After every crushing loss, I find myself asking "Why put yourself through this?" Games like this are the answer. The Sixers held the Spurs to 25 points in the second half tonight, and even though they couldn't throw the ball in the ocean for long stretches, their defensive intensity never wavered. They took every punch the Spurs threw, got up and punched back. Easily the best win of the season.
Player of The Game:
- A 77-71 game is truly music to my ears. When win games based on unconscious shooting and just enough D to get by, the win feels hollow. I don't think this group is capable of sustaining that type of play, it's not who they are. But when make good teams play ugly, when they fight and scrap on every defensive possession, take away their opponents' offensive bread-and-butter and they scuffle to get enough points on the other end to win the game? That's repeatable. That effort, that desire, it's the equalizer. It's how you beat more talented teams (and there are plenty of them), and it's how you shock the world in a playoff series.
- Jrue Holiday is your player of the game, no doubt about it. 9/14 from the floor, 3/4 from three, 6/6 from the line. Check this out, he scored 35% of the Sixers points (27/77) and took only 17% of the team's shots (14/82). Probably more important than the scoring was the stifling defense he played on Tony Parker. Parker shot 3/10 floor for 9 points, turned the ball over 3 times and rarely got into the lane to collapse the defense. Jrue was very aggressive, especially in fighting over, or bouncing under screens. He wasn't just solid on the defensive end, he was disruptive. He had three steals, and a couple other really nice plays. One comes to mind, he was on Parker, off the ball, Parker came off the baseline and ran Jrue into a screen, it looked like he was curling to the wing to receive a pass. Jrue went on the high side of the screen, Parker saw it and immediately cut backdoor. Jrue read the play, reversed direction and got his hands up in the passing lane, knocking the ball out of bounds and preventing an easy layup. It was the type of play Iguodala would make. The dream is that we'll eventually see this type of defense from Jrue on a nightly basis. If you get that (and Iguodala is still here), all you need is one passable big to have an elite defense.
- Jrue was great on both ends of the floor, but without the herculean efforts of both Brand and Iguodala, the Sixers don't win this game. Iguodala had Richard Jefferson talking to himself through three quarters, then turned his attention to San Antonio's closer, Manu Ginobili, in the fourth. He completely shut Manu down, which rarely happens with the game on the line. Brand grabbed 17 boards, and 16 of them came on the defensive end. Those defensive boards were desperately needed. Even with all that work, the Sixers only grabbed a hair over 70% of available defensive boards, imagine what would've happened without him.
- Mixed in with the feel good win are some alarming trends. Lou Williams was simply atrocious tonight, I mean, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and Doug Collins still called his number down the stretch time and time again. Jrue was basically unstoppable on the offensive end, and the only shots he got in the fourth came in transition. A couple times, Jrue wound up with the ball and made plays, but he wasn't initiating offense at all. He did play 20 of 24 minutes in the second half, and he was the guy they trusted to put the nail in the coffin from the line, but I was disappointed that he wasn't given the opportunity when Williams clearly wasn't getting the job done. If Collins is going to continue to talk about how so many different guys can initiate, then he can't be so dogmatic about who initiates at what point of the game. The value in having different options is that if one isn't working, you can go to one that is. Tonight, Jrue was on, Lou was not. The ball should've been in Jrue's hands.
- Not to take anything away from the Sixers, but does anyone have any idea why Tim Duncan didn't get the ball on the blocks every single time he was covered by Spencer Hawes? Whenever he did, Hawes didn't even put up a fight. It was like taking candy from a baby.
@ Minnesota, Saturday night.