As I canoed down a river in Florida with my wife and daughter today, I couldn't help replaying last night's Sixers game in my head (while keeping an eye out for the local inhabitants below, of course).
When the game was over, I shared in the excitement Andre Iguodala, Thad Young, Sam Dalembert and everyone else showed on the court. I knew something big had happened, and I had a pretty good idea why, but I needed a day to digest what it meant. I think I can put it into words now.
The Sixers have been playing amazing basketball for over a month now. Not good basketball, amazing basketball. They've killed the teams they were supposed to beat, beat teams that were supposed to kill them. Proven themselves on the road, protected their home court. They've done everything a playoff team has to do, and more.
Last night's game was the ultimate test. They faced a team who makes it their business to slow you down. Make you play in the half court. The Pistons' entire game plan is to limit possession because they think they can do more with their possessions than you can. I would've liked to have seen the Sixers force the Pistons into their type of game, but it didn't happen. Instead, the Sixers played at the Pistons' pace. The played a tough, grind-it-out half-court game against possibly the best team at playing those games, and they came out on top.
If you had told me the Sixers were only going to score 83 points against the Pistons last night, I would've guaranteed a loss. The bottom line is that the Sixers out-played the Pistons defensively and offensively in the half court. They didn't get many points on the break (only 2 in the first half). They did it mainly with defensive stops against a team who is very efficient on the offensive side of the ball. They got just enough out of their half-court offense, and most importantly, they made it stand up. Finishing games, the killer instinct, is what separates teams when the playoffs start. It's good to know the Sixers have it in them, because they're going to need it.