I'm not going to spend a ton of time talking about the first quarter when the Sixers fell behind 38-13
. The reasons for the atrocious start were very simple. They turned the ball over way too much, they settled for nothing but jump shots, and they were sluggish on defense. The last point is the most important to note. They came out flat and the Pacers just ran all over them for 12 minutes. It was ugly. It was inexcusable. The only positive that I saw in the first quarter was a quick hook by Mo.
With 6:20 left in the quarter, Sammy grabbed the ball after a made shot and lazily started to throw the ball in without looking where he was throwing it. One Pacer stayed back to apply modest pressure. He was standing between Sammy and Andre Miller. Sammy realized it too late, didn't throw the ball in, but stepped onto the court, committing a turnover. Mo yanked Sammy on the spot in favor of Willie Green. He then spent the rest of the quarter searching for a lineup that could stem the tide. Nothing worked in the first quarter, but Mo learned his lessons quickly.
We saw a healthy dose of Royal Ivey and Reggie Evans, which the absolute right move to make. We didn't see much of Lou Williams, his minutes went to Willie Green again. Another great move. Sammy barely sniffed the floor, playing only 12 minutes the entire game, even though he avoided foul trouble. This game was a defining moment for Mo, as far as I'm concerned. With a huge hole to dig out of, he called on Evans and Ivey for their defense. Ivey and Evans combined for only 4 points in 24 minutes of work, but they made plays that changed the tide of the game. Two come immediately to mind: Early in the second, with the Sixer behind by over 20 points, there was a loose ball under the Pacers' basket. Four Pacers and Royal Ivey were in there under the hoop. Ivey was the first on the floor, came out with the ball and called a timeout before he could be tied up. Hustle like that rubs off, especially on a young team.
Reggie had a hustle play as well, or more accurately, a play caused by his incessant hustle and physical play. With 7:05 left in the second, Iguodala drove the lane and missed a layup. Reggie muscled his way in for the offensive rebound, pushing Nesterovic out of the way. He went right back up with it and Nesterovic basically pounded him right on top of the head on his way up. Rasho was called for a flagrant foul. He made one of two free throws, then on the extra possession earned, Thad followed up another miss with a dunk off the rebound. Like I said, hustle is contagious.
Speaking of Thad. In the second quarter, the Sixers shaved 17 points off their deficit. In that quarter, Thad was 6/8 for 12 points. Thad would finish the game with 25 points on 11/18 from the floor, with 10 boards (5 offensive). He was easily the best Sixer on the floor tonight, something I think we're going to be saying quite a bit this season and for about a decade to come.
After the jump, we'll take an extra-close look at the final quarter of this game when the Sixers not only climbed the mountain, but stayed atop it.
To tell the story of the fourth quarter, we have to start a little earlier. With 1:50 left in the third, Elton Brand was 1/11 from the floor with 8 points and 9 rebounds. About a minute earlier, Brand had been whistled for a foul on what looked like a clean block. His argument was the most demonstrative I've seen him so far in a Sixers' uniform. I like Elton when he's angry. With 1:50 left, Jarrett Jack blew by his defender and went up for an easy layup. Brand came from out of nowhere and blocked the shot off the backboard. He grabbed the rebound, spun and dribbled up the court all the way to the foul line where he pulled up and drained a 15-footer. That cut the lead to 5, the closest the Sixers had been since about 30 seconds into the game.
The beginning of the fourth is what really had me worried. Mo was resting the starters, Lou, Willie and Ivey were in the backcourt. I wasn't sure where the offense was going to come from. The Pacers came out and immediately pushed their lead back up to 11. I honestly believed the game was over. The run had fallen short. Then, in the span of 2:30, Willie poured in 7 points and assisted on a three-point play for Thad. Those 10 points kept the Sixers afloat while the starters got some rest. My favorite play of the stretch came when Willie got the ball on the wing and the Sixers all cleared out for him. Willie backed T.J. Ford all the way to the basket, basically shed him to the floor, and converted an easy uncontested layup. It was pure abuse.
With 6:25 to go, and the Sixers trailing 88-81, I picked up my pen. This was what we've been waiting for. The game is on the line, who is going to step up? Will anyone step up? Here are the Sixers' offensive possessions for the rest of the game:
- Brand turnaround jumper from the baseline: Make
- After 2 offensive rebounds, Miller comes makes the third shot, a put-back: Make
- Miller layup: Miss (bad shot)
- Brand on the baseline, overpowers two defenders to get his layup to the rim: Make
- Miller jumper from the wing: Make
- Iguodala on the break, fouled on the layup: 1/2 from the line
- Miller on the break, layup: Make (Sixers take their first lead, 92-90, with 2:47 to go)
- Brand jumper: Miss (good shot)
- Iguodala on the break, misses a layup, Willie grabs the offensive board, Thad drives to the hoop, gets fouled: 2/2 from the line.
- Miller jumper: Miss (good shot)
- Brand jumper: Miss (forced shot)
It took them 7 possessions to erase the deficit and take the lead. Miller and Brand carried the load down the stretch, taking turns down the floor. On the other end of the floor, the Sixers forced turnovers, blocked shots and absolutely owned the glass. They should have never been 26 points down, but they were. It shows a lot about this team's mettle that they were able to come back, on the road, and put this game away with solid offensive execution, mostly in the half court, down the stretch.
I don't know how many games this team can possibly win when Iguodala and Brand combine to go 6/29 from the floor. I don't know if they can expect to win any games with only 10 assists. This will probably go down as one of the ugliest wins in the history of the franchise, but it was also one of the most satisfying. Iguodala and Brand couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from the floor for most of the night, but that didn't stop them from hustling, it didn't stop them from working. Brand finished with 15 boards, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 7 free throw attempts. Iguodala had 10 boards, 3 blocks and 8 trips to the line.
I'm hoping that we'll look back on this game much like a similar game from last season, against Portland
. The Sixers came back from down 25 in that game and it seemed to show this young team that no deficit was too big to overcome if you played D.Player of The Game:
Tomorrow night, at home, against the OKC Thunder. Time to get back to .500.
Also, the team +/- spreadsheet
has been updated, check it out.