It wasn't what the city expected from these new-look 76ers. They expected more half-court offense, better defense, improved shooting.
(But, really, whom are we kidding? The city's eyes were, and still are, on the Phillies. We'll wait out the wave of hysteria through tomorrow's parade down Broad St.)
Instead, what filled the Wachovia Center last night (a 95-84 loss to the Toronto Raptors) looked more like the Sixers from last November, than the NBA team that made the most waves this off-season.
But it's only the first game. After the game, head coach Maurice Cheeks was disappointed, but it's only one of 82 games. Cheeks said it was the defense and shooting that most concerned him.
1.) The Defense: It wasn't the 95 points allowed. That's not even that high of a number. It was the quality of shots the Raptors managed to get the last three quarters. And the quality of shots (Jason Kapono ... Jason Kapono! ... wide open) at the end of the game. Last season, a big problem for the Sixers was allowing open 3-point shots. This was also the problem last night. The Raptors were 10 for 16 (62.5 percent).
Another problem with the defense: It didn't create enough transition opportunities. The Sixers need to score more easy buckets (we all saw what happened in the stagnant half-court sets).
2.) Shooting (specifically from beyond the arc): Yikes. It looked good in the beginning. The first possession, Andre Miller dished to Thaddeus Young in the left corner. Young made the shot. The Sixers started 4 for 10 in the first half, which is solid, if not remarkable. They finished the game 5 for 20 (25 percent). This 1 for 10 effort in the second half was crucial to burying the team. What was particularly worrisome was the way in which some of these threes were taken: they felt desperate.
But, going forward -- and forward comes quickly, with another home game tomorrow night against the Knicks -- Cheeks said these aspects will be improved. I agree. While I don't think the Sixers are going to be a great outside shooting team, I don't think they should, again, be the league's worst. Lou Williams is better than 2 for 7, Andre Iguodala is better than 0 for 5 (perhaps he should only be shooting, at most, two a game?).
The Knicks are coming into the Wachovia Center undefeated. And even though that undefeated record is 1-0, these are the Knicks about which we're talking! I must harp upon anything positive.
The Sixers are currently practicing at PCOM. They watched film from about 11 a.m. to noon. We're going to hold off on any more Live Chats until the craziness of the Phillies washes through with tomorrow's victory parade (read: next chat will be Saturday from Atlanta).
Inactive List: Will Speights remain on the inactive list? That would be surprising. The Sixers must submit the list an hour before tomorrow's tip-off. I think tomorrow we'll see an active Speights, an inactive Donyell Marshall. Also, Royal Ivey will serve the last of a three-game suspension.
Until tomorrow (or perhaps later) ...