I’m not sure I’ve ever been less sure of what to say after a basketball game.
Let’s reset the scene. Jimmy Butler hits a pair of free throws with five seconds left to play to put the Sixers up one. All you have to do is get a stop, and while the Bulls had done a lot of good things on the offensive end, one stop isn’t that bad.
The Sixers didn’t make that stop.
And you know what? That would be fine, usually! Zach LaVine was on fire, and stopping him when he’s shooting like he was is an arduous task. Just play good defense on him and accept that yeah, he could hit the game-winner.
The problem? The Sixers did this:
LaVine was inbounding, but everyone knew the ball was going to end up back in his hands. It did, and Philly’s defense just collapsed. Mike Scott misses his switch, and the team ends up inadvertently doubling Robin Lopez and leaving a wide open swath of space for LaVine to operate. He takes that space right to the basket and, just for an added level of ugh, this is really happening, he gets fouled.
LaVine misses the free throw. There’s 0.5 seconds left. Philly has a timeout. All isn’t lost; you only need four-tenths of a second to catch-and-shoot.
But the potential game-winner gets tipped away, the buzzer sounds, and that’s ballgame. Bulls win 108-107. Players head to the locker room. Fans leave. The Sixers have blown another game.
But...wait! The buzzer went off early because the referees incorrectly ruled that the ball was tipped while being inbounded. Replays showed that that the ball had not been tipped, and it was time to try again.
So, round two of the Sixers trying not to lose to the Bulls! 0.5 seconds back on the clock. Enough time to shoot it! The ball is inbounded to Jimmy Butler, who...doesn’t get the shot off.
Doesn’t it feel like Philly lost twice?
I’ve been staring at the next blank line of this post for a couple of minutes, trying to figure out what else to say. There was a whole other 47 minutes and 55 seconds of action on Wednesday, but it all feels like it’s encapsulated by that one small moment at the end. Those five seconds were a microcosm of the game. LaVine scoring at will. A missed defensive assignment. Turnovers. Even fouling LaVine, who seemed like he went to the line at least 45 times.
Okay, but here are a couple other thoughts about the game
This James Ennis play should make you smile:
I mean, just watch that until Friday and forget about the end of the game. Close your eyes and hear the sound of the rim. Open them and watch how high Ennis leaps. Just inject this one moment into your veins.
Ennis gave the team some good minutes, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds. Butler was the team’s leading scorer with 22 points and it looked for chunks of the game like JIMMY BUTLER REVENGE GAME could be the narrative, but...well, the narrative changed.
The Sixers move to 2-1 on the year when Amir Johnson starts against an Eastern Conference team. Joel Embiid, come back soon, please. (Amir was a team-best plus-12, by the way, and there’s a very good argument that he should have been on the floor on that final defensive possession to give the team an interior presence who could have offered better resistance at the rim or forced LaVine into the mid-range shot.)
Philadelphia plays the Rockets on Friday.