Even as a non-supporter of the Allen Iverson signing, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of his return tonight. Being a Sixers fan has been pretty depressing lately, so it was refreshing to receive some national attention and see more than 600 people in the Wachovia Center. I got chills during introductions and I got chills watching Iverson score his first bucket. His presence clearly inspired the Sixers, especially Andre Iguodala and Sammy D, as the both of them put together an incredible first half of basketball. Sammy looked like Bill Russell out there, blocking 6 shots and altering everything else. He protected the paint about as good as I've ever seen a big man protect the paint. As for Andre Iguodala, simply put, he was on fire. Not just, "he's feeling it" on fire. More like "NBA Jam" on fire. I think I literally saw flames trailing the ball as he shot it. His hot streak was capped off with a 93-foot shot to end the half. Unfortunately, it didn't count.
The Iverson honeymoon lasted for about three quarters and then reality set in. I realized that Eddie Jordan was still the head coach, and his awful rotations and defensive philosophy will continue to haunt this team. It's a real shame too, because I believe Iverson gives a healthy Sixers team enough of a boost to make some noise in the playoffs. If he's used correctly and surrounded by good defense, much like 2001, he can provide a spark to the much-maligned half court offense come April, and put the Sixers in position to advance past the first round for the first time since 2003. Unfortunately, none of that is possible with EJ at the helm. As a matter of fact, EJ will turn the Iverson signing into a top 5 pick -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing if a couple ping pongs bounce the Sixers way.
Enter: 10th straight loss.
The Iverson-adrenaline eventually wore off, and Andre Iguodala's hot streak eventually wore off. The Sixers stopped playing defense, and the Nuggets woke up after being in an Iverson-stupor for the first three quarters. The better team won tonight, but the Sixers have nothing to be ashamed of. They played their butts off most of the game, and did all they could to overcome the stupid rotations, defensive philospohpy -- or lack thereof -- and absolutely zero bench production (1-15 from the floor). It will be interesting to see how long the Iverson excitement can carry the Sixers, and how they play against a team who isn't as good as the Nuggets.
He was lost in the shuffle of Iverson and 90-foot shots tonight, but Thaddeus looks much better than he did earlier this season. His offense is really coming together and if my eyes aren't deceiving me, he's been crashing the boards -- something he hasn't done since his rookie year. On the downside, Elton Brand still looks awful to me. I thought he was "back" for a couple games, but then he hurt his hamstring and is back to "Reggie Evans 2.0", especially against legit big men like Nene and Kenyon Martin.
Player of the Game: Sammy D