Sunday, March 11, 2012

Woo, Williams

One more very good time watching the Sixers v. Knicks game today, with my road laundry sending the Manhattan Frauds to their fifth straight loss, and driving one more spike home to winning the division. The final was 106-94, and honestly, it shouldn't have been that close. Fun stuff included:

> The continuing blossoming of Evan Turner, who went 24-15-2, put further rest to the idea that he can't play with Andre Iguodala, and might be the best rebounding guard in the league (15 is his new career high)

> JR Smith, who somehow got on the floor for 23 minutes of 4 for 13 backbreaking misses and general malaise -- still like your bench of many bad options, Knick Fan?

> Iguodala battling the refs and Carmelo Anthony for a 19/7/8 game with 4 steals, or in other words, the classic AI2 game

> Elton Brand celebrating his 33rd birthday with a tidy 13-8-2-2-2 line (assists, steals, blocks) despite, once again, the refs

> Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak looking like the 15 minutes of fame are ending; Lin went 14-3-7 with 5 of 18 shooting and 6 turnovers, and Novak not doing much that was special, either

> Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Baron Davis combining to go -44 in their court time

But the real story was Lou Williams, the team's leading scorer despite being, correctly, a bench player. Lou's a hit or miss guy who didn't miss much at all today, going 10 of 19 from the floor and 3 for 5 from the arc. Fourteen of those points came in the third, when the Sixers drove the Knicks' stars out of the game, and turned Knick Fan into all kinds of booing upset. Good times.

The sad fact about New York is that they only look good when the money is off the floor. With 8 minutes left and the Sixers looking to add to their NBA-leading total of 20-point wins, Mike D'Antoni finally went with the Lin- Landry Fields - Tyson Chandler - Novak foursome that best approximates the February magic (the fifth member was Smith, who honestly, I have no idea why he was on the floor, other than D'Antoni wanting to teach his moneyed men some kind of lesson). The Knicks trapped and scrambled to add mild drama, but Smith did his tragic magic late, and while the Sixers can look weak at moments against a press, it doesn't work for long, because everyone moves the ball, and they usually have two good ball handlers on the floor at all times. It's not easy to trap any team in the NBA for long, let alone the one that leads the league in fewest turnovers committed.

(Another thing: the refs in this game were rank. There were at least a half-dozen shaky and late calls, multiple technicals that seemed gratuitous, and a choppy feel that put a number of guys in foul trouble without feeling like they earned it. I get that the Knicks are the most T'd up team in the league, and will drive men to distraction, but still. Jrue Holiday fouled out of this game, and I'm still trying to figure out how. Honestly, it felt as if the refs were trying to keep this close.)

One last point about New York, and the continuing doom that Anthony is walking into... for much of this game, when the Knicks' starters were in, Anthony and Fields were the only guys giving my laundry problems, and in the third quarter, that was Anthony only. You can say that he doesn't make his teammates better, or that his poor attitude rubs off on other guys, but the Knicks shot 26 free throws today, and Anthony had 12 of those. 22-9-3 with one turnover should not get you blamed, but it will. The real problem for New York is that if Lin isn't special, neither are they. And the phenom hasn't been for weeks now.

But all of that shouldn't take away from the fact that the Sixers played well, and are just a better team, really. They shot over 50% from the floor on a day where Jrue Holiday couldn't put it in the ocean. They limited the Knicks to 16 assists on 16 tunovers, matched them on the boards, and had more than a little to do with NY going 41% from the floor. They are going to win the Atlantic for the first time in a decade, host a playoff series against a team they should beat, and... probably end right after that. But for this franchise, Final 8 tastes like cream. And anything that takes New York and Boston down a peg is to be encouraged. Hard.

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