One would think after the weak, half-hearted effort the 76ers demonstrated during their embarrassing loss to KG & Company earlier in the week at the Wachovia Center that last night the Sixers would have come out fired up, laid the smackdown on an awful New Jersey Nets squad and given the home crowd something to cheer about.
Instead the Sixers played uninspired ball for close to three quarters and squeaked out a W against a Nets team that is mediocre when at full strength and last night was missing elite point guard Devin Harris, starting forward Yi Jianlian, and rising wingman Chris Douglas-Roberts.
We’re going to skip right to recapping the 4thquarter where the Sixers finally pulled themselves together and managed to win this game. We guess that is the most important thing to remember, the Sixers did get a win last night. Then we’ll hit you with some notes from the other three quarters of garbage play and discuss some Sixers drama we see on the horizon.
With the 76ers trailing 76-68 head coach Eddie Jordan started the final period with a lineup of Louis, Kapono, Speights, Carney and Green. To us it was an interesting move for Jordan to go small and to be honest very weak defensively to start the final quarter of a game in which Sixers were trailing by eight. However thanks to Kapono on the offensive end of the floor, this unit held their own. Kapono hit two 3’s and a runner early in the 4th and looked the best he has so far in this young season. Carney also magically threw in a 3-ball and the Sixers had some life to them for the first time all night.
So it shocked us a little when coming out of a timeout at the 7:55 mark of the 4th, Jordan subbed for everyone except Green and the Sixers hit the floor with Green, Iguodala, Thaddeus, Louis and Dalembert. Does that lineup sound familiar? It should, it’s the starting five the Sixers used throughout the end of last season during their run for a playoff spot. Well, it worked in 2008-09 and it worked again last night.
Except for an ill-advised 3PA by Green with 1:00 left in the game, this unit played very well offensively. They moved the ball, took smart and easy shots (including a couple nice moves for buckets by Louis), AI9 knocked home a three and they hit the glass as well.
This unit also did a respectable job at the other end of the floor including big defensive stands on the Nets two last two possessions of the game. On the Nets next to last possession (NJ trailing 96-94), as point guard Rafer Alston was trying to get NJ into their set play he blew past Louis and Green did a great job of providing help-defense and pressured “Skip To My Lou” to pick up his dribble and dish the ball off to Eduardo Najera who with the shot clock winding down was forced to put the ball on the deck and attempt a leaning bank shot which missed – rebound Iguodala.
After an AI9 hit 1-2 free throws to extend the Sixers lead to 97-94 the Nets came out of the mandatory NBA “head coach needs to draw up a last second play” timeout with rookie Terrence Williams and Alston in the back-court. During the same TO it appears to us that the Sixers changed their defensive strategy and decided that Iggy would guard the ball no matter who had it. On the final play, Alston was handling the rock for the Nets, Iguodala was all over Rafer and after he forced Alston to pick up his dribble and hand the ball off to Williams who was being guarded by Green, as Alston handed off the rock, Iguodala switched men with Green, locked down Williams and made a great play to strip Williams of the ball as he rose up for the game tying 3PA with :02 left in the contest. GAME OVER
We wonder if AI9 can guard the man with the ball all night, every night because that’s the best defensive strategy we’ve seen out of the Sixers in two years.
Other Notes from three quarters of garbage play:
- The 800-pound gorilla in the Sixers locker room is Elton Brand and his minutes. Brand only saw 18:38 of action last night, sat out the end of the 3rd quarter and did not play a tick in the 4thquarter. Through five games this season, Brand is averaging a career low 28.6 mpg and he has been on the bench during clutch time almost nightly. Last season in 29 games he averaged 31.7 mpg. Previous to coming to the Sixers Brand’s career low average for a “full” and healthy season was 37 mpg. Everyone was saying the right things after last night’s game, but if this trend continues there is going to be some major drama coming from this area. You’d have to be blind not to see that Brand is NOT happy.
- The 1stfirst quarter cradle dunk in traffic by Iguodala was just absolutely sick.
- The Sixers bench is really what won this game for the home team. The bench accounted for 25 points in the first half and 45 points and 12 boards for the game.
- Louis Williams looked disinterested in the 1sthalf, but he came out in the 2nd half and was much more aggressive. The driving lay-in and the pull-up J he hit down the stretch were both great moves, both field goals regained the lead for the Sixers after NJ had tied the game and were key to getting the W last night. Louis also had zero turnovers last night which has a nice ring to it.
- The 76ers were 8-16 on 3Pas, including four treys by Kapono.
- Don’t get too excited about the Sixers 3PA defense last night (NJN were 4-14 from 3). The Nets are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the League, hitting at 28.6% from deep.
- NBA.com has the highlights of the Sixers win over the Nets.