I finally got my first extended look at the 2008-2009 Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers tonight and I came away feeling pretty good. The Sixers controlled the game pretty much the whole way
as the Knicks tried out their new run-gun-and-play-no-defense philosophy. As opposed to the walk-the-ball-up-the-court-dribble-too-much-take-a-bad-shot-and-play-no-defense philosophy they championed under Isiah Thomas last season.
There were a few surprises, like Andre Iguodala bringing the ball up the court for the majority of the first quarter. Iguodala turned in the type of game I'm hoping he'll be turning in all season long. He was 7/15 from the floor (1/3 from three) with 5 boards, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and only 1 turnover. Miller led the team in scoring with 22.
Brand's shot wasn't falling. He could get it off whenever he wanted to, but it just would not go down. He was a dismal 3/12 from the floor, but 7/7 from the line and he also grabbed 11 boards in his 30 minutes of work. Willie Green somehow got 13 shots up in 19 minutes of work. Mo really needs to limit his time, the guy just never learns.
Now, for the two players who really got me excited. I'm sure you can guess the first, it's Thad. The kid just continues to elevate his game. Tonight he played 35 minutes and scored 16 points on only 9 shots. He was 2/4 from downtown, and had 3 boards, 1 assist, 2 steals and zero turnovers. The kid just gets it. He played great defense (except for a backdoor he got burned on by Q), he ran the floor. In the halfcourt, he found the soft spot on the weak side of the floor and drained two threes in the first quarter. His jumper looks much better this season. He's quickened up his release a little, but most of all, he just looks confident shooting it. He's now 7/14 from three so far this preseason, if he can hit 40% of those shots the Eastern Conference is going to be in serious trouble.
After the jump we'll talk about the biggest surprise of the game.
I went in expecting this from Thad, what I didn't expect was what I saw from Marreese Speights. On Friday night, Mo left the second team in there for the fourth quarter. The Knicks wound up winning the game. Tonight, Mo went with his typical small lineup for the majority of the fourth, except when he slid Brand to the 5, he inserted Speights at the 4. I have to say, Speights is quicker than I thought he'd be, has a much better touch than I thought he'd have (he hit 2 deep jumpers, probably from about 20), and he has a better feel for the game than anyone could've expected. I think the Sixers brass may have found another gem in this year's draft.
With a lineup of Miller, Iguodala, Thad, Speights and Brand the Sixers were all over the floor on defense. Speights was guarding guys on the perimeter, Iguodala was down on the blocks, Thad was bringing the ball up the floor, Brand was leading the break. The parts were interchangable and with those guys on the floor the athleticism is just through the roof. I really, really can't wait for these games to count.
On the negative side of the ledger goes the play of Lou Williams. He looked really bad, he shot 3/9 from the floor and hhad only 3 assists to go along with his 3 turnovers.
Obviously, it was only a preseason game, and one they only won by 7 points against a bad team, but still. The little things I saw were extremely encouraging.
By the way, my bold prediction of the night is that Eddy Curry is either "hurt" the entire season, traded for cents on the dollar or bought out of his contract before December. He can barely walk up and down the floor. Tonight he played 6 minutes, then left with a tummy ache. He came into camp out of shape, which means pretty much exactly the same way he came into camp and played all year last year. D'Antoni isn't going to stand for it. Best-case scenario, he rides the pine all season. On the plus side for the Knicks, Wilson Chandler was insane. He single-handedly kept the Knicks in the game, 20 points, 10 boards on 5/6 from three. Pick him up if you have an empty roster spot on your fantasy team.