12/27/11 1:25 pm EST
As I watched the final shot hoisted by Andre Iguodala clank off the iron (like I’ve seen too many times), I felt almost satisfied by the result of the Sixers season opener against the Portland Trailblazers on Monday.
The Sixers didn’t deserve to win this game from the start of the game, they didn’t deserve to win this game by halftime, and they definitely had no reason to win it by the end.
I am all for stealing wins during the course of a season, but this game in it’s entirety felt like complete dominance by the Portland Trailblazers as the Sixers looked like a team in complete disarray.
For the past few seasons, the Sixers have been defined as a team that lacks interior and perimeter defense. This game it almost felt as if the ghost of Sixers past had come to pay a visit. In the first half, the Sixers looked completely out of sync. Lamarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace literally had their way with anything the Sixers had to offer on defense. Alley oop after alley oop, rebound after rebound, and open lane after open lane the Blazers fought their way to an 11 point lead by the end of the first quarter. By halftime that lead was cut to only a four point margin by the Sixers, but the way in which Aldridge and Wallace had taken over the game due to the Sixers disregard for any kind of interior defense didn’t give me any sense of contentment heading into the second half. Aldridge and Wallace combined for 28 of the Trailblazers 48 first half points and many of those points came in the paint.
In the second half, the Sixers did their best to contain the Trailblazers interior game, but by doing so it opened up looks on the perimeter. The Trailblazers caught on as they hit seven of their teams nine three point baskets in the second half. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum took advantage of every opportunity they were given. With just over seven minutes left in the game, Matthews hit a three to put the Blazers up 92-77. For sports fans, this was one of those turn off the television and turn over for the night type moments but to my surprise the Sixers actually started playing something they hadn’t all game: defense. The Sixers slowly clawed their way back into the game, and after two huge makes from downtown by Lou Williams the Sixers found themselves with the ball and a chance to tie with fourteen seconds left on the clock. Common sense says that you give the ball back to Lou who has the hot hand and who has shown time and again that he can make the big shot for this team, but no once again like Sixer fans have seen too many times before the ball goes to Andre Iguodala who takes an ill-advised three which although looked to have a chance you knew would never fall. Final score, Portland 107- Philly 103.
The biggest storyline throughout this game for the Sixers was the play of Jrue Holiday. Normally a bright spot on the team, Jrue was missing passes and bringing the Sixers down where we’re used to seeing him lift their game to higher levels. Having six turnovers and fouling out is inexcusable if you want to be considered a franchise player. Evan Turner also didn’t help his cause for getting more playing time as he fouled out of the game as well and looked slow on defense the entire night. For the Sixers to go anywhere this season, these two players have to be effective on a nightly basis. Although he was only one assist away from a triple-double, Spencer Hawes played worse then his stat-line shows(10 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists). His start to the game defensively is what put the Sixers in a position to lose. Lou Williams’ team high 25 points is what kept the Sixers in this game and it should be noted by coach Collins going forward.
So one game is officially in the books and it was definitely not this teams best basketball. Apparently when Elton Brand is in this game the Sixers are atrocious as the team was -20 with him on the court. Doug Collins has to hit the film room and figure out the best starting five this team has to offer and put it on the court because it wasn’t on the court last night. Next stop, Pheonix.