Okay, so it's past the halfway mark of this season, well past, and yet it's easy to look at this weekend's All-Star Break as the perfect opportunity to assess the "first half" of this season (we're 51 games in, 31 to go ...).
First, I do believe we'll be having a Live Chat tomorrow (Friday) at around 3:30 p.m. This hasn't been confirmed, but when it is, I'll add the link.
Topics: This weekend's All-Star Game (Yes, I'm in Phoenix), Thaddeus Young in Friday night's Rookie Challenge, assessment of the first part of the season, and, of course, as usual "What's up with Andre Miller?" and, "Are the 76ers going to make a trade?" We're a week away from the trading deadline. Might it pass without the Sixers getting that three-point shooter?
Until then, let's take a quick look at the Top 3 Best and Bottom 3 Worst On-Court Moments from the first 51 games. Chime in with your own -- I'm not including injuries in this list because we're all aware that Elton Brand's Dec. 17 tumble at the Wachovia Center might have been the most important moment of the season (though in what regard, it's still unclear). And I'm not picking games, I'm picking singular moments (aside from the Nets game), regardless of how the game might, or might not, have played out.
Okay. Best Moments, in no particular order:
1.) Andre Iguodala's pull-up jumper against the Boston Celtics with 6.8 seconds left: Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, because at the time it was probably the most important shot of Iguodala's young career. Feel free to correct me on that, but it felt like, in that moment, Iguodala had completely rid himself of the early-season doubters and the Sixers, in that moment, had completely rid themselves of a contingent of doubters. The Sixers had been playing well, had beaten some very good teams, but there's something a little different in the NBA right now when you beat the Lakers or Celtics (and maybe the Cavs, too, 'cause of LeBron). And in this moment, a win against the Boston Celtics seemed, if not secure, then darn close.
2.) Samuel Dalembert's defense on Tracy McGrady in the final seconds of a road win over the Houston Rockets. Why? Because it was the Sixers only good win with Elton Brand. And Brand played well that game (12 points, if I recall). And when Dalembert tipped that three-pointer, and the Sixers got that tough road win, it seemed maybe these Sixers, with Brand, might work. That win over the Rockets will remain the only winning team the Sixers beat with Brand.
3.) Donyell Marshall's late three-pointer that gave the Sixers a road win over the Detroit Pistons in early December. Why? Because, to that point, the Sixers had eight wins -- none against a winning team. Not one of their first eight wins was against a team with a winning record. They were 8-11, I believe. And there was very little on which they could hang their hat. This win, in Detroit, was absolutely the first solid victory of this season. And even though it was won by a guy who likely won't play many minutes down the stretch, it was important. The Sixers were without Brand (that strained right hamstring) and they had their first opportunity to play the way they'll have to play the rest of this season.
Worst Three. In no particular order.
1.) The fourth quarter of the loss to the New Jersey Nets. Now, I was not at this game (luckily, in retrospect). So I can't comment on how painful it actually was to watch, but I've heard the stories. Eighteen consecutive misses, 2 for 22 in the fourth quarter, and, most importantly, a loss to a bad Eastern Conference team. The Sixers had been playing very well, but this loss sent a lot of Sixers fans into a fit of doubt.
2.) Ray Allen's three pointer with five-tenths of a second remaining, giving the Celtics a 100-99 win. We've discussed this play at length. Plenty of reasons this hurts: it makes no sense to leave this guy, it would have been the Sixers trademark victory, and it came in the game after the New Jersey debacle, making it a difficult two-game stretch.
3.) T.J. Ford's last-second jumper that gave the Indiana Pacers a 95-94 win at the Wachovia Center on Dec. 20. I still think this is the worst loss I've watched this season (remember I missed the Nets game). The Sixers were about to embark on that seven-game road trip starting in Boston. The Pacers were missing like 11 players (okay, more like four or five). The Sixers needed this victory to pad the win side before heading on that grueling trip. And the Pacers just weren't a very good team at that time. But when it came down to that final possession for Indiana, you could sense Ford was going to hit the shot because the Sixers had no business being in that position. It was fate.