The Sixers playoffs chances took a significant hit tonight with their 111–108 loss to the Washington Wizards. This game pretty much ruined my night. I didn’t expect the Sixers to win, the Wizards are a good team, especially at home. But they had a chance. Not only did they have a chance, but they showed the grit and determination to make me believe they actually are a playoff team.
When I cued up the TiVo tonight, and began watching the game my attitude toward the Sixers chances immediately improved. Willie Green was not in the starting lineup. At first, I thought maybe Mo Cheeks read my preview and knew Rodney Carney would give the Sixers a much better chance at matching up defensively, but it turns out Willie was out with a knee contusion. Joe Smith also didn’t play due to personal reasons. This made the Sixers dig deep into their bench, and rely on the starters for extra-heavy minutes. The starters delivered.
The Sixers jumped out to an early 10–point lead, before going in at the half down by 3. The game was this close in the first half due, at least in part, to Gilbert Arenas’ foul trouble. Arenas was whistled for a foul that Eton Thomas committed, and then with about 9 minutes left in the half, he picked up his third personal on a ticky-tack call. He sat the rest of the quarter.
The three off days completely rejuvenated Andre Iguodala, and he put up one of the best games of his career, more on him later. The third quarter saw the Sixers fall further behind, then rally to come within 5 points with less than 10 seconds to go. A disastrous series of events: Andre Miller pushed the ball up the court and heaved a wild three-pointer with 4 seconds left on the clock, Caron Butler grabbed the rebound and heaved the ball 78 feet, off the backboard, and into the hoop. The Sixers went into the final quarter down by 10.
Early in the fourth, Washington stretched their lead to 17, all hope seemed to be lost. Then Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert and Kyle Korver put the team on their backs. With less than 3:00 to go, Korver hit a transition three to tie the game at 101. From there it was a roller coaster. The Sixers couldn’t miss from the field, the Wizards couldn’t miss from the line. Andre Iguodala scored five points in the final 20 seconds of the game, two on a fierce drive to the hope culminating in a powerful dunk, the other three on a contested shot from distance to bring the Sixers within 1 at 109–108. Gilbert Arenas sank two free throws to stretch the lead to 3 with a little under 5 seconds to play. The Sixers brought the ball up, got it to Iguodala, but he had two Wizards draped all over him and he couldn’t hit the three for the tie.
The Knicks and Nets won tonight, the Magic and Pacers lost. This is a huge blow to the Sixers’ slim playoff hopes, they now sit 5 games back with 11 to play. 9–2 could do it, but then again it could not.
The player of the game tonight was hotly contested. Take a look at this line from Andre Iguodala: 26 points on 10/22 from the floor and 4/7 from three, 7 rebounds and 15 assists, unfortunately, he also had 6 turnovers. On any other night, that gets you the nod for player of the game, but tonight, I’m giving it to Samuel Dalembert. The Haitian Sensation was 12/15 from the floor for 24 points, he had 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and he also altered about 10 shots inside. He dominated, and he was very aggressive on offense, hitting mid-range jumpers and elevating for several alley-oops.
The Butler three at the buzzer in the third was a dagger, but that’s not why they lost the game. Honestly, this loss is on Andre Miller’s shoulders. At times, it looked like Miller was channeling Willie Green out there. He threw up countless horrible shots, including the hurried three that led to the Butler heave. He finished 8–20 from the floor for 16 points. This is the first game I can remember where Andre’s presence on the floor was a negative.
The comic highlight of the night was the first appearance of Louis Amundson and Kyle Korver on the floor at the same time. They look like twins, and I’m pretty sure the Wizards lost track of which white guy with girlish hair they should be covering behind the three-point line.
The Sixers play host to the Celtics, who downed the Magic tonight, on Fridey, then travel to New Jersey Saturday night to play the Nets. Both games are must-win situations for the Sixers at this point.
Check out Wiz coverage over at Bullet Forever.