Every time you think the other shoe has dropped, this Sixers team gets up, dusts itself off, and defies all logic. Tonight, a day after a terrible overtime loss to the hapless Kings, the Sixers went into the United Center (where they lost by 45 points in December) and put the East's best team away in a thrilling 97-85 decision. Every time you think they stink, they go out and prove they can play with anyone...anywhere.
Charts (rotations later)
- I was unbelievably proud of this team when I saw how they came out in the first quarter. In the second, I kept telling my wife we just needed the bench to maintain the lead. They went out and added to it. At the half, I told her I just didn't see any way they could keep the energy up considering how many minutes the starters played on Sunday. During the third, she asked me why Chicago was scoring so easily all of a sudden, and why the Sixers were fouling so much. I told her that's what happens when you have tired legs. When the Bulls cut it to eight heading into the fourth, I just didn't know where the energy was going to come from. I didn't know how they were going to find a way to hold off the Bulls when Derrick Rose was getting wherever he wanted on the floor and finishing impossible shot after impossible shot in the lane.
- Well, the pride I felt in the first quarter was absolutely nothing compared to what I felt when Andre Iguodala threw down a follow jam to put the nail in Chicago's coffin late in the fourth. The Sixers took every single punch the Bulls could muster, and every time they punched right back. The Bulls pulled to within four, Iguodala hit a jumper. They pulled to within four again, Jrue hit a jumper. They pulled to within four one more time, and Hawes hit a couple of jumpers. They amped up the defense, they threw crazy double teams at Rose, the got their hands on ball, they got their bodies on Bulls to keep them off the offensive glass. They were on the floor after loose balls, they were coming from the weak side to swat Rose's shots. The effort this team put forth in the final quarter was inhuman, and we're talking about Andre Iguodala who played 84 minutes in two days. Elton Brand who played 80. Jrue Holiday who played 79. Those guys were out their with tough matchups, and they were getting the job done. The thing that really struck me tonight, and the thing that's going to mean so much as we close out this regular season and head into the playoffs, is how the guys on the floor never panicked. They didn't suddenly get tight and start squeezing the ball. They didn't become so afraid to make a mistake that they couldn't execute. They stuck to their game plan to the end, and they beat down the hostile crowd. That Iguodala dunk sent 20,000 Bulls fans sprinting for the exits with their tails between their legs. When I'm at a game, I'm always an eternal optimist. Even I thought they were going to lose this game. Everything logical says they should've lost it. The heavy minutes, the short rest, the momentum and the away crowd were all stacked against them, but they wouldn't let it happen. I don't know about you, but I'm through with doubting this team.
- For anyone out there who doubts Jrue Holiday, go back and watch the past two games. His defense on Rose tonight was pretty much picture-perfect. Rose is unstoppable at times. He's so quick, so strong and such an exceptional finisher. Jrue moved his feet, sent Rose to help, didn't give him an inch, and heckled him into a ton of turnovers. To truly appreciate what Jrue did to Rose, go back and watch what Rose did to the Sixers when Jrue was out of the game. Lou and Meeks each tried to guard Rose, both failed miserably. It was like there was a red light on Rose when Jrue was in the game, and it suddenly turned to green the moment he went to the bench. Rose finished with a pretty efficient 31 points (12/24 from the floor, 7/9 from the line), but a pathetic double-double (10 turnovers). Rose padded his stats with two garbage time layups. Discounting those, with Jrue on him, Rose was 8/20 from the floor for 23 points with 9 turnovers. That's as good of a job as anyone is going to do on Rose. Probably the key to Jrue's defensive game: 40 minutes guarding Derrick Rose, 1 personal foul. JH wasn't too shabby on the offensive end, either. 4/8 from the floor, 1/2 from three, 3/4 from the line, 4 boards, 6 dimes and 12 points.
- It's taken me a long time to get to the player of the game...actually, it's going to take me a little longer because I can't forget to mention Spencer Hawes. Hawes was pitiful on the glass tonight. He missed a few gimmes, he fouled out in only 25 minutes, but when he was on the floor, he was making a difference, and those fourth-quarter jumpers he hit were HUGE.
- EB had the unenviable task of taking on both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer for long stretches in this game, and I thought he did a great job. He was especially good at coming from the weak side to challenge and/or block Rose when he got to the rim. He had a couple of boards in the fourth quarter where he was surrounded by Bulls and simply wouldn't be denied.
- Lou's shot was off, and I mean way off, again tonight, but that didn't stop him from making large contributions. In 28 minutes he got to the line 8 times, grabbed 7 boards, handed out 7 helpers and grabbed a couple of steals. This was the rare game where Lou wasn't scoring, but he was still a big positive factor off the bench, and they needed him to be.
- Andre Iguodala played a really solid game, which shouldn't surprise anyone. 19/7/7/2/1 and he didn't really get any consideration for player of the game.
- Your Player of The Game was unquestionably Thad Young tonight. Thad was the most physical guy on the floor, and Derrick Rose was on the floor. He was a dynamo, on both ends of the floor, and he absolutely took this game over in the first half, not only with his unstoppable scoring, but he on the defensive end and glass as well.Thad was all over the floor. His impressive final line (10/16 from the floor, 7 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 4 blocks and 21 points) doesn't even begin to tell you how good Thad was. Thad's exceptional production allowed Doug Collins to out coach Tom Thibodeau in a major way tonight. Thibs was forced to go small for long stretches to try to match up with the Sixers instead of playing his talented bigs and taking advantage of the size on the other end. If there's anything coaches around the league should know by now, it's you simply can't go small against the Sixers. There's no way you're going to be as good at it as Philly is. Every time I see an opposing coach go away from their size advantage to try to match up with the Sixers small lineup, I know Philly is about to go on a run. It happened tonight, like clockwork.
Player of The Game: Thad
Team Record: 38-36
Up Next: vs. HOU, Wednesday
I'm off Tuesday, so this post will serve as your open thread until the game thread for the Houston game on Wednesday. I feel like we could all use a couple of days to bask in this win anyway. What a game.