Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Sixers Win Again, And More Than A Game

Dance Dance Revolution
Tonight in South Philly, the Sixers went for their third win in four games, and back to back wins after a last-second road win against Brooklyn. They were going against Indy, 15-23 coming into the game, playing their fifth game in seven nights, four of which were on the road. In other words, a team that was ripe for the picking, especially with the Sixers' crazy youth, athleticism, and devil may care attitude going against the world-weary grinding nature of the probably aren't going to make the playoffs Pacers.

And, well, that's what happened, with the Sixers getting a stop at the buzzer to win 93-92, which takes their record up to 7-29, pretty much insuring that (a) they aren't going to finish the year with the worst record in NBA history, and (b) they aren't even very likely to have the worst record in the NBA this year. Hell, they are already up to third worst, past New York and Minnesota, with the next tier of stank being the Lakers, Jazz, Magic and Celtics, and with the C's shipping Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo out of town, I don't doubt that they are going to pass a few more clubs, maybe even soon.

This is, of course, a mixed bag for Sixer fans, who have been on board with the teardown, while still taking what enjoyment they can from the talent that's here. And, well, the talent that's here is starting to get adorable. PG2 Tony Wroten, possibly the next to leave if you believe the rumors that the Clippers want him and will pay a reasonable price for a guy who came here for next to nothing, was particularly crazy tonight, finishing with 20-4-9, and the fact that he went 6 for 17 with 4 turnovers doesn't really tell you how he played. Rather, it was the fourth quarter, with the Sixers starting to get some distance and Wroten making speed plays against tired legs, when the young man decided that a 5-point lead with 5 minutes to play was as close to an All-Star Game as he was going to get, so it was time for Globetrottery.

Wroten stole the ball from Pacer PG2/3 Donald Sloan, and found himself in the open court with high-flying wing rookie KJ McDaniels trailing. McD, for those of you who haven't seen him play, is a highlight film guy, with blocks, dunks, threes and very little else connecting his game. Wroten then decided, with a filled house and the sense that Indy was just too tired to mind more than a little clowning, to toss it off the backboard so that McDaniels could throw it down. You can see it here.

It was the kind of play you do with two minutes left and a 20-point lead, not five and seven, but its not as if the Sixers are ever going to have that situation, so Let Tony Be Tony. Not surprisingly, the Pacers soon brought back their starters, and with power forward David West having his best game of the year, they whittled the game back down to single possession status.

But the Sixers didn't fold their tent in the face of veteran adversity. In the last two minutes of the game, there were five consecutive lead changes. West got a board and scored on a jump hook to make it 88-87. Wroten went to the rack, because that's something he can seemingly do at will, for good or ill, and got another one to go. The teams traded misses, then Pacers C Roy Hibbert got an o-board and lay up. Big Shot Bob Covington put the Sixers back up with a circus runner after getting chased off a three. West went baseline and got the jumper to go, then blocked Covington in the lane, only to see it go to Sixers PG Michael Carter-Williams, who snaked in a layup for the lead again, this time with 9.9 to go. On the Pacers final possession, they had to settle for a highly contested jumper from West due to top line defensive pressure, and when it stayed out, it was Dance Party time in Philly, as the cheerleaders took the floor and several Sixers shook along with them.

Will it continue? Not at all. Atlanta, best in the East and hot enough to even handle the West, are next on the calendar, and they are likely to rule from the three point arc and have more than enough margin to cover the plucky upstarts. But the encouraging thing is just how many guys are buying into playing the kind of defense that this kind of team can play -- hyper-athletic and all over the floor. Against Hibbert and West, a powerful and crafty pair of bigs that are the kind of players that used to turn them into mulch, they blocked a dozen shots, a season high against Indy. The turnovers and missed free throws are going to stay, but I've seen Sixer teams that were less entertaining. Many, actually.

They are young, fit, work like dogs, and are starting to really attract a crowd for the way they play. It's a long way from good, but not far away at all from fun. And against an increasing number of opponents, they are going to be a handful.

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