I'm ashamed to say that tonight was my first live Sixers game
of the season. Things have been hectic in the DF household, to say the least, but I couldn't pass up the chance to see the Sixers in my old home state taking on the Nets. Earlier today I hit the jackpot when I answered a random ad on Craigslist. I scored 2 seats on the floor, in the third row for a song and I have to say, the Nets know how to treat their high-paying customers.
We got to the Izod Center extra early, entered and immediately took an escalator down to the underbelly of the arena where we had our choice of "clubs" to visit before the game started. We chose the less buttoned-down club and were pleasantly surprised by a full buffet and open bar. About five minutes later Marv Albert and Jim Spanarkel, the Nets announcers, stepped up to a mic and took questions from the other season-ticket holders in the club. It was pretty surreal. These random fans were grilling Marv about Diop and Harris, peppering him with follow-up questions. They seemed pretty pissed to me, and I guess they have every right, considering their playoff hopes were extinguished tonight.
We got to our seats about an hour before the tip and saw several Sixers going through drills on the court. When the entire team took the floor Jason Smith and Samuel Dalembert staged a three-point shooting contest from the corner of the floor right in front of us. Sammy won, and Smith was giving high fives after his makes (which were rare). I was a little concerned that Sammy shot about 100 threes before the game and worked on zero post moves, but I guess that's what happens when Moses Malone isn't present.
I didn't take notes during the game like I usually do when I watch from home, so I can only touch on the things that stand out in my memory now. First of all, Mo switched up his rotation. Thad didn't play until about half-way through the second quarter, and I think it hurt him sitting for that long. He never got into the flow of things and only managed 3 shots in his 19 minutes of work. Willie Green had a much better game than I've seen from him in a long time. His jumper wasn't falling, but he was aggressive going to the hole and actually shot over 50% from the floor. Good signs.
Sammy took the game over in the fourth quarter, which has become the norm. I don't know if someone had a talk with him, or he figured it out on his own, but he's completely changed his approach. If you watch closely, he plays a completely different style of defense as the game goes on. He doesn't challenge drivers hard at the tin in the early going. If there's an easy opportunity for a blocked shot, he'll take it, but otherwise he avoids situations where he could pick up early fouls. He manages his minutes. Once the fourth quarter starts, he goes after absolutely everything. Getting to the fourth with a low foul total allows him to be super-aggressive and not care about fouling out. He's increased not only his minutes, but he's started dominating when they need him to. This, more than anything, is the reason why their defense has been shutting people down and they've been closing out games.
Iguodala had a quiet night shooting the ball, but he dominated the game in other ways. Early on, he was distributing. Later, he owned the boards. It was a nice overall game for him.
As for Andre Miller, the thing that I took away from this game is that he's the bona fide leader of this team. He was visibly angry at their defensive effort in the first quarter. He was yelling at the younger guys, slamming the ball down on the floor. He also knew exactly when they had to have a hoop to stop a Nets run, and as he's done all season, he got it for them.
The Nets were able to pull within 2 in the fourth quarter, then Sweet Lou took over. He scored 7 straight points on three trips down the floor, pushed the lead to 7 and the Sixers never looked back.
All told, it was a memorable night, but most importantly, a big win for the Sixers. If you ever have the chance to see a game like that, take it. The highlight: a free buffet with no line at half-time. The only downer: you don't really want to be that close to the Nets dance team. Let's just say these girls must've been rejected by the Knicks City Dancers.Player of The Game:
Lou Williams/Sammy (offense/defense in the fourth to put the game away)Team Record:
Everyone else was off. The Sixers are .5 games behind the Raptors and Wizards for 5th place, 3.5 ahead of the Hawks for 8th.