Archive: March, 2011
Before tonight's game, each player had a red "ShowYaLuv" t-shirt on his locker room chair. The shirts aren't on sale to the general public (at least not yet), but the saying represents a growing internal belief about the makeup and quality of this team. (Attached is a not-very-good picture of the t-shirt.) Appropriately, tonight's 105-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks showed the resiliency and effort the Sixers have routinely displayed this season.
Yes, the Hawks appear to be in some turmoil. Before the game, Larry Drew called his team "fragile" and the Hawks were also about 24 hours removed from a blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls. Still, Atlanta is a 40-win team who is one spot ahead of the Sixers in the Eastern Conference standings. That gap closed a little bit tonight with the Sixers' win. The Sixers went from 3-1/2 games behind Atlanta to only 2-1/2 games. You could argue about which playoff matchup better suits the Sixers, the Miami Heat or the Orlando Magic, but the Sixers honestly don't appear concerned with anything but continuing to build toward the playoffs. After tonight's game, we asked coach Doug Collins if he was faced with a balancing act for the rest of the season: getting as many wins as possible vs. nursing injuries and staying healthy.
Collins didn't hesitate in saying, "I want to win every game," and then he repeated it, "I want to win every game." So whether or not Dwight Howard vs. LeBron James in the first round is a talking point elsewhere, the Sixers appear headed toward snagging as many wins as they can and then seeing where that leaves them come April 15.
After a five-game road trip, the Sixers are looking to get back in the win column with a midweek clash against Atlanta. The Inquirer's Marc Narducci has more from this morning's practice at PCOM.
Basically, the 76ers salvaged this road trip. With the way it began, it looked like a possibly disastrous five-game swing. Instead, the Sixers began playing good basketball, won two in a row over the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings, and then came into tonight's game at the Rose Garden undermanned and, quite frankly, needing some serious inspiration to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers. The team needed to give Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis) the night off -- it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. So if the Sixers were going to steal this game, they would need a strong, strong performance from Evan Turner (who started in Iguodala's place) and strong performances from some other key guys like Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, maybe even Andres Nocioni. What the Sixers got was only 17 minutes from Turner. He picked up a quartet of fouls, which consistently limited his minutes, and contributed a trio of turnovers alongside his 6 points.
Given that gap in the lineup, as well as below-average games from power forward Elton Brand (10 points) and point guard Jrue Holiday (7 points on 3 for 11 shooting), the Sixers could never get their footing tonight against the Blazers, who were downright awesome. They tried, battling back towards the end of the third quarter, but Portland was just much better.
Portland finished the game shooting 51.4 percent from the floor, 47.8 percent (11 for 23) from three and 86.2 percent (25 for 29) from the line. They scored 36 points in the first half and scored no fewer than 23 points in any quarter.
The 76ers now have sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference. On Friday night, the Sixers blew out the Sacramento Kings, 102-80, while the New York Knicks lost.
Here inside Power Balance Pavilion, Sixers coach Doug Collins had his team focused on getting this win on the first night of a back-to-back. Immediately after the game, the Sixers flew to Portland where they play the Trail Blazers on Saturday night. Also immediately after the game, Collins said he will rest swingman Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis) against the Trail Blazers and said he gave Elton Brand the option to rest as well. After Saturday's game against Portland, the Sixers do not play against until Wednesday night at home against the Atlanta Hawks. The decision to rest Iguodala gives him five full days of rest before the next game and eliminates the risk of straining that knee with back-to-back games at the end of a long road trip.
Collins made it clear that Iguodala could play, is quite capable of playing, but that with a dozen games left in the regular season and (almost certainly) a playoff series, this is a perfect opportunity to buy Iguodala a chunk of time.
