game: Doug Collins / Andre Iguodala
This is the most uncalled-for loss on the list. I don’t care that it was on a Sunday at noon. I don’t care that Lou Williams, ET and Spencer Hawes were out partying the night before at a ‘Lil Wayne concert. Even the fact that Marcus Thornton exposed Jodie Meeks’ defense by erupting for 32 points shouldn’t have prevented the 76ers from grabbing a W.
Jrue Holiday was having quite possibly the best game of his career — 28 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Holiday had scored 11 straight points for the Sixers, pushing the score to a comfortable cushion of 96-91 with 2:02 left.
Then for some ungodly reason the 76er offense went into the stall mode, something that will have to be revisited this offseason. Doug Collins was playing not to lose the game, ignoring the hot-hand (Holiday) and instead forcing isolations for Andre Iguodala (16 points, 5 assists). I guess Collins’ thought process was that AI9 was the premium option on the court. Well he wasn’t and Iguodala was also 4-of-10 from the free throw line. The play call should have been to let Holiday do his thing on the not-so-awesome Beno Udrih.
March 9 – vs. OKC: Loss 110-105 (OT)
Who lost us the game: Thad Young and The Refs
Similar to the Kings game, this one was another Sixer collapse. And although it did feature a combined 61 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, this one was an extremely winnable game at home. This win would’ve opened up some eyes among the NBA circles and could’ve been used as a springboard.
Lou Williams was fabulous off the bench with 22 points and what appeared to be the game clinching steal on Kevin Durant with 1:44 left and a 101-96 Philadelphia lead. But as is often the case with NBA superstars (especially Durant) the calls kept going in favor of OKC. After that foul call the Thunder went 13-4 run to snatch away one on the road.
Of course the strategy late in the game went Iguodala’s way again. And Durant was right there to stuff his shot with 14 seconds left. An option that wasn’tviable in the game? Thad Young. In 29 minutes Thad was 2-of-10 from the field with only four points. Nick Collison outplayed Thad Young in one of the biggest games of the season.
January 28th – vs. Memphis: Loss 99-94
Who lost us this game: Everyone, 3-Point Defense
This has to be one of the worst losses in franchise history. Up 70-49 with 3:22 left in the third quarter, the Grizzlies went on 50-24 run, forcing 10 Sixer turnovers in the fourth and scored 42 points in the final docket. Memphis, who we now know is going to be a formidable opponent for years, did all of this inside the paint. The Sixers hit 13 three pointers compared to just one Grizzlies triple.
“It was an absolutely disastrous, gut wrenching, WTF, FTS, SMC, FTJ, loss. I turned on the radio afterwards and caller after caller buzzed in to say how aggravated and aggrieved and flat out hurt they were that just when they reinvested in the team, the Sixershad burned them. It was touched nerve anger.”
January 19 – @ Orlando: Loss 99-98 in OT
Who lost us this game: Lack of Iguodala or Brand coming up clutch
The most demoralizing part of this defeat was that the Sixers contained Dwight Howard as best as they could’ve. He had just 18 points, seven rebounds and was one of the first Sixer opponents to foul out all season long.
And the timing of this defeat came at the wrong time for a young squad. After back-to-back emotional home victories over teams who were right near us in the standings (Charlotte, Milwaukee) it like we were about to make a strong statement showing the improvements since the 3-13 start. Instead it was a four point play by Jason Richardson at the end of regulation, that capped a seven point Orlando comeback in the fourth quarter.
The 76ers had suddenly caught fire late in the quarter though, going on a 9-2 run thanks to some Jrue Holiday jumpers, taking a 89-84 lead with :28 seconds left. A Redick lay-up cut the lead to 89-86.
At the other end, Louis was fouled and only made 1 of 2 from the FT line. Orlando quickly called timeout. SVG drew up a play that was basically a 3-man weaver along the arc involving Hedo, Ryan Anderson and Richardson. Of course the Sixers switched on all the ball screens, so Iguodala ended up on JR at the top of the key. As Richardson rose up, AI9 (who was legally all over JR) quickly reached for the rock and appeared to get all ball. The ref didn’t see that way — whistle. Of course Richardson’s 3-point prayer get answered…89-89. Rhen J-Rich hit the free throw for an AND 1.
A very tough call that was basically a punch to the gut for Sixers fans.
December 22 – @Boston: Loss 84-80
Who lost us this game: Andre Iguodala
Some would probably argue that the December 9thloss to Boston on TNT was more demoralizing. But then why did we win three straight games in convincing fashion after that? So it has to be the game right before Christmas where the Sixers choked in the Garden, in the last game on the east coast until January 5th.
Just a reminder, the Celtics had won 13 straight going into the game. The ferocious Sixers defense had limited Boston to a season low 38 points and held the Big Three to 16-of-42 (38 percent).
The Sixers were without question holding the tempo up until the fourth quarter. Here’s what I wrote in the recap.
“This time the script was a lot less dramatic than what unfolded at Wells Fargo and nationally on TNT a few weeks ago, but just as sad for the 7-6. Down two with :50 remaining in the game, Iguodalawas handling the basketball but slipped and turned the ball over as he crossed the three point line. With 15 seconds left and still only trailing by two points, ‘Dre miraculously was given another chance to tie or win the game after a Sixers defensive stop.
As he should do in these situations, AI9 put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim, but he didn’tgo hard enough to dunk the ball or draw significant contact from the defenders, so he simply ran into a host of Celtics and Kevin Garnettawkwardly swatted him underneath the hoop. AI9 desperately pleaded for a whistle, but the refs didn’t bail him out. That air had been deflated from the Sixersand Ray Allen would swish the final free throws to finish with 22 points and six assists”
More evaluations of this team are going to continue to flood Philadunkia over the next few days.
But if you just took a glance at this article, Andre Iguodala (or Doug Collins insistence on going to Iguodala in clutch time) cost the Sixers some of the biggest games of the season.