Third Quarter Collapse
Tonight marks the ninth time the Sixers have lost in the final seconds this season. That's right, nine times! You would think after nine times I'd be used to the pain and devastation that comes with game-winners -- I'm not. The Sixers stormed back to tie the game with 14 seconds left. After the Sixers knotted the game at 81 the Magic ran an isolation for Hedo Turkoglu at the top of the key. Turk -- originally guarded by Andre Iguodala -- used a screen to force Thaddeus Young to switch and drilled a three-pointer in Thad's eye with 1.1 to go. It's unfair to criticize Thad's defense on the last play, but it has to be noted that he gave a 6'10'' NBA sharpshooter way too much room to get the shot off.
Besides the Turkoglu three, the Magic tied the series because of four things.
- Good defense in the second half.
- Awful offensive showings from the Sixers "big 3" (16-48).
- Dwight Howard.
- First half officiating.
The first two speak for themselves, but I want to touch on D12 and the first half officiating.
Dwight Howard is everything you want in an NBA center. He has unbelievable touch around the rim. If his defender leaves him to contest a shot, Dwight grabs the rebound and throws it down. He's insanely strong and athletic. He anchors the defense. And even though he was 6-12 tonight, every time he steps to the stripe I'm confident he'll make his free throws. When the Sixers began their run, Dwight had a huge put-back on one end, and a big block on the other. Words really can't describe how good this guy has been.
As good as Dwight Howard is, he doesn't deserve to get away with numerous travels and fouls. The first half officiating was the worst 24 minutes of officiating I've seen this season. Dwight could have easily been called for five fouls in the first half -- the most obvious being a karate chop to the neck of Reggie Evans. The game was called much better in the second half, but still, Dwight Howard should be treated like everyone else for 48 minutes. There's no way the Sixers only deserved to go to the line 15 times tonight.
All in all we're left with a three-game series. Will this year's series continue to play out exactly like last year's? Or do the Sixers have two more wins in 'em? Game five is back in Orlando on Tuesday night.
After four games I'm sure of one thing -- we can win this series. The Sixers aren't scared of Dwight Howard and the Magic. They believe more than anyone, and if noting else, I expect them to go down swinging.
Looking at the big picture, I don't feel as bad about this loss as I should. Despite the Sixers worst overall game of the series, the Magic needed a game-winner to pull this one out. We've won in Orlando and we can do it again.