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Ending On A High Note

A win over the lowly Clippers, in and of itself, is nothing to brag about. While the individual talent on their roster isn't terrible (Kaman, Randolph, Camby and Baron are all legit players. Gordon and Thornton seem to be decent young guys), their play on the court has been dreadful. They came into the game with a record of 8-22 and without Randolph and Kaman. This game probably should've been an easier win than it was, but let's not dwell on the negative tonight.

After the jump we'll take a close look at the Sixers' bugaboo and talk about two stretches of the game that gave them the win.

I tracked three-point shooting and three-point defense tonight, and I think I'll continue to do so for a couple of games because it has been the Sixers' achilles heel recently. Here's the breakdown of threes.

On offense, the only way the Sixers seem to be able to get open looks is on drive and kicks. this makes sense, since they don't have a reliable post presence with Brand out. Tonight, they took 4 open threes off kick outs, making one of them. A dismal percentage. You know what's missing from their game, is the three in transition. It's missing because they don't have anyone who can hit them, but think back to the days when Korver was here. It's such a dagger, and a such a clean look for a shooter to trail the play and get the ball kicked back to him. It also spreads the floor when you have a couple guys filling the lane and a shooter leaking out to the wing. But I digress.

On defense, the three-point defense was simply horrid through three quarters. Luckily, the Clippers couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. They were 2/7 on wide-open looks through three. In the fourth, however, the defense picked it up. The Clippers attempted 7 threes in the fourth, and 6 of them were contested. The defense was aggressive, but smart. They made the proper rotations, they trapped when they could, but didn't force things and they stayed at home. That's the type of defensive effort that will turn around their woes.

Now let's talk about the two stretches that decided this game. The first came early in the third quarter. After the Clippers opened the quarter with an 11-0 run the Sixers could've easily folded. Instead, they buckled down on defense and followed it up immediately with an 11-2 run of their own.

The run lasted a little over four minutes and it was keyed by defense and brilliant passing. Here's the sequence:
  • Iguodala drives the lane after a made three by the Clippers, Draws a foul.
  • Iguodala defensive rebound.
  • Miller layup (Iguodala assist)
  • Thad steal
  • Miller layup (Iguodala assist)
  • Ratliff block.
  • Thad steal.
  • Iguodala jumper (Miller assist)
  • Iguodala steal.
  • Thad hook shot (Iguodala assist)
  • Iguodala steal.
  • Willie offensive rebound.
  • Thad runner (Miller assist)
4 steals, 1 block, 5 assists on 5 field goals in 4 minutes. That sequence saved the game.

This one won it. With 2:47 left in the fourth and the game tied at 86, Iguodala grabbed a defensive rebound. On the ensuing play, he found Thad in the post for an easy hook. The Clippers brought the ball back up the court and tried to go Al Thornton, Iguodala pressured him into a turnover. The Sixers came back down the court, put the ball in Iguodala's hands, and he found a wide-open Lou Williams for a baseline jumper. Two assists for Iggy, a four-point lead for the Sixers.

From that point on, Iguodala would go 7/7 from the line to ice the game.

This was Iggy's best game of the season, despite shooting only 7/16 from the floor (0/3 from three). He didn't settle for too many jumpers (I actually think he was 1/6 on jumpers, so 6/10 on all other shots). He moved without the ball, finished in the lane, drove to the hoop and took the contact (14/17 from the line). His final line was impressive, to say the least: 28 points, 7 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover.

Equally impressive was the play of Thad Young, who seems to have turned over a new leaf. Thad was 10/14 from the floor for 20 points, with 6 boards, 1 assist, 3 steals and zero turnovers.

On the negative side of the ledger falls Samuel Dalembert. He was the only player to finish with a negative +/- (-8). He was in foul trouble all night and butchered about 5 passes. DiLeo went to Theo Ratliff early on when Sam picked up his second foul, and it was a good call. Theo played a very nice game, blocking 4 shots and grabbing 8 boards in 26 minutes.

The Clipper announcers were mildly annoying, but they did have one great line, "Why do they insist on passing the ball to Dalembert?" I couldn't come up with an answer.

DiLeo must've smelled blood in the water, because he drastically trimmed is rotation. Iguodala played over 44 minutes, Miller nearly 40 and Tony rode the hot hand by giving Thad 37 minutes of work. Marreese Speights seemed to be the guy most affected by DiLeo's rotation changes, he only saw 7 minutes of action, but he did grab a rebound.

All told, it's good to get a win, any win, at this point. It's even better to see Iguodala closing the game out. I'm glad they showed some intestinal fortitude by bouncing right back from the Clipper run in the third. However, none of the real problems were fixed tonight. They were just playing an awful team. Friday night will be a much bigger challenge.

Player of The Game: Iguodala
Team Record: 13-18
Up Next: @ Dallas, Friday night.

Happy New Year, by the way. The clock struck midnight here with about 14 seconds left in the game. That's a pretty nice way to ring in 2009, if you ask me.
by Brian on Jan 1 2009
Tags: Andre Iguodala | Clippers | Sixers | Thaddeus Young |