There's a lot of context around the recent ESPN documentary of Michigan's Fab Five, which aired Sunday. The documentary itself is riveting, but it seems to have taken on a life of its own with the comments from Fab Five member, Jalen Rose, who currently works as an ESPN analyst. (Also of note, Rose was an executive producer on the documentary.) If you don't have any background on this, basically here is your Cliff's Notes: ESPN aired a documentary about how Michigan's Fab Five influenced the culture -- basketball and otherwise -- during their time at Michigan in the early 90's.
Rose's comment within the documentary is as follows: "I hated Duke and I hated everything Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms."
OK ... so ... that was Rose talking about what he felt like when he was 17 years old. But he hasn't exactly backed away from the statement in the days since the documentary aired. What we're left with is a swirl of controversy (as well as a very interesting cultural subject) that has circled the NBA and mainstream in the last three days. This isn't an entirely new idea, stereoptyping black players who don't necessarily fit into the traditional stereotype of black players, but it's been interesting because Rose's comments were so straight forward and were regarding such a popular culture time (early 90's basketball, Fab Five, NCAA, etc).
Video: The Inquirer's Kate Fagan says that the Sixers' two recent losses aren't a reason for panic and discusses which team would be the biggest playoff hurdle.
Minutes after Monday night's overtime loss to the Utah Jazz, 76ers coach Doug Collins used phrases like "concerned," and, "terrible," and "frustrated," and "not liking what I see." For so much of the game, the Sixers looked disinterested and disengaged. Their saving grace on this night was their swarming comeback in the final few minutes (Sixers were down 21 in the first half and 15 early in the fourth quarter) to take the lead with just over 1 minute remaining in regulation, an effort that ensured this wouldn't be the second blowout loss in three nights and also an effort that fended off the impending panic of, "What's wrong with the Sixers?!"
But what tonight's loss left us with is now two things: concern over the initial bland performance and concern over the team's inability, once again, to close out this game at the end. Jodie Meeks missed the second of two free throws, giving the Jazz possession with about 11 seconds left and facing only a two-point deficit. The Sixers then allowed perhaps the easiest bucket of the game, a little layup off of a curl cut by C.J. Miles with about 9 seconds left. Collins gave the ball to Andre Iguodala, who played very well in the fourth quarter, but missed what would have been the game-winning jumper at the buzzer. In overtime, Iguodala was not as effective and the Sixers played from behind the entire five minutes.
This morning at shoot around, both Collins and team president Rod Thorn addressed the players, both talking about how nothing as yet been achieved this season. It's in hand, it's there, but it's not yet theirs. Also, Thorn said he talked about going after the sixth seed and how the team isn't yet out of the running for the fifth seed. It felt like both guys -- Collins and Thorn -- weren't in the slightest concerned about Saturday's 28-point loss to the Miwaukee Bucks, nor should they have been concerned. But through the first three quarters tonight, the Sixers did not look like the team we've seen the last 55 games. They looked, quite frighteningly, like the team we saw the first 16 games.
Don't panic just yet. I know it seems like a panicky situation: a 28-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Really -- you could ask yourself -- what's the point of gutting out a victory over the Boston Celtics if you're just going to turn around and get absolutely demolished by the Milwaukee Bucks? Not the Orlando Magic or the Chicago Bulls (which we've seen before), but the Milwaukee Bucks.
Well, if you're frustrated and concerned, then I'm here to tell you that -- aside from the other fans joining you in the worry -- you'd be the only one. Doug Collins is fine. Lou Williams is fine. Evan Turner is fine. Collins might have done a little bit of "chin up" work after the game, but otherwise he's quite confident his team long ago turned the corner of self doubt and not even this loss, substantial as might have been, would plant the seed of doubt. Collins said he walked into the locker room after the game and said that these kinds of games will happen when you're giving the type of night-in, night-out effort that the Sixers have given all season. It was a tough back-to-back in the NBA schedule. Collins said he told his team that games like these are unavoidable and their job is simply to stick together as a team to change the outcome next time.
"Our thing with them is: never twice in a row," Collins said.