Well, not really. The Sixers put the screws to the Orlando Magic on the defensive end for about 45 minutes tonight. It was only after Stan Van Gundy threw in the towel that the Sixers took their foot off the gas and allowed the Magic to backdoor their way into a five-point defeat. (
Here's your rotation chart. It looks like I forgot to highlight any rotations, but all you really need to see are the two runs in the third quarter (+12 total) and the two runs in the fourth (-11 total):
Let's start with the end of the game. It was pretty much as sloppy as you can play. The definition of letting your guard down. It's unacceptable, but ultimately meaningless. Hopefully, the ire it drew from Collins is enough for the team to keep their edge heading into a tough week of games.
The first 45 minutes, though, was a clinic on defense. The perimeter guys took care of their responsibilities, as usual (Iguodala destroyed Hedo, especially), but the interior guys really came up huge against Dwight Howard, and they were led by Elton Brand. Brand spent a ton of time handling Howard on the blocks, and stood toe-to-toe with the bigger man. His block in the fourth quarter was the icing on the cake.
The Sixers did a great job of mixing up their approach to doubling Howard. He didn't know where the double was coming from, if it was coming at all, or where his outlet pass was. Outside of a few open looks in the first half and a couple of completely blown assignments at the end of the game, they also did a great job of contesting their looks from three. Add it all up and the Magic only had 49 points with 3:19 left in the game. It was a dominant defensive performance until Stan Van Gundy decided to clear the bench and start fouling intentionally, intent on his team not setting another record for fewest points scored.
Even with the late 20-point burst, the Magic were still held to a 82.20 OFR and shot a measly 33% from the floor and 32% from three (on 22 attempts). A key point in the game came early in the fourth. The Sixers started the quarter 0-5 (Lou missed two jumpers, Jrue missed a jumper and a dunk, Turner missed a 17-footer), and a Lavoy Allen turnover. On the other end, the Magic reeled off six straight points. At the official timeout, Collins brought Brand in for Lavoy, then he had a decision to make. Iguodala was coming into the game, but would he come in to get Lou Williams (who was 1/9 on the night and had missed 8 straight shots) or Jrue (who was 3/11 with 5 straight misses). Collins chose to bring Iguodala in for Jrue. Lou went on to hit his next three shots, Turner added a couple of his own and the lead was built back up to 19 before the late meltdown. It was probably a coin flip for Collins, and it looks like he chose right.
I suppose the doubters will still doubt, and the Sixers offense obviously left much to be desired tonight, but a team really devoid of interior defenders most nights found a way to contain the league's premier big man and stifle a potent three-point offense. Everything Orlando typically does well, they couldn't do at all tonight. The league's #1 defense stretched their lead on the pack and added another win no one can take away.
Player of The Game:
Elton Brand. Forget his line. He easily had the biggest impact on this game with his defense. Andre Iguodala followed up his triple-double with 14/11/6 and 2 steals.
vs. Chicago, Wednesday night
Another solid win, now do it again.