First of all, thanks to Dean for hooking us up with tickets for tonight's game. It was great to meet everyone (Dean, Tray, Mike, Josh, Noah, Rob and Tom Moore). The game itself was heartening, for several reasons we'll get into after the jump. The win was huge. But seeing Thad Young helped off the court was just sickening.
When we all met up at halftime, we didn't talk a whole lot about the game itself. Mostly, we cursed our luck as Philadelphia sports fans. It was tough to shake that punch in the stomach feeling, and honestly, it's still lingering for me and probably will continue until I hear definitive word.
As for the game, the first half was a combination of excellent defense by the Sixers (I counted one open look at a three for Atlanta), and poor play by the Hawks. After Thad went down, Evans did a decent job in his absence for the remainder of the half, but overall, he was the only negative on the team for the game (-6). You can't pin Josh Smith's entire 33 points on Evans, but he's definitely culpable for some of it.
The second half was a different story, and it was almost a very familiar story with the Hawks shaving a 16-point deficit all the way down to 1 early in the fourth. The game was stabilized by Theo Ratliff's inspired play in the fourth. He entered the game with 10:22 left and the Sixers clinging to a 77-75 lead. From that point on he had 3 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 points. He drew a charge on Pachulia, blocked a Josh Smith shot, and committed two hard "no layups" fouls that set the tone. In a nutshell, he did everything the Sixers need out of the center position, none of which Reggie Evans does when he's playing the five. Great sub by DiLeo, great job by Ratliff.
Speights did his best to pick up the scoring slack for Thad. He was 6/13 and I thought he was improved on both ends of the floor. He had two huge slams down the stretch when the Sixers absolutely needed hoops. We're going to need more nights like this from him if Thad is going to miss more time.
Dalembert not only played, but I thought he played decently well in his 30 minutes. Willie was a pleasant surprise, and DiLeo rewarded his good shooting with extra minutes, but 0 rebounds in 31 minutes on the floor is just pitiful. Lou's shot wasn't falling, again, but at least he had the common sense to stop shooting.
One more quick point, then I'm calling it a night. Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller and Royal Ivey all deserve beaucoup credit for the defensive work they did on Joe Johnson. Josh Smith went off, without a doubt, but Johnson had a man all over him the entire game. He had to work extremely hard just to get his 9 shots off, and he only hit 3 of them. They game planned to take the ball out of his hands, and they executed on that plan.
If you'd like a statistical reason for the win, look no further than assists and turnovers. Philly had 27 assists on 37 field goals and only 7 turnovers. Atlanta managed only 17 assists on 29 field goals, and coughed it up 17 times, which is out of character for them.
Thad will have an MRI on his injured ankle. Cross your fingers that this is nothing more than a sprain and he won't miss much time. Negative x-rays aren't a clean bill of health, there's plenty of structural damage that can be done without bone damage. The playoffs will begin two weeks from Saturday, so keep that in mind when word comes down on Thad's injury.
Player of The Game: Iguodala. 19 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover and excellent defense on Joe Johnson.
Team Record: 38-35
Up Next: Milwaukee on Thursday.
Detroit lost to Cleveland, Chicago lost to Indiana and Charlotte beat the Lakers. Things are getting interesting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the Sixers were able to put some space between themselves and that mess with this win.
UPDATE: Kate Fagan thinks Thad is going to miss some serious time, probably the rest of the regular season.