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First-Person Report: Sixers vs. Nuggets

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Mike was on hand to see Iverson's return to the Wach last night, his notes after the jump. (Sorry, had to get one image of a sick Iguodala dunk on the blog after this one and couldn't find the reverse on the blocks).
PREGAME/SHOOTAROUND:

- We arrived at 6pm, and the Wachovia lot was already filled to the max. It hasn't even been this packed for any playoff game played here the last 2 seasons.

- Iverson was shooting jumpers off feeds by Aaron Mckie at 615pm, and it was one of the most surreal sights you could imagine. A huge crowd developed behind the Sixers bench, along with another crowd across the court. Every so often, Iverson would acknowledge one of the seemingly hundreds of AI signs by waving or pointing, which would elicit a loud roar from the crowd. This happened at least 5 times while he was shooting. Iguodala & Williams (glad to see his jaw doesn't prevent him from practicing) were also shooting. Lou left at one point so for awhile it was just Iguodala & Iverson on the floor. It was very strange, and a little disconcerting, watching this. I did notice that Iverson was missing a ton of layups, so I couldn't help but laugh a little bit when he missed that wide open layup on the game's first possession. He must have been nervous as hell.

- By the time the Sixers were officially introduced as they ran out into their layup line, the crowd was in a frenzy. AI looked amped to about 1000, jumping and skipping around for just about the entire pregame until he started stretching. EVERYONE in the entire arena was standing during the pregame layups & stretching, which I don't think I have seen once in 15+ years of attending NBA games ('01 Finals included).

- This wasn't a big deal, but I thought it was funny that Iverson took off his jacket and completed most of warmups in a white sleeveless t-shirt, while every other Sixer was wearing a full red uniform with long pants & jacket.

- AI's step over Tyronne Lue in the '01 Finals in the pregame video drew a gigantic response of course. After the normal video they play for every game, they showed an Iverson highlight clip, with a voiceover of his recent press conference. The specific part they used was his description of his relationship with Sixers' fans. Instant standing O. It was pretty fucking awesome.

- During the National Anthem they showed him on the jumbotron twice and the crowd roared. Needless to say, this was a theme throughout the evening. At this point I assume everyone in attendance has the same chills I do.

- After he was introduced he trotted over to midcourt and kissed the 76ers logo. More chills.

ONTO THE GAME:

- It's usually freezing inside the Wachovia Center, but with the sellout tonight it was pretty warm.

- Every time he touches the ball the crowd roars. It actually becomes kind of comical.

- I have mixed feelings about the crowd tonight. It is clear that they are not Sixers fans. I suppose it doesn't really matter as long as they are in the building and providing the team with some energy, but it feels strange as a season ticket holder who lived & died with this team the past 2 seasons as we saw their youth movement grow to be joined by these Iverson fans who just happen to be rooting for Philly now. Regardless, it is more fun watching this team play to a packed house, so I'll keep my mouth shut.

- Mcnabb is sitting at the end of the Nuggets bench all night, a lot of the time next to JR Smith. If I didn't know better I'd think he was just a big fat guy. Westbrook, Shady McCoy, and Leonard Weaver (who draws the loudest response of all the Eagles) are also there to witness AI's homecoming.

- In one of my previous write-ups I mentioned how every team has an honorary bench player who spends the majority of each timeout staring into the crowd, I assume to scan for hot chicks. The Nuggets have nominated Chris Andersen to fill this role.

- When AI is whistled for his 2nd foul, Ed Snider jumps out of his courtside seat across from the visitor's bench to bark at the official. Before tonight I hadn't ever really seen him move while in attendance.

- Iguodala is one of the streakiest shooters in the league right now, and he was on fire in the 1st half. I didn't think he played particularly well, he was just hitting jumpers that he normally misses. He did pretty much shut down Melo, but he was looking to score tonight whereas he usually sets up his teammates and gets them involved. I'm sure people will say he was sending a message that it was still his team, and I really have no idea, but it was pretty clear that he was looking for his own shot tonight.

- It seems like Thad always starts each half really well, and then gets lost in the mix. Tonight he was being extremely aggressive, which I loved. He is the Sixers' best pure scorer, and should average 20 ppg. I really liked what I saw from him tonight.

- Sammy and Elton were absolute monsters on the boards, at least in the 1st half. Sammy also had like 6 blocks in the 1st half. He was just incredible, and despite a few turnovers pretty much had an optimal "Sammy" game, where he concentrates on D & rebounding and doesn't worry too much about finding his shot.

- I was skeptical about his signing, but I absolutely loved what I saw from Iverson tonight. He didn't force anything and really seemed to play within the team. To the largely misguided crowd's dismay, he was looking to set up teammates as opposed to looking for his own shot. I don't know if this was because it was his 1st game and he was out of shape, or if he will be making a conscious effort to be more of a floor leader for the rest of the season. I will say I noticed he looked incredibly slow tonight. It was the first time I've seen him play in person since he left, so the contrast in play could just be in my mind. But it looked like he had trouble getting by any defender off the dribble. He had a lot of trouble with Lawson in particular. I'm sure he'll look quicker in a few games but we have to keep in mind that he is now 34.

- I said at halftime that we would lose this game by double digits. Denver shot 31% in the 1st half and I knew that wouldn't continue. I guessed Carmelo would go off, but it ended up being Billups & Lawson. I've seen Billups do this so many times now that nothing he does surprises me. Dude is just a pitbull, who gives his team exactly what they need every single night. He saw Melo was struggling, so he decided to take over.

- The Sixers played so much harder out of the gate tonight than I have seen so far this season. It was a combination of many factors, but if they continue to play like they did tonight, they are going to win some games. In fact, I am guaranteeing a win Wednesday night against a pretty bad Pistons team.
by Brian on Dec 8 2009
Tags: Basketball | First-Person Report | Nuggets | Sixers |