Well that was impressive. If you didn't read my preview (SHAME!), then here's a reminder of what I wanted to see:
I don't expect a win, but if we can hang for 4 full quarters, legitimately contend, then I'll be happy.
Happy now?! Wins are fun. Especially when they're against a team with a winning record. They don't particularly matter because we're not contenders this season, but they're nice to see from time to time, as long as we stay in a top 5 spot in the draft. If we can all realize this, then the rest of the year will be more enjoyable.
But let's get back to the win. This marks the fifth time in the past six meetings the Sixers have gotten the best of the Trailblazers. For whatever reason, we have their number. I'd say a lot of it has to do with the depleted front court, forcing Nate McMillan to play LaMarcus Aldridge at the center position for extended minutes. While I really like LMA as a player, and think he will continue to succeed alongside a healthy Greg Oden (oxymoron), he's no match for Elton Brand underneath the basket.
Speaking of Elton, he played a hell of a game. He combined with Dalembert and Speights to shoot 25-33 from the field with 53 points, 19 rebounds, and ZERO (count 'em) ZERO turnovers. That is huge. Especially against an undermanned team, you have to go inside and pound them, and that is what we did (60 points in the paint). I'm not sure if this was the gameplan, but let's give Eddie Jordan some rare credit and say that it was. We need to see more of that.
The defense looked pretty solid tonight, even better in the second half. Playing Royal Ivey (+17) and Dalembert over Green and Speights probably helped that, but nobody really killed us. It was the most complete game I've seen this Sixer team play this season (and possibly even last season), and it begins and ends with the D. Holding this team to 93 points is certainly a success for us. If we can develop an identity as a tough defensive team that forces turnovers leading to fast break points and pounding the ball inside, it would be a great step towards readying ourselves for next year, and who we want to target in the draft. Again though, I'll give credit to Dalembert for really playing a complete game, and staying within himself, something that we've been begging him to do for years. Also his inability to see Iguodala on an alley-oop from AI resulted in one of the funnier moments of the season.
I would be remiss to mention how well Andre Iguodala played tonight. It's funny to hear other people talk about him during the game and say he hasn't done much, but then you look at his line. 14 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, two three's, and zero turnovers. I'd say that's a helluva game. He controlled the offense, and made sure the guy with the hot hand got the ball in a position to score. He didn't get to the line at all, which is somewhat concerning, but this was a relatively loosely refereed game. Another all-star night for Andre.
Allen Iverson played really well. Got hot at the right times, but set up his teammates enough where his 19 points and 5 assists on only 11 shots is a very successful night, even more than we expect from him. Lou was average. Jrue played 11 relatively ineffective minutes, and Thad was largely invisible out there. But there were enough positives in this game to overlook some things that went wrong. We're not going to consistently shoot this well from the field, but we can keep outworking our opponents, limit turnovers, and create opportunities for teammates to have some success. Great win.
Player of the Game: Elton Brand