I know some of you crave a rage-filled recap of last night's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, but I can't give it to you. At least for one night, I can't be mad at the Sixers for being who they are, much like you can't be mad at an infant for spitting up on you. It is in their nature to be those burping Sixers and we can't throw our arms up every time, especially when they manage to make the game entertaining.
The Sixers jumped out to a huge first quarter lead due to tremendously good shooting (at one point they were 6-6 with all starters having made at least one shot) blended with attacking the rim. Memphis is the best defensive team in the league and the SIxers were just pissing on that. But as quickly as they scored 33 in the first, they gave up 37 even quicker.
Led by a simply unguardable-when-he's-on Jerryd Bayless and a simply unguardable-because-you-have-no-one-to-guard-him Marc Gasol, Memphis took advantage of the mean regression and poured in jumper after jumper.
Neither team could pull away in the third quarter, which was also known as the Kwame Brown Quarter (3 POINTS AND 2 REBOUNDS, SUP KWAM?!), and the game stayed equally tight in the 4th. Trading bucket for bucket, we got down to the nitty and the gritty and when Memphis' defense tightened up as we knew it would, the Sixers floundered worse than Kent Dorfman.
Plays may have been run, but I sure as hell didn't see them, as the offense became stagnation personified. They couldn't get anywhere, they couldn't do anything, and they were doing everything wrong. But it was the defense and rebounding, once again, that burned them. Bayless missed a jumper with Spencer Hawes guarding him on a switch and the long rebound went to Rudy Gay. Evan Turner draped on him (probably was a foul), Gay fought through to the lane and made a really tough shot to put the Grizz up a point with 14 seconds left.
Jrue Holiday, who hadn't played well at all outside of an otherworldly first quarter, drove the lane but sort of fishtailed away from the basket and found a reasonably open Thaddeus Young in the paint. Avoiding or not seeing the open Hawes under the basket, Thad took one of his awkwardly effective baby hooks that he's made a thousand times and got all rim. After inexplicably Cha-Cha-Sliding three seconds away, Hawes fouled Zach Randolph with 1.2 seconds left.
They managed to get another foul to send Memphis to the line without running any clock off. Both free throws went in, and the Sixers were down 3. They drew up the same side-out inbounds play they've done since Moses parted the seas and somehow ET found an open Nick Young in the near corner. Swag, he of the slow release, turned and eventually rose up only to have Marc Gasol meet him at the top for a game-saving block, pictured above.
So they lost. But it was a thrilling game and, once again, one they would've won if Andrew Bynum had played. I can't find myself too upset when they're doing the same things we knew they'd be doing.
- They took 9 free throws. Only 2 of them came after the first quarter. Kwam-Kwam took those. They can't draw fouls and the refs don't bail them out. We knew that.
- Nobody on this team can guard Marc Gasol. Hawes looked awful on him. Lavoy Allen got into foul trouble and only played a mediocre 8 minutes. They can't defend a competent center. We knew that.
- The playbook went out the window in the last few minutes. Is that a surprise to anyone? Anyone at all? The fact that they got a good look at the end was good enough for me. Thad makes that and we're talking about a gutsy win.
- Blowing a first quarter lead? Come on, this is the NBA. Blown leads are as prevalent as terrible mascots and boobied dance teams. There's no way they were going to end-to-end crush two teams in a row after doing it to NYK the other night.
- Doug's rotations are awful. Playing Royal Ivey (who was fine tonight, for the most part) and Damien Wilkins (who I'd like to put out to pasture) at the same time should be punishable by law. Dorell Wright is worlds better at everything than either of them, but dude's stuck in Doug's transient Dog House. He'll be back out eventually, but for now, all we can do is shake our damn heads.
The reason I'm feeling so good about it all, aside from the sheer entertainment value of this game -- you guys remember these are THE SIXERS, right? -- is because we saw some great things that we normally don't see in a loss. It's not a moral victory, screw those, but when a team missing its best player can impress in different facets of the game, you have to celebrate it.
Evan Turner was an absolute beast. He played one of his most complete games of his career, pouring in 27 points on 12-18 shooting, with 7 assists to just one turnover. He was spitting hot fire in the third quarter, when he hit five consecutive shots and scored 14 points to keep the Sixers in front. Some of those shots were just insane. Kid went full Villain and suddenly found himself as Chris Mullin from the outside. Everything was going in. It was insane.
His defense, I also thought despite Gay's line, was really solid on Rudy. The team as a whole gets lost when they have to rotate and guys are almost permanently left open, but I think he did well playing Rudy on the ball, a nice feather in his cap because he usually struggles against bigger opponents.
And Thad, holy nuts. I've never seen him play better defense in his career, this time on the much chunkier Zach Randolph. Thad held him to 4 points on 2-7 shooting and it looked uglier than that. Thad was active, he was hitting jumpers, he was going to the line, and he even took a three! It was an ill-advised three with like a minute left in the game but that was interesting! The way he's playing, I'm consistently foaming at the mouth to see what he can do with Bynum next to him. It'll be the best center he's played with since, like, Ra'Sean Dickey, so I'm looking forward to it.
There were some other good points like Nick Young in the starting lineup where he takes offensive pressure off Turner and Hawes, aside from the last-minute dance steps, not doing too many HAHAHAHAwes things. Jrue didn't play his best game (9-19 isn't bad but ZERO FREE THROWS) on either end, but I'm giving him a pass on Bayless because of how good he is. Dude's got the shot selection of a blind mule but when he's on, the kid can effing cook. He's so fast and strong for his size, it's almost impossible to stop him without fouling.
But yeah, it was a game. You can be upset about it, but if you're upset about this one, then I don't know how much you'll have left for the really terrible games where they play like frozen molasses for 48 minutes and you're just flipping through the guide hoping Everybody Loves Raymond has a marathon somewhere. This was a good one. Chalk it up as a Bynum win. He'll be back soon and THEN we can get mad about losing close games.
For now, take the good, expect the bad, and set your clocks to the All-Star Break.