It’s a good thing we all know, and discussed, how meaningless preseason scores are; Because losing to the New York Knicks is not a good thing. But anyone who watched last night’s game knows that when it counted, when it was 76ers’ first team vs. Knicks first team, the Sixers looked better.
Elton Brand looked especially good. After Wednesday’s game against the Celtics, Brand said he was “satisfied,” but knew he needed to do better. We saw that ‘better’ last night. Not only did Brand score, but the offense looked much smoother than it has at any previous time this preseason.
Brand finished with 24 points. But, more importantly, like we’ve talked about for the past three weeks, he affected the rest of the offense. When the Sixers ran the pick-and-roll with Brand and Miller, the defense had to worry about both options: The drive and Brand’s roll-out.
What starter didn’t look good? Okay, Thaddeus Young didn’t play how he’s capable.
(By the way, Young, who suffered an eye injury in the third quarter, will be fine for tomorrow night’s game at Toronto. Lou Williams, who had three stitches, will also be fine.)
But the rest of the starters? Andre Miller played like Andre Miller. He had a couple of fantastic passes. Andre Iguodala looked a lot like he did during the regular season last year, plus he hit a couple of outside shots. Always encouraging. Sam Dalembert? I thought he played well. He rebounded and started fast breaks. He had that very nice drive from the top of the key.
After the game, head coach Maurice Cheeks seemed pleased with the effort of his first team.
“They played the way we know they’re capable of playing,” Cheeks said.
As for the second-quarter meltdown, as we’ll call it, Cheeks said, “We had a lot of young guys out there.”
And the Sixers did. The Knicks and Mike D’Antoni kept their starters on the floor, while Cheeks went with a lineup of Lou Williams, Royal Ivey, Kareem Rush, Reggie Evans, and Marreese Speights (for a majority of the time).
Cheeks said he wants to see a “more aggressive attitude” from this second unit.
But let’s get back to Brand. He was 10 for 13. He wasn’t playing against Kevin Garnett, so we have to keep that in mind, but nonetheless, he was the player the Sixers felt they acquired back in July.
“He’s always played like that,” Cheeks said after the game. “He’s a very effective player, that’s why we got him, that’s the way we envisioned him playing.”
After the game, Brand sat in front of his locker and said, in his usual low-key manner that he wanted to show the Sixers’ fans who he was. Brand said the team, led by Cheeks’ choices on the rotation, “played reserved.”
Cheeks mentioned he considered putting a few of the starters back in the game at various points, but didn’t want to risk injury.
Willie Green and Theo Ratliff. I don’t think we can read too much into either player’s evening on the bench, especially not Ratliff’s. Green played a lot of minutes against Boston, so it’s impossible to tell the meaning behind last night’s DNP.
1.)Marreese Speights continues to impress. He picked up two weak fouls when he first checked in last night, but his night progressively improved.
2.)Kareem Rush missed all of his outside shots. I don’t think we can worry too much about this. Rush had been out for three days with a left-ankle sprain. His shot is still money.
3.)Lou Williams. How about that near-dunk he had? When he drove to the hoop and just elevated? He’s an exciting player.
4.)The defense. Not exactly where Cheeks wants it, I’m sure, even for this early juncture of the season. The first team held the Knicks to 22 points in the first quarter, that was a strong defensive effort. But the final tally, not so impressive.
The Sixers watched film this morning, then had a light shooting workout and lifting session.
Deep Sixer will not be quite so deep for the next five days. I am flying to Los Angeles to join the coverage of the NLCS. I’m still going to post as often as I can, but considering I’ll be on the other coast …. You get the picture.