You could have tossed away the win over the
Houston Rockets by saying they're just a bad road team, playing without Ron Artest. You could toss away the win over the Milwaukee Bucks by saying their just an average team, playing without Andrew Bogut. You could toss away the win over the Charlotte Bobcats because, well, it's the Charlotte Bobcats.
But this afternoon you have a road win -- a convincing 109-94 road win -- over the Atlanta Hawks (22-14). You can't toss this away, not when combined with the three previous. These four games, and the last three quarters of the two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Sixers have played well. They legitimately look like one of the Top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference. (The Hawks coach, Mike Woodson, said he believes the Sixers are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Interesting.) And while that other victory today (the Eagles over the Giants) will keep the Sixers flying under the radar for at least another week, we can take the time on here to talk about today's win.
It's a little more difficult, lately, to breakdown a victory -- because they're happening so frequently. Earlier in the season wins were hard to come by, so when they did come, we knew exactly what had happened to cause it. Now, it feels like we're talking a lot about the same things. But that's what happens in an 82-game season.
1.) Tony DiLeo. I want to focus on one thing: substitution pattern. His is great. I think it took him maybe 5-6 games to really get a feel for what rotations work best and what players produce in what situations. Today, there was not one substitution that wasn't exactly what the team needed. Reggie Evans played 15 minutes, and with each one he did some pestering on defense, grabbed a rebound, hit some free throws. Royal Ivey played 20 minutes, hit a big three-pointer to get the outside shooting started, and played the final stretch when he came up with that offensive rebound. Speights was awesome, he played exactly the minutes he should play in most games. DiLeo kept Andre Iguodala on the floor, which is the best choice at all times. That leads us to ... Iguodala.
2.) Andre Iguodala. He was the best player on the floor tonight. 27 points. Nine assists. Six rebounds. (Five turnovers.) 42 minutes played. 9 for 13 from the floor. 3 for 4 from the three-point line. Look, there will be plenty of games where he plays poorly and people jump on him about how he's overpaid and can't make an outside shot. But this stretch he's played the last 10 games or so -- he's been darn good. We can't say it enough.
3.) Slammin' Sammy. He had four really nice blocks. He did a great job protecting the basket during his minutes. We do give Dalembert a hard time, often. But this afternoon he played strong in his minutes.
There are plenty of questions ahead, including the looming question: How will Elton Brand's return affect the Sixers play? That's an important question. We could speculate on here. Or we could wait to see how Brand plays upon his return. We could talk about Thaddeus Young, whether he should move to the bench, or Iguodala move to shooting guard, we could talk about ... okay, okay, let's actually save those questions for when there are answers.
For this Sunday evening, it's enjoyable to have watched some good basketball (and football).