Tonight Elton Brand played as good of a basketball game as I've seen a Sixer play since Iverson was in his prime. He carried the Sixers, hitting fadeaway after fadeaway, drawing double teams, creating easy looks for everyone else. Ironically, he also missed a game-tying layup with ten seconds remaining -- and I mean wide open. After the missed layup the Sixers fouled Luke Ridnour; he made one of two keeping hope alive. But down three with two seconds left, the Sixers opted for an Andre Iguodala three to send it into overtime... and to no one's surprise it clanked off the rim. Game over.
What was surprising however, was the final four minutes of the game. Two nights after being dominated by Dahntay Jones down the stretch, Lou Williams did a little dominating of his own. Here's the play-by-play:
With four minutes remaining the Sixers were down eight points, which immediately was cut to six when Lou found Thad for a wide open layup.
- 20 seconds later Lou intercepted a pass and took it coast to coast for the layup -- Sixers down four.
30 seconds later Lou created contact with Brandon Jennings, sank an 18 foot bank shot, and missed the free throw -- Sixers down two.
- A minute later -- now down four -- Lou drew a foul on Andrew Bogut and made one of the two free throws -- Sixers down three.
- In the next two possessions Lou missed a three to take the lead and committed a charge, earning him a seat on the bench.
- EJ brought Lou back into the game with 19 seconds remaining, down two. Lou blew right by Brandon Jennings, drawing the attention of Andrew Bogut. As soon as Bogut came over to help, Lou made a great feed to Elton for the wide open layup, only to see him throw it off the front of the rim.
Not only did Lou make huge plays on offense in the final four minutes, but he locked down Brandon Jennings -- holding him to zero shots, zero assists and two fouls. This is the same Lou Williams who gets torched game after game, including earlier tonight! I don't know if it was a fluke, a good matchup for him, or him simply "getting after it," but he showed that can play solid defense when he wants to, and he'd be a completely different player if he could put together an entire game of good defense instead of four measly minutes.
Here's the breakdown of the "Big Five":
Jrue did some good things and he did some bad things, which is expected from a rookie. His defense on Jennings was average. Some possessions he blanketed him, others he allowed easy penetration. You might look at the first quarter and see that Jennings was held scoreless on four shots, and think that Jrue locked him down, but that wasn't the case. Three of those shots were completely wide open, and the fourth one was contested by Rodney Carney. After the first quarter Jennings scored on Jrue just like he scored on everyone else. If I counted correctly 11 of Brandon's 18 points came on Jrue. His Achilles' heel seems to be insanely quick point guards; Jerryd Bayless comes to mind.
On offense Jrue had a couple nice set ups -- one in particular where he broke Jennings' ankles and calmly shoveled it over to Brand for a wide open layup -- but he also had a couple bad turnovers. He finished with 5 points on 4 shots, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 boards and 1 steal.
Andre was awful tonight. His usually solid defense was very average tonight, and he finished with 9 points on 11 shots, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, and 1 missed buzzer beater. Carlos Delfino actually outplayed him tonight! And it's not a good sign when your "best player" is outplayed by Carlos Delfino.
It's difficult to criticize someone who finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes, and it's equally difficult to criticize someone who shot 6-6 from the field, but his counterpart for the evening, Ersan Ilyasova aka James Franco (Click the links if you don't believe me), matched Thaddeus with 15 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes -- and he only missed once. Thad's defense and defensive rebounding are consistently bad, and unless he scores in transition or on tip-ins he is completely non-existent. I'd criticize him less if everyone just accepted him as an energy guy off the bench, but people still think he's a future All-Star. Sigh. The debate lives another day.
Speights biggest strengths are his jumper and his ability to come up with an offensive rebound. I believe he only took one jumper tonight and it was wet, of course, but his offensive rebounding was in full effect -- Reggie Evans-like. He also played a decent man-to-man on Bogut, but other than that it was regular everyday normal Speights: off-balance post moves, no understanding of when to help and when not to help on defense, no box outs, etc.
When all is said and done, we're one step closer to a new coach, a new GM, a fire sale and John Wall, so thank your lucky stars neither game-tying shot went it.
Next up is the Lakers, and as much as I want the things listed above, I'd throw it all away for a win over the Lakers.
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