Mastering the end-of-game situations

During one week away from the 76ers, I got one email topic more than any other: what happened between Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner during Friday night's win over the Milwaukee Bucks? Not having seen the interaction, but in reading other people's interpretations of it, we're just going to have to agree to move on from that moment to today's game against the Charlotte Bobcats. There are all kinds of dynamics at play right now with the Sixers (does Iguodala's game restrict Turner's? Is Turner's lack of confidence affecting him? etc., etc.), but we'll have to let that one interaction slide until something similar presents itself. 

As for this afternoon, it seems like the Sixers have discovered a way to win games they would have lost earlier in the season. The Sixers won in overtime, 96-92. Let's not dwell too long on the fact that this game really should have been a double-digit Sixers' win, because regardless of that fact, they would have lost this game a month ago. There can't be many more sinking feelings for a Sixers' fan than seeing the Sixers, down a three pointer, with the ball, taking it out on the sideline. (OK, maybe being ahead three, watching the other team take the ball out on the sideline and knowing your team is very good at allowing end-of-game three pointers.) This just isn't a situation at which the Sixers usually excel.

But this afternoon they did. And they seem to be doing something different in these situations. In past years, including the early months of this season, the designed play at the end of regulation -- and here we're talking about the one with 5 seconds left when Lou Williams hit the corner three to force overtime -- would have involved bringing Andre Iguodala past the three point line and catching about 30 feet from the hoop. There would have been screens going on around him, but this would have been the heart of the play. Also, there wouldn't have been a shooter on the floor (maybe, occasionally, we would see Jason Kapono on the floor), but tonight there were two shooters. And as the Sixers set up the play, I was wondering for whom the play would be designed, whether Doug Collins would want Kapono to get the three pointer or whether he'd want Jodie Meeks to get the three pointer. If the Sixers had only needed a two, then obviously LouWill would have gotten the nod, but bringing both Kapono and Meeks into the play was a tricky move by Collins. With both of them on the floor, the Bobcats needed to stick tight on almost every screen and be concerned with not just one guy on the floor, but three, plus Iguodala taking the ball out of bounds.

Today's end-of-game play design was worthy of the end of the game, which is not something we usually see with the Sixers. A couple of other things:

*Lou Willams scored 23 second-half points and basically won today's game for the Sixers. After last week's loss to the Detroit Pistons, at the end of which he missed two free throws that basically lost the game for the Sixers, Williams addressed the team and told them that he apologized for losing the game and that he promised he would help them win more games than he would help them lose. Also of note, although totally unrelated, Williams dropped some freestyle on YouTube yesterday called "Imma Boss." You can find that here if you're interested in Lou's extracurricular activities (it's not G-rated, either, by the way, so be warned): Imma Boss. Some folks on Twitter don't seem to appreciate Lou's focus on music, so it was quite helpful he turned his 0-point first half into a 23-point, game-winning game. You can check out the video of Lou from after today's win, which should be embedded below.

*Evan Turner made four crucial free throws. That's not changing his 1 for 7 line, or his missed jumper near the end of regulation, but it is a step forward for the rookie who last missed two big free throws in an overtime loss at the Washington Wizards earlier this season.

*Andre Iguodala was really, really good today. It seems like he's able to play the role of mature, floor leader even more now that he's not forcing so much offense. It's tough to maintain your role as floor leader if you've missed multiple jumpers in the final minutes of the game. But, at least this afternoon, he's doing everything the Sixers need him to do, including taking advantage of his opportunity with about 40 seconds left in overtime.

Again, good to be back,



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