Make That Four

The 76ers have swept the Washington Wizards, which, while not exactly impressive, does add four wins to the season total. The Sixers completed the sweep tonight with a 106-98 victory at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

No, the Sixers aren't dillusional: They understand a victory over Washington (13-43) means very little. But for this team, right now, breaking a four-game losing streak is at least something. It's odd, actually, because two weeks ago this team was the NBA's best in the 18 games leading up to the All-Star break (14-4), and now we seem to be back where we were at the beginning of the season: wondering if a victory over the Wizards will kick-start some better-played basketball.

That's a little how it felt during tonight's game, which, except for the third quarter, was poorly played: It felt like a game from the first quarter of the season. And afterwards, the sentiment seemed to be, We got a win, we needed a win, it wasn't ideal, but it's something.

Andre Iguodala (one rebound from a triple double, three turnovers from a quadruple-double) said, "We have to get everybody to understand we have to fight for a higher seed." Iguodala also said, "We took a couple of steps back, we have to move forward now." 

Some positive observations: 

1.) Lou Williams shot the ball well. He's the key guy on the Zoo Crew. When he gives them insta-offense off the bench, the Sixers seem to play their best basketball. In the last few weeks, he's been playing poorly, and shooting poorly. But tonight, 16 points and two made three-pointers? Showing signs.

2.) Royal Ivey made a three-pointer. At the time, it was an important basket because the Sixers were still trailing the Wizards (what? trailing the Wizards? Excuse me? I know, I know). Ivey hadn't made a shot -- it seemed -- since January. Tonight, he nails a three-pointer in the left corner. The Sixers need him to contribute that one made three a game, it's what he was doing in the 14-4 stretch.

3.) Six for 13 from the three-point line. I refuse to get too excited about such a thing because there's no consistency from outside. But still, gotta point it out.

4.) Samuel Dalembert played well, which is good to see after he requested a trade earlier this season, but remains a Sixer. He said something funny before the game. He said: "Being here is not miserable. If I'm complaining, somebody should slap me." That's funny.

What's still killing them: 

1.) Free-throw shooting. Tonight they were 22 for 31, which is okay, but gonna cost you a few ball games over the course of an 82-game season. It starts with Andre Miller and Iguodala. They've been missing two or three a game lately. They're the guys who set the tone. We know Reggie Evans and Dalembert are going to miss a few, but Miller and Iguodala need to be 7 for 8 or 6 for 7, not 5 for 8 and 5 for 7.

2.) Defending the three-point shot. They give up six tonight to the Wizards. And their main three-point shooter, Mike James, spent much of the first half hanging out on the three-point line pretty darn open. This makes little sense. I understand defending from the inside-out, but at least pay some special attention to the other team's main guy. Otherwise, you're not going to be able to shift focus when it matters (say, um, like when you're guarding Ray Allen at the end of a game).

That's really it for now. It's tough to comment too much about a win over the Wizards. I don't think many people thought the Sixers -- given how well they were playing going into the break -- would start 1-4 in their first five games after the break. These next two games will really show where the Sixers are: at the New York Knicks and vs. the Orlando Magic.


p.s. I received a few e-mails about the "Devin Harris" incident. Folks were wondering why the NBA didn't review how the clock's start was delayed when the Nets actually inbounded the ball to Harris. First, I've seen the play. Yes, there is a delay, but it's not really outside the realm of normal human reaction time (especially on home court). But that's not reviewable, and all the NBA was reviewing was the release of Harris' shot, which he clearly released in time. There is no leg to stand on in the debate, Harris released the shot in time.