It was a charged environment at the Wach for Allen Iverson's return to the Sixers. The crowd seemed to carry the team most of the night, but when all was said and done, this was a very familiar game for Philly. Defense did them in, yet again.
Let me begin by saying tonight was the best-coached game of Eddie Jordan's brief tenure as the Sixers lead man. Before you go crazy, realize this was simply the least horrible of a string of 21 horrible coaching jobs, but still, that's an improvement. He started the correct, lineup, which seems like such an easy decision, but he hasn't done it in quite a while. (We'll table the discussion of whether this lineup was a mandate from above). He gave both Dalembert and Brand heavy minutes, including a whopping 34 minutes with both guys on the floor. It's no surprise the Sixers were finally nearly respectable on the defensive glass (73.2%, 75% is always the goal). That being said, 14 minutes is about 9 too many for these small lineups, at least until the team starts playing defense that at least approaches respectability.
As we learned earlier today, rebounding is only 1/3 of the problem for the Sixers on that end of the ball. The other two parts weren't so great. As predicted, they didn't stop penetration at all, and they didn't rotate to the open man on the perimeter either. Denver shot 11/18 from deep and got to the line 26 times. Statistically speaking, the Sixers did a representative job against one of the most potent offensive teams in the league, holding them 5 points below their season offensive efficiency rating (109 to 114), but as I watched the game, I couldn't help but think Denver was toying with us. They could get whatever shot they wanted, whenever they wanted it, as long as the shot they wanted wasn't a clean look for 'Melo, because Iguodala absolutely dominated him.
Overall, it was a valiant effort and I believe it may just have been a win if Iverson was in mid-season form. Now don't go crazy with that statement. The game Andre Iguodala had was unbelievable, and it was also fluky. Much like Willie Green in the last game, Iguodala was just drilling bad shots for most of the night. You also had Sam and Elton completely dominating the glass and the paint. Those two combined for 18 points, 28 boards and 8 blocks. Thad Young also carried the torch offensively with a series of stunning moves in the paint, essentially gluing Melo's feet to the floor. So what I'm saying is that if all the other Sixers could play the games they played tonight, and Iverson was up to speed, I think he might have been able to carry them for a stretch in the fourth offensively and given them a chance to steal the game. The odds of all those things happening again are pretty slim, though. But that doesn't mean a whole lot, Denver is just a better team, they played a solid three quarters then succumbed.
The holes are still there, the coach is still incompetent, this game was probably more fool's gold than a sign of improvement, but it was a good night to be a Sixers fan. Iverson's here, for better or for worse, no one's development was hindered tonight, so enjoy it.
Oh, and if Iguodala doesn't have two or three of the top five dunks of the night, something is wrong with the NBA.
Player of The Game: Iguodala, yes he had a bad stretch early in the fourth, as did every other Sixers, but you just can't ignore 31 points on 21 shots. Plus he held 'Melo to 5/21 from the floor for 14 points.
Team Record: 5-16 (3rd worst record in the league, losing ground to the Knicks!)
Up Next: Detroit on Wednesday night.
Mike was at the game, check back in the morning for his first person report. Until then, have at it in the comments (the Ty Lawson ban has been lifted for the day, although I have an asterisk next to all stats due to the fact he was never defended by a legitimate NBA defender).