Before I get into tonight's game, I'd like to give a nod to the Associated Press for their brilliant coverage of the Sixers/Pacers game. Here's a quote from the AP's game notes at the bottom of the story:
"(Indiana Coach Rick) Carlisle wore a blue shirt with his suit for just the second time as Pacers coach. He traditionally wears a white shirt."
You guys are doing important work over there at the AP, keep it up.
And now, to the game: Earlier today in my preview I called this game a huge trap, and it was. It was pure grit, and a little bit of luck that led the Sixers to this 100-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers, their seventh win in a row.
Andre Iguodala was tired tonight. You could see it in his body language, you could tell because for a couple of minutes in the fourth quarter he was actually on the bench, the first time in a long time that he hasn't played the full 12 minutes down the stretch. Iguodala needed some of the weight taken off his shoulders tonight, and oddly enough, it was Willie Green that did the lifting.
No one, and I do mean no one, has been more critical of Green than I have, and rightly so. He's a horrible player. But tonight, when his team desperately needed him, he came through. I take my hat off to Green. It was never more important that he get off to a hot start than tonight, and he came out and dropped 16 points in the first half, basically keeping the Sixers in the game. Iguodala picked his spots in the first half, and rested up for the third quarter. And what a third quarter it was. Iggy came out and put the team on his back, turning a 9-point deficit into a tie game going into the fourth. In the fourth, he continued where he left off, capping the game with a breakaway dunk.
As important as Green was, Iguodala is your player of the game. Green kept them in it, then disappeared down the stretch, Iggy won it. Andre's final line: 25 points on 8/13 from the floor and 9/10 from the line, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. Dalembert wasn't as effective on the glass tonight as he has been recently, but did finish with 5 blocks.
The Pacers came into this game without their point guard, best player and best penetrator, but they were still favorites at home. When the game was on the line, down the stretch, the Sixers defense stiffened, causing turnovers and bad shots. Kyle Korver had ice in his veins from the line, going 7-7 in the second half. The Sixers simply wanted this game more, and sometimes that's all it takes.
They're playing for each other now, not to keep their "leader" happy. I never wanted to see Iverson go. He was, and still is, the most exciting player in the NBA to watch. But when my wife asked me today if the Sixers are better without him, I didn't even think twice, the answer is yes. The Sixers are 4 games out of the playoffs, 5 games out of the 7th spot. The Magic, Nets and Pacers are in full free-fall mode. The days of rooting for the Sixers to lose for a shot at Oden/Durant are officially over. I've got playoffs on my mind now.
Next up for the Sixers: A tough back-to-back, at Atlanta Tuesday night, then home against the Bulls on Wednesday.