My biggest regret when I look back on this game is that we'll never get a chance to see a playoff series between the Nuggets and the Sixers. That was one of the most entertaining regular season games I can remember. My second biggest regret is the Sixers had this game, right there, and they let it slip right through their fingers. (game capsule)
Here's your rotation chart. I highlighted the JTI lineup responsible for the huge run in the fourth, and basically every rotation from the second quarter when the Sixers pretty much coughed up the game:
It's taken some time for me to cool down after this one, and with some perspective, there's nothing to drive yourself crazy over. The Sixers played an extremely poor second quarter, and it was pretty much a team effort. They played a back-and-forth third. The first and the final 10 minutes of the fourth were a real pleasure to watch. I'm sure an objective observer or a Nuggets fan will just look at this game from the exact opposite angle. These were two very evenly matched teams who play a similar style, with aligning strengths. One team was on short rest, the other was missing an integral part of their rotation (Mozgov is not an integral part of Denver's rotation). The game came down to execution down the stretch for the Sixers (Iguodala's missed free throw, Jrue's turnover, Lou's missed corner three) and one guy playing absolutely out of his mind for the Nuggets.
Collins is going to take a lot of heat for this loss, and he deserves some, but when you get right down to it, execute on one of those three plays, and this is probably a win. The refs were bad, and three key calls (or non-calls) really hurt the Sixers, but it doesn't matter. Execute on one of those three plays and you win the game. Pointing fingers or looking for excuses is pointless. Execute and you win. That's the moral of the story here.
Here's one thing I don't understand, though. For basically 26 minutes of action, the Nuggets absolutely torched the Sixers with the Lawson/Miller back court. It was plain as day that whichever one Jrue wasn't guarding was getting the ball and he was going to attack either Meeks or Williams. This lineup was obviously going to be a problem for the Sixers, they should've known that coming in and it shouldn't have taken Collins until the fourth quarter to realize he needed to have Turner and Holiday at the one/two to take away the mismatch.
One final thing I don't get. With the Sixers up by 1 (93-92) and 1:07 left in the game, Collins took a full timeout. This was the most important possession of the game, in my mind. You draw up a play there, get a hoop, and it's a scramble for the Nuggets to recover. Instead, you got an Iguodala isolation resulting in an 18-foot fade that he missed. No one else touched the ball. They didn't run any kind of play. I just don't get it. This team doesn't have a superstar, their strength is that on any given night, a different player can carry them. Tonight, that player was Evan Turner. If anyone deserved the ball on an isolation for that play, it was Turner. Of course, I'm not sure why you had to go to an iso there at all. If that's what Collins drew up, it was a terrible job. If it was Iguodala just seeing a mismatch and that was the best he could do to "attack" it, then it's on him. We'll probably never know. On the following possession, Jrue actually did attack his man, got all the way to the rim and made a huge layup. Iguodala apparently learned his lesson and got into the paint on the fateful final possession of regulation. He drew the foul and then, well, you know the rest. 3 points on 3 possessions is pretty much what they did for the entire game, so it's not like their offense was much better or worse than expected, but I don't get the logic of giving two of the halfcourt possessions to Iguodala when he was terrible in the half court pretty much the entire night.
At some point, this team will win one of these games. At some point, they won't make the key mistakes that cost them close games against good teams. Apparently, we haven't reached that point yet. The good news is they get to try again on Friday night, but I'm not going to lie to you, this one stings. If you need a silver lining, it could've been worse. The Sixers could've lost to the Suns, at home, with the Suns playing their second in two nights while you were well-rested, like the Knicks did tonight.
Player of The Game: Turner. He'd be the most efficient scorer in the league if he'd stop shooting jumpers, and that's not an exaggeration. He was in full-on attack mode in the fourth quarter tonight, on both ends of the floor. He looked like a closer, if such a thing even exists. He just wasn't given the opportunity to close. 20 points on 17 shots. 11 boards, 2 dimes, 2 steals, 3 turnovers.
Team Record: 10-4
Up Next: vs. ATL, Friday night
Comment of The Game Thread: Really too many candidates to pick one out, but just a great game thread. We're over 575 comments right now, and still counting. Great work, everyone.