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To say that my drive home from Philly was depressing would be a bit of an understatement. After 24 minutes of inspired basketball, a surreal halftime show of twirling chunky blonds, an abysmal 3rd quarter and a 4th quarter mired with questionable calls and horrible offense I was spent.

Let's start with the fourth and work our way backwards. I thought I set my TiVo to record this game, but I was mistaken, so I didn't get a chance to go back and look at the game, but from what I saw, it sure looked like the Sixers got hosed on a bunch of calls. In fact, it looked so bad my brother turned to me on the way out of the Wach and said the NBA will never get another dollar from him and he'll never watch another game. I asked why, knowing the answer already, and he replied, "It's basically become professional wrestling." Keep in mind that he's pretty much an occasional fan. He usually goes to a couple of games a year with me and watches a handful or so, but his point is well taken. With the Donaghy scandal still on the mind of a lot of people, when you see calls like that going against a certain team, there's always going to be some doubt. By my count, Derrick Stafford blew two calls horribly (an offensive foul on Reggie Evans after he was knocked to the floor, or flopped. And a charge on Iguodala when he was leading the break), and the entire refereeing crew seemed to swallow their whistles when the Sixers had the ball, not so much on the other end of the floor.

Before we go any further let me state, for the record, that the refs did not cost the Sixers this game. They dug their own hole in the third quarter, the refs had nothing to do with their horrible rotations leaving Rasheed Wallace wide-open for several threes, nor did they cause the offense to grind to a halt. This loss falls squarely on the Sixers shoulders. The 10-point lead at the half took away their fire and gave it directly to the Pistons. That being said, the Sixers actually played very well in the fourth, on both ends of the floor, and those questionable whistles, or lack thereof, came at key points in the quarter. Effectively sapping the team's momentum and bringing every comeback attempt to a grinding halt. As I said above, I didn't have the opportunity to watch the game, or any replays of these calls, so all I have to go on is my own perception from the nosebleeds, and the crowd's reaction. I checked the comments from the game thread and none of you guys brought the refs up, so maybe it wasn't as big of an issue as it seemed. One fan, in particular, took offense to Stafford, though. Late in the fourth he made his way down to the court-side seats during a timeout and screamed directly at Stafford until the ref complained to an usher who kindly asked the heckler to move along.

Anyway, back to basketball. As you guys all pointed out with your comments, Andre Iguodala looked bad out there, very bad. He started hot from the floor, which turned out to be the worst possible thing for him. He finished as cold as can be (4/16). When the Sixers were trying to come back in the fourth he took way too many forced shots, and although I think he was fouled a handful of times going to the hoop, the whistles weren't coming, so he absolutely needed to defer to someone else. Who, you aks? Well, Thad Young.

If this playoff series has taught us anything, it's that Thad Young is the best offensive weapon this team has. He's only 19 years-old, he's been thrust into the starting lineup, matched up against guys who outweigh him by 25-45 pounds and he's not only held his own, but he's delivered virtually every time he's been called upon. It's time to call his number more.  If the Pistons are going to continue to take Iguodala away, fine. Take 7 or 8 of those forced shots away from Andre and give them directly to Thad. Run some plays for him. Let him work on the baseline for jumpers, give him the ball in the low post. Give him the ball at the foul line and let the offense run through him. I'm not saying you have to make him the focal point for 30 minutes, what I'm saying is that when things go off the rails, when Detroit is on a run and their defense is turned up, Thad is the guy who can normalize things. Thad is the guy who can get it done in the half court. His role needs to be increased. Here's his line from tonight: 32 minutes, 5/9 from the floor, 1/1 from three, 4/4 from the line, 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers.

Another player who deserves a lot of credit for his unselfish and productive play is Willie Green. The much-maligned shooter guard's shot selection was excellent again (6/12 from the floor), but he took care of the ball, and played excellent defense on Rip Hamilton. In fact, Hamilton was only really effective in the fourth when Green was out of the game. Willie came back in, blocked one of Rip's jumpers, and Hamilton wasn't heard from again.

Jason Smith also provided a great spark off the bench in his 11 minutes.

All told, this was a heartbreaking game. To have a double-digit lead at the half and flush it down the toilet in the third is unacceptable. This series is back to even, each team having won a blowout and a gutsy come-from-behind affair. Unfortunately, now the home-court advantage swings back to the Pistons. Punch, counter, punch, counter. If you need something to take away from this game, Detroit's starters are bound to be feeling the effects. Prince (45 minutes), Wallace (43 minutes), Hamilton (44 minutes) and Billups (41 minutes) were all extended way beyond their comfort zone minutes-wise. Let's hope the Sixers' young legs can apply intense pressure on Tuesday night.

The live blog will be back. I'll have a post or two tomorrow, hopefully we can all put this one behind us. Let me know if I'm crazy regarding the refs. I'd like some perspective from some people who had the advantage of instant replays.

Player of The Game: Thad Young
Series: 2-2
by Brian on Apr 28 2008
Tags: Basketball | Derrick Stafford | Pistons | Playoffs | Sixers | Thad Young |