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Sammy Lights A Fire

I have no idea if the glow will last. I have no idea if the Sixers will come out flat tomorrow night against the Bulls. I'm not sure if there's a way to recreate it, but for about 18 minutes of game time tonight, the Sixers actually resembled a team. The catalyst? Sam Dalembert, and he couldn't even watch the results in person.

A series of plays starting about five minutes into the third quarter set the stage for the rest of the game:

  • With 7:28 left in the third, Dalembert grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back.
  • The next trip down the floor, Duncan came up high to set a screen for the point, Dalembert shadowed him, when the pick proved to be ineffective, and Duncan tried to roll to the hoop, Sam stood his ground. Duncan shoved him with two hands to get him out of the way. Sam was whistled for his third foul on the play.
  • Duncan would eventually miss a 9-foot jumper on that possession, Iverson grabbed the rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. Dalembert beat Duncan down the floor and threw down a tremendous dunk.
  • On the other end of the floor, Duncan went to work on the blocks with Sammy behind him. As they jockeyed for position, Sam was whistled for his fourth foul. Again, the foul was questionable. Eddie Jordan removed Sam from the game, but he threw the ball away in disgust, getting his first technical foul on his way to the bench.
  • Exactly thirty seconds later, Elton Brand picked Manu Ginobili's pocket and broke away for what looked like a sure dunk. George Hill caught up to Brand from behind and essentially ran right into him, it looked to me like he was trying to give the foul before Brand could get the shot up. Brand used his off arm to deflect the contact and was called for an offensive foul. Horrible, horrible call.
  • On the bench with four personal fouls in his front pocket and one technical foul in his back pocket, Sam Dalembert had seen enough. I don't know what he said to one of the refs who was within earshot, but it led to his second technical and immediate ejection from the game.
  • From that point on, over the final 18:01 of the game, the Sixers outscored the Spurs 48-33 and simply ran them off the floor.

The run started with Iguodala, Brand and Jrue really asserting themselves on both end of the floor. As they kept their energy up, stopped settling and started attacking, the rest of the team jumped on the bandwagon.

By the time the fourth quarter came around, Thad Young and Lou Williams had joined the party. Thad got to work on the defensive end, started rebounding, and running the floor like a deer. Even Lou was doing work on the defensive end (after watching his man hit a three without even taking a step toward him in the third, Lou blocked two shots, including a three by Mason). The Sixers made the Spurs look old, slow and out-dated in that fourth quarter. For the game, Philly scored 38 fast break points and 58 points in the paint. They only attempted 8 threes the entire game.

The offensive numbers were nice, but this game was won with defense. They grabbed 77% of available defensive rebounds, held San Antonio to 5/21 from three, Jrue Holiday's 45 minutes were definitely a deciding factor. Tony Parker finished the game with 2 points in 27 minutes on 1/9 shooting. The two points were actually scored when Jrue was on the bench.

Here's the rotation chart, more thoughts to follow:

One thing immediately jumps out at me: We only saw the Lou Williams/Allen Iverson combo in the back court for 33 seconds the entire game. That's just outstanding. Jrue played every second of the second half, again, outstanding. Iverson was terribly ineffective, and sat the final 17 minutes of action, again, outstanding.

As far as rotations go, this was Jordan's best game to date. He was hamstrung by the injury to Jason Smith and Sammy's ejection, but he did have opportunities to mess with the guards, and he didn't. I said it during the game, and I'll say it again. I think they should absolutely play it safe with Willie's injury. In fact, send him to Dr. James Andrews, that guy always finds a reason to break out the scalpel. The best thing that could possibly happen to this team at this point would be lose one of the guards who takes minutes away from Jrue.

Here's the thing about tonight's game, Jrue wasn't perfect. In fact, he had a stretch in the second quarter in which he looked like the 19-year-old rookie he is. All three of his turnovers came in the second, he took a wild layup, he tried to force an impossible pass through traffic. But you know what, he bounced back in a big way in the second half. He played within himself, he contributed on both ends and his defense was stout.

I'll get to Andre Iguodala in the player of the game section, but first I need to give a hand to Marreese Speights. Speights played 15 minutes tonight, essentially because he had to. In those 15 minutes of action, he managed to get beaten in a 30-yard dash by a 300 lb man with no ligaments in his knees. He did, however, keep Willie's spirit alive with this stellar line: 4/8 from the floor for 8 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 1 turnover, 2 fouls. Way to seize the opportunity, big guy.

Player of The Game: Andre Iguodala, 7/12 from the floor, 20 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers. I said this was the perfect Iguodala game in the comments, and it absolutely was. He only attempted 1 three-pointer, hitting it. He went to the line 5 times, hitting all 5. He switched onto the hot man when it was needed on defense, he keyed the break, he drove and dished. You name it.
Team Record: 21-33
Up Next: @ Chicago, Saturday night.

If you're feeling like tonight was a wasted opportunity for a loss, just remind yourself that Jrue Holiday played 45 minutes. 45. That's three games worth of burn for the kid. Definitely the most enjoyable game of the season for me.