In a potential playoff preview the ailing Sixers hung with the defending Eastern Conference champs for a half, but got head, body, head'd in the second half, where they were outscored 45-32 en route to a 17-point Celtics blowout. Tonight's division loss, combined with the Knicks division win means tomorrow's Knicks-Sixers match-up in Philly is likely to determine which team earns the coveted six seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Considering how important the sixth seed is, it's easy to see why the Sixers continue to trot out a one-legged Andre Iguodala night-after-night, instead of saving him for the playoffs. What's that? The sixth seed means absolutely nothing? That's right; the Sixers will play either the Celtics or the HEAT in the first round (both teams have the same record) regardless of what happens the final four games. With Andre Iguodala – the Sixers' best player – visibly injured and NO meaningful games left on the schedule, the Sixers should shut him down for a few games, at least. I understand peaking at the right time. I understand maintaining team chemistry. I understand the playoffs isn't the place where you'd like your best player shaking off rust. But the Sixers will be absolutely man-handled – like they were tonight – in the playoffs with a hobbled Iguodala.
Individual observations after the jump.
- Evan Turner finally had a good game, against a good defense, and did the majority of his damage when the game was still close. He did a little bit of everything tonight. He slithered into the paint with the crafty dribble maneuvers he dominated with at Ohio State, showed defensive versatility guarding Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and everyone in-between, stroked a few jumpers, fought for rebounds, and made a bunch of nice passes. An all-in-all terrific game for the number two pick, and a minor sigh a relief for the BUSTians out there. The key to Turner's breakout was playing with the ball in his hands as opposed to off-the-ball. At this point in time, he's obviously both more comfortable, and more effective with the ball in his hands. With Lou out Evan was clearly the Sixers best offensive player in the half court, creating for both himself and teammates, with ease. He still has a lot of work to do in order to live up with the lofty expectations he had coming out of college, but you see the potential.
- Jrue's the only other player worth mentioning from tonight's game, and it's not because he played well. He began the game scoring 11 quick first quarter points before hitting the bench with two fouls. From that point on he was 0-8 with at least two horrific airballs. Not only did he miss his final eight shots, but most of them were forced and ill-advised. He also made a handful of lazy and jump-passes, resulting in three turnovers, and allowed Rajon Rondo to literally walk into the paint multiple times.
- Marreese Speights shot a jump shot.
- With Lou out for the season, Andre Iguodala's leg falling off, Elton Brand playing with a fractured hand, and Antonio Daniels receiving meaningful minutes, I've re-focused my attention on Jrue, Turner, Thad, and Meeks development, at least for the final four games.
- Please rest Iguodala for the playoffs!