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The headline says it all. The Sixers went into hostile territory and played 48 minutes of playoff-caliber basketball against possibly the best team in the league, certainly a top-five team, and came away with an 83-82 win. Impressive.

The first quarter played out exactly as I thought it would. The Sixers starting lineup of Dalembert, Evans, Thad, Iguodala and Miller caused numerous mismatches, and they took advantage time and time again. They ended the quarter with a 26-18 lead, and honestly, I don't think Detroit can play their starting 5 against that lineup. Rip Hamilton is going to get abused by someone. If they play a zone, the Sixers own the offensive glass. Unfortunately, we didn't see that lineup out there for another long stretch. It's a shame too, because that lineup performed extremely well on defense too. Rip Hamilton never got going mainly because Andre Iguodala was draped all over him. He finished 2/7 from the floor for 9 points, and 5 of those points came in one possession on a silly clear-path foul by Iguodala followed by a three pointer.

The teams played to a tie in the second, the Pistons seemingly took control in the third, building a 6-point lead, then Rodney Carney happened. Tonight was easily his most-impressive game as a Sixer, and his contributions couldn't have come at a better time. Carney finished 7/10 from the floor for 16 points and collected 5 boards in 22 minutes of action. He also hit a handful of key shots in the third and fourth quarters that the team absolutely had to have. The Piston fans were getting into it, Rasheed was talking trash, that annoying announcer was making a fool of himself. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Then Carney started elevating at the rim and sticking jumpers. I've never been so happy to see Carney on the floor.

The fourth quarter probably looked ugly to a lot of people, but guess what? That's what playoff basketball looks like. Points are hard to come by. Your half-court defense is critical. The ability to make stops, take care of the ball, run clock. It all matters most when the games mean the most, and the Sixers did a better job of tonight, without Andre Miller who left the game in the fourth with a back contusion.

This was a gutsy, important win, and if the seeding winds up as it is today, this will be the match-up in the first round of the playoffs. It's good to know the Sixers have the ability to pull off a win like this, on the road, under trying circumstances, to say the least.

A couple of notes from the game:
  • Reggie Evans made an extremely smart play in the first quarter that led to a 4-point swing. Early in the game Billups drove to the hole, drew two defenders and dumped a pass off to McDyess for a dunk. Later in the quarter Billups did the exact same thing, only this time Evans faked going to help, then jumped into the passing lane. Billups tried to make the same pass, but Evans was there for the steal which led to a break and two at the other end.
  • Two plays on McDyess in the closing minutes may have saved this game for the Sixers. On the first play, he broke free for a dunk under the hoop, but Dalembert closed quickly from the foul line for a hard foul which prevented the dunk. McDyess split the free throws. 1 point saved. A few possessions later, McDyess broke free again, again he went up for a dunk. This time Lou Williams came out of nowhere and blocked the dunk attempt. That's 3 points saved by clutch defensive plays and a "no dunks allowed" mentality. The game might end differently if those two don't step up in that situation.
  • The Sixers went the final 2:27 without scoring in this game, and Mo needs to take some heat for that. Iguodala dominated the ball during that stretch, and even though he had a horrible shooting night, I don't have a problem with that. I want the ball in his hands. My problem is that he refused to use an offense/defense substitution pattern. There were plenty of opportunities to get Thad in the game for offense, then put Evans back out there for D. Mo neglected to utilize his players correctly until the Sixers' final possession with 28 seconds left on the clock. The floor got clogged when Iguodala drove for a reason. They weren't worried about Evans at all. In fact, the one time Evans got the ball his shot was swatted away. When that much attention is paid to Iguodala, in that situation, Thad needs to be on the floor to work the seams and finish at the hoop. That's what he does the best.
  • One last thing. Iguodala's final line was not impressive. Shooting 6/22 is not acceptable. But you have to take into account what Detroit was doing. Every time he touched the ball late in the game he was getting double, if not triple-teamed. He never lost confidence, he never shied away from taking the big shot. A little more balance on the floor and he may have been able to hit a few of them down the stretch. Still, no matter how badly he wants to hit that game-winner. When the other team is throwing that much at you, you need to find the open guy.
Sorry for the delay tonight, I'm out of town and had to watch the game on NBA.com, on a delay.

Player of The Game: Rodney Carney!!!!!
Team Record: 31-34
Playoff Race: All alone in 7th, 1 game behind the Wizards, 4 up on the Nets.

Thursday is an off day, the Sixers head to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Friday. They could be severely hampered by injury. Willie Green didn't make the trip and Andre Miller is day-to-day with his back injury. No excuses, though. The Sixers need to take care of the Bulls who represent a brief respite during this excruciating stretch of games. The Spurs come into the Wach on Saturday.

Check out Need 4 Sheed for top-notch Pistons coverage (and a little bit of sour grapes).
by Brian on Mar 13 2008
Tags: Basketball | Rodney Carney | Sixers |