In what was their first game against a legit contender since the middle of February, the Sixers fought hard but came up short against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Sixers were down just 2 points going into the 4th quarter and were riding an offensive hot streak led by point guard Jrue Holiday. While they did a nice job keeping the deficit to a minimum, the Sixers were ultimately unable to capitalize on an array of opportunities to seize the lead and eventually the game.
Leading the charge to victory for the Mavericks was former sixth man of the year Jason Terry. Continuing the theme of scoring combo guards killing the Sixers throughout the recent years, Terry was able to drop a season high 30 points on just 18 shots. The only time he was even remotely slowed down was when arguably the best shut down perimeter defender in the league (yea, I went there) Andre Iguodala stuck him. As soon as Iguodala veered off him later in the fourth, Terry got right back to business scoring an immediate 5 points while making Jodie Meeks look like a fool in the process. Fittingly enough, Terry sealed the game as he grabbed a blocked Holiday lay-up attempt and solo'd his way for a slam to widen the margin from 3 to 5 with just 30 seconds remaining.
More of a problem than just Terry for the Sixers was their inability to put together any type of offense in the 4th quarter. The Mavericks, as many teams do against the Sixers, went into a zone to force Philly to make jump shots rather than attack the basket. This strategy from Dallas worked to perfection as the Sixers were missing jumper after jumper every possession. While they were getting good looks because of ball movement, nobody was able to make the Mavs regret forcing the Sixers to shoot.
Even when they got to the free throw line, the Sixers couldn't put up points on the board. During the second half, not one player was able to sink consecutive foul shot opportunities. Thaddeus Young got to the line on 3 straight possessions and went 3-6 from the stripe as a result. Iguodala got to the line late with the Sixers down 5 and bricked both. Although the outcome was pretty much decided, Holiday capped it off by missing two straight of his own. Missing free throws has not been a characteristic of this year's team (it has certainly been in the past though) and came as a fresh reminder that little things like that may ultimately decide the outcome of an even more important game down the road.
Although they played hard and put up a valiant effort against one of the NBA's best, the Sixers failed to extend their win streak to 5 games. It was a tough loss not just because of how close the game was, but because of the wasted opportunities the Sixers should have able to take advantage of.
A few individual observations after the jump.
- Holiday struggled to score in the first half for the second straight game tonight. Although he didn't provide points for himself during that time, he was able to get teammates involved as he ended the half with 4 assists, 3 of them coming on the Sixers first 3 field goals. And just like last game, Jrue turned it up in the third quarter connecting on 6 of his 8 field goals attempts. Unfortunately, that was it for him for the night as he put up another goose egg (0-3 from the field, 0-2 from the line) in the fourth and generated just one assist.
- Thaddeus was one aggressive little bugger tonight. Either he was on something or I've just been oblivious to it all year but he was playing like someone lit a fire up under his... well... you get it. He was diving at just about every loose ball, attacking the offensive glass, and drawing contact more than I've ever seen him do. He wasn't able to take advantage of the free throw attempts but this was something that I could certainly get used to with him. Although if he keeps it up, it might dwindle the Sixers' odds of keeping him even further.
- The rookie Evan Turner played an amazing first half tonight. Just like for a short stretch in Cleveland, the Turner from Ohio State showed his face being the facilitator, running beautiful pick and rolls with Thad, and creating his own shot whether it be pull-up jumpers or takes to the hoop. At the point it really looked like Evan had turned the corner but after a long stretch on the bench to start the second half, his game did a complete 180 degree turn. Specifically, after two great Iguodala defensive stops, Turner had the ball on the break and was unable to generate points on either one. The worst being a botched alley-oop pass to Thad that I could tell from the comfort of my own couch was a terrible idea before he even threw it. Not a good stretch for the Villain in the second half at all but once again, he's a rookie, he should be able to work through it.
- Marreese Speights. My goodness. Other than a late, contested jumper that had me screaming "No! No! No!" until it actually went in (it stopped the scoring drought so I was lenient) and a steal to dunk, Speights was utterly horrendous. During the game, Jordan tweeted "I do not approve of a single thing Mo Speights has done on the court tonight," and I honestly could not agree more. If I had a nickel for every time he made an awful defensive rotation decision tonight, I'd probably have 5 or 6 nickels in just 13 minutes.
- Good thing: Louis Williams played less than 20 minutes. Bad thing: He got a full game's worth of BOSSness in going 1-8 from the field, many being ill-advised shots (including the one he actually made).
- The ageless wonder Jason Kidd had a textbook John Hollinger "pathetic" triple-double. He just keeps on doing it no matter how old he gets.
- Despite all 4 of the blog-master-sexays being absent for the Game Thread, you guys were still able to net 400+ comments. This is me giving a virtual hug to every singe one of you. However, Peja Stojakovic made two field goals and not one Peja head was posted. Unacceptable.
Player of the Game: Jason Terry overall, Thaddeus Young for the Sixers