I'd love to tell you the phantom foul that decided the game was simply a call made by replacement refs in a preseason game and not something that would ever happen in a real game. I'd love to, but think back to March 2008, against the Cavs
. It happens when the games count
Anyway, pay no attention to how the game ended. I'm much more concerned with how the starters played. Iguodala took over in the third quarter, scoring 14 of his 19 points. Dalembert actually looked halfway decent. Otherwise, the starters just looked bad. Brand looked old and earthbound. Thad was out of rhythm and did a poor job of chasing Caron Butler around the floor. Lou seems undecided with the ball. They should've run the score up on a depleted Washington squad, but they didn't.
When Eddie Jordan called on his subs in the second quarter (mass substitutions, again), things turned ugly. There were a couple of bright spots, though, so let's focus on them.
Jason Smith got an extended run, and for the first time I've seen, he looked comfortable on the floor. I believe he started 0-5 from the floor, then he found his shot (and confidence), and drained his final 5 attempts, including a three. His partner in the front court, Marreese Speights, rebounded from a very poor first half - on both ends of the floor - to dominate in the fourth.
After seeing Jrue live for two games now, I feel comfortable saying that he isn't that far away. The holes in his game, which do exist in a tangible way, should take nothing more than minutes to work out. He has an amazing handle, but gets too cute with the ball sometimes. He has good offensive instincts, but doesn't realize the ability of the defenders on this level. As time goes by the lazy passes and the needless behind-the-back dribbles will disappear and we're going to be left with a very, very good player. Defensively, I think he's there already. Through the beginning of the third quarter, Wizard guards were driving the lane with reckless abandon. That all stopped when Jrue came into the game. He picked up his man at half court and barely gave him room to breathe. He fought over, and bounced under screens, never leaving his man for more than a second, no matter who the big involved was. He's got the defensive chops right now. I finally see what Eddie Jordan was talking about when he said that some time soon Jrue is just going to "get it."
If you're in an optimistic mood, take heart in the fact that the Sixers have closed games very well thus far in the preseason, no matter who has been on the floor. They've put up monster fourth quarters, and Eddie Jordan's use of timeouts etc. has been flawless. Obviously, the second-teamers won't be on the floor for the money minutes, but I find it heartening that they can swing the momentum of a game with their defense.
The play of the night, in my mind, was a simple post-up by Marreese Speights in the fourth quarter. He got the ball on the right block, took one dribble, backing his man into the lane, faked a baseline spin, went back to the middle and tossed in a baby hook with his left hand. That's a move the Sixers need to take advantage of.