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I have to start by saying it's inexcusable for the Sixers to be down to the Chicago Bulls by 18 points in the fourth quarter. It's a complete statistical anomaly that they shot 91% from the line (40/44) and if they have to rely on a number like that to win games, they're doomed. There, I got that off my chest. Now, what a game! The Sixers needed every single one of their 40 fourth-quarter points to bring home this 110-106 win.

I've been toying with the notion that Mo Cheeks deserves the coach of the year award for a couple of weeks. Tonight's game might just have me convinced. This team was dead in the water after the third quarter. Down by 16, the defense wasn't getting the job done. The offense was stagnant. No one could do anything. Mo went with his usual rotation pattern to start the fourth, only Kevin Ollie was moved up in the rotation, so he got the minutes at the point. I'll admit it, I was hoping to see Thad, Miller and Iguodala out there for the entire fourth quarter, but Mo stuck to his guns. It paid off. Kevin Ollie's defense, Rodney Carney's offense and the entire team's aggression with the ball and precision from the line brought this win home. Ollie played the entire fourth quarter, as did Rodney Carney (more on him in a second). Jason Smith played a huge role down the stretch too. Giving hard fouls, contesting shots, going to work on the low blocks and converting 6/6 from the line.

Carney gets his own paragraph. This is two games in a row that the Sixers don't win if Rodney Carney isn't on their team. More importantly, the Sixers don't win these games if Mo Cheeks doesn't have Carney on the floor for crucial minutes. Carney scored 10 of his 18 in the fourth quarter and hit three straight from downtown. The threes made the comeback. The Sixers were chipping away methodically at the lead, but couldn't break through. Then Carney rained all three of his threes in a four-minute stretch to bring the Sixers to within three at 95-98. The next trip down the floor Iguodala hit a three of his own to tie the game and from that point you knew it was over. The Bulls put up a little bit of a fight, but they spent more time arguing with the refs than playing defense for the remainder of the game.

With 11:07 to go, Kirk Hinrich scored to make it 88-70, Chicago. Over the final 11:07 the Sixers outscored the Bulls 40-18. Amazing.

This game was absolutely a trap. The Sixers absolutely fell into it. There are two reasons they were able to dig themselves out:
  1. Mo Cheeks
  2. Heart
Thad had an off game and lost a ton of minutes in the second half to the suddenly over-achieving Carney. Reggie and Andre Miller could only watch the miraculous fourth. Mo only made two subs the entire quarter, sending Iguodala in for Booth with 11:22 to go and then Dalembert in for Smith with 3:46 left. (Dalembert had 3 boards and 3 points in the final 3:46 of the game).

One last note on tonight's game, and another huge vote of confidence for Mo. Iguodala picked up his fourth foul with 10:56 to go in the third quarter. 99% of coaches in this league pull their player, no matter who it is, with 4 fouls and that much time left to play. Cheeks realized the team was struggling and they needed Iguodala on the floor. Cheeks left him in there and Iguodala never picked up his fifth. That's Mo's strong suit. He knows his players, he knows this team, he trusts them and he gets more out of them than any other coach gets out his players.

Saturday night is another grueling back-to-back for the Sixers. They're flying home to take on the defending champs. Get a good night's sleep, Sixers fans. This tough stretch isn't over yet, but 2-1 sure is a nice way to start it.

Player of The Game: Rodney Carney
Team Record: 32-34
Playoff Race: Still all alone in 7th, 1 game behind the Wizards, 4.5 ahead of the Nets and Hawks

Again, I apologize for the delay in getting the recap up. Send all complaints to NBA.com for taking 2 hours to make the archive available.
by Brian on Mar 15 2008
Tags: Basketball | Bulls | Rodney Carney | Sixers |