Well, the first preseason game most of us could watch without the aid of pirate websites was broadcast entirely in Spanish. There's a reason the Sixers are the third (at best) most-popular team in Philadelphia. If you made it through this game, pat yourself on the back, wear it as a badge of honor, stick it in your back pocket and pull it out after they turn the corner and tell all your friends you watched a preseason game en Espanol, that's how crazy about the Sixers you were. If you didn't catch the game, well, you missed a thing of beauty.
If the first half of the Knicks game was a glaring reminder of how much work the Sixers have left to do, the first and third quarters of Sunday's game against the Suns is the light at the end of the tunnel. The movement was solid, the spacing was solid, most-important, the decision-making was impeccable.
The starting five absolutely demolished the Suns' first-teamers. They stifled them on defense, they used their defense (and rebounding) to spark the fast-break offense. When the early offense wasn't there, they fell back on the PO and let their stars lead the way. This was easily Andre Iguodala's best game of the preseason, 10/17 from the floor, 6 boards, 8 assists (don't believe the box score, they gave Willie one of Iguodala's), 3 steals for 23 points. Most impressive, only 1 turnover. His partner in crime tonight was Thad Young, 7/10 from the floor for 17 points. The shooting was poor from the other three starters was poor (8/32), but each contributed in other ways. Lou with 3 steals and 0 turnovers. Brand and Sammy combined for 18 boards in a hair over 40 minutes. My favorite line of the night was Jason Kapono's: 3/5 from the floor, 3/4 from three.
All told, the top 6 tallied a cumulative +/- of +103. Dipping further down into the rotation is a mixed bag. Jrue had a short run in the first half, cut short by two sloppy turnovers and quick hook by Coach Jordan. When he returned in the second half, he was aggressively attacking the basket. I'm glad Jordan limited the punishment to the first half and went back to the kid.
Speights put up another double-double against his favorite defense, but the effort just wasn't there on the defensive end. If he's shooting this well (6/11) he'll probably be a bit of a benefit no matter how bad his defense is. But if his shot is off, he doesn't exactly stop shooting. This means one of two things, either Eddie Jordan needs to rein in his minutes on nights when he isn't hitting his shots, or he's going to absolutely murder the team. Ideally, someone or something will light a fire under Mr. Speights, but short of that, it's going to take some juggling to make sure he's doing no more harm than good.
Willie put up an impressive line with 8 dimes, but most of his damage was done in garbage time, hence the name. Jason Smith continues to underwhelm, only attempting 1 shot in 15 minutes, but he did grab 3 boards and dole out 4 fouls. Primoz seems to think he's not allowed to actually catch the ball when a shot is missed. He got his hands on about 10 potential rebounds, but instead of securing them, he simply batted them wildly. My initial thought when they signed him was the most valuable thing he'll bring into each game is the six fouls he has to commit. Nothing has changed my mind about that yet.
Ivey seems to have slipped below Jrue on the depth chart, which I'm all for. Jrue's defense looked really solid tonight. Still nothing from Rodney Carney, so who knows what the rotation will wind up looking like. Two more preseason games for things to settle, Washington in Philly on Tuesday and the Nets at St. John's on Friday.
Overall, this game has me feeling a lot better about the team than I did after watching them on Tuesday night at the Garden. Questions still linger, but I feel like I saw a little bit of the potential of this starting five, in this system, for the first time. It could really be something when they're clicking on all cylinders.
If there's one cause for concern among the starters, it's got to Elton Brand's explosiveness. He looked a little earthbound again. If he can rebound, defend and contribute efficiently, even if he doesn't put up big numbers, that will be enough. I'm still holding out hope that he'll be the EB of old, but I just haven't seen it yet.
Thoughts in the comments, as usual.