Kobe was looking up at Iggy all night long. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Earlier today I picked Iguodala vs. Kobe as the key match up in tonight's Sixers/Lakers game. Obviously, picking the best player from each team isn't a stretch when looking for a key match up, but this choice had another layer to it. Since Iverson's departure, Iguodala has been growing into the role of team leader, and superstar. Tonight was a chance to see how far he's come. After the Sixers' 108-92 blowout of the Lakers, I think Kobe and Phil will tell you that Iggy has arrived.
As I write this, the Sixers sit 4.5 games out of the playoffs. The teams they're chasing are Orlando, the Knicks and the Nets. One of those four teams will occupy the 8th slot for the Eastern conference, and based on the way they're playing right now, you cannot count out the Sixers. Before the game tonight, Billy King made a statement saying Mo Cheeks would be back to coach the Sixers in '07-'08. Kind of an odd statement, considering he was already under contract. Basically, King said "I'm not going to fire him." Anyway, I'm behind King on this move.
No one has been more vocal about the poor job Mo Cheeks did with this team earlier in the year. What he's done with them since Iverson and Webber have left is nothing short of miraculous. He's coaching a smart game and the team is playing great defense. They're rotating, they're denying, they're boxing out. The only shortcoming for Mo is Willie Green, but tonight he made an adjustment that saved the game for the Sixers.
In the first half, while Willie Green was "guarding" Kobe, Bryant had 21 points in about 13 minutes. When the Sixers came out in the second half, Iguodala took over on Bryant, and held him to 7 points on 3-14 from the floor the rest of the way. This defensive shift completely stifled the Lakers, and the Sixers went on a 16-0 run early in the third. The game was over after that.
Kobe is a better player than Iggy. They aren't even close at this point of their careers, but tonight Iggy owned Kobe. He frustrated him on defense, and scored over, around, under and on top of Bryant. Iguodala is your player of the game, finishing with 31 points on 11/18 from the field, 8 rebound, 3 assists and 2 steals. Sam Dalembert turned in another huge game, 12 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks.The Sixers only turned the ball over 7 times the entire game.
The Sixers travel to Indiana tonight to take on a Pacers' team that's dropped 7 in a row tomorrow night. Extending their streak to 7 on the road, against a well-rested Indiana team, on the second night of a back-to-back will be a tall order, but don't count the Sixers out just yet, not with the way they're playing right now.