Maybe there is one good thing about a delayed flight? Extra time to blog? No better way to spend the time waiting for this flight to Charlotte than looking back at last night's win and forward to tonight's game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Last night. The 76ers looked better than they did during Friday night's one-point win over the Clippers. Of this there is no doubt. No, an 89-81 home victory over the Golden State Warriors isn't necessarily something to write home about, but the following observations are of note:
1.) Elton Brand played like the player most of Philly thought they'd signed in July. Yes, I'm aware Golden State runs with a small lineup. Doesn't matter. Brand has played enough games, against big teams and small teams, that we can say last night was impressive. (Although he still shot 10 for 22. I think that number should be 13 for 22, considering the shots he is taking.) But even better for this team was the movement when Brand received the ball on the midpost. It still wasn't ideal, but Miller made cuts off the ball, Young and Iguodala slashed through the lane. Unlike much of the first 12 games, when the Sixers stood and watched as if Brand was Michael Jordan, there was improved movement. And a sense that maybe this half-court offense might not be that bad.
2.) The Sixers scored 0 points in transition and still won. I'm not living in a dream world. I know the Sixers shot 39.8 percent from the field -- unbelievable they won an NBA game with that shooting percentage. But they killed the Warriors on the boards, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds. That's an awesome number of offensive boards (and Samuel Dalembert had nine of them). If you look at all the numbers -- 19 turnovers, 39.8 percent shooting, 0 fast-break points -- it doesn't seem as if it should add up to a win. And against a better team, it won't.
I found it surprising the Sixers finished the game without any fast-break points. They still pushed the ball in transition. They got to the rim in transition, but the Warriors blocked 13 shots. Here is what Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said about that: "Many times we had a chance, going to the rim, to get two shot fouls and they ended up blocking the shot. Normally, that would be a two shot foul and that kind of changed the momentum of the game in the third and fourth quarter because we never could get that fast break going and never get one to the rim."
3.) Andre Iguodala. Is anyone sick of hearing that I like his game? Probably. But I liked it even more last night because, for the first half, he appeared to put away that jumpshot and take it to the hoop. I asked him afterwards if this was his intention. He said it was. Now, he did take (and make) two 3-pointers. And he started shooting a few fall-away jumpers with bad footwork in the second half. But if you were paying attention -- as I'm sure you all were -- you had to have noticed that early in the game he refused to settle for a fade-away 18-footer. This is good news. Also good news is the simple basketball players Iguodala was able to make last night. Through 12 games, the simple penetrate and pitch was non-existent. When Iguodala did slice into the lane, he didn't have a cutter to whom he could dish the ball. Last night he penetrated one dribble to the left and found Thaddeus Young for an open 3-pointer. Later, he went to the rim and had Marreese Speights diving to the hoop for a dunk. These are the simple, chemistry, movement plays that the Sixers have been missing. Are they here to stay?
Uh-oh. The flight is boarding. Do I wish it were delayed even further? To discuss tonight's game against the Larry Brown-led Bobcats?
Quick snapshot: The Sixers should win this game. They should improve to 8-6 (as predicted). They should return to Philly with a respectable record as they bravely forge ahead with games against the Magic then the Celtics.
A couple of things to keep on eye on tonight:
1.) The continued rotation of the second unit (read previous post if unaware). I believe this change in subsitution will help keep the Sixers from those early second-quarter lulls they've been enduring.
2.) Samuel Dalembert. He played very well yesterday. Can he make it two in a row?
I really need to board this plane.