The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Indiana Pacers 109-106 in overtime to finally win their first game this year decided by 4 points or less. The win also marks the first time the Sixers have won an overtime game in three attempts.
Now, to the recap: there was so much that happened that it’ll be difficult to explain it all. There’s over 1,000 words to follow and I missed multiple things.
The game started out innocently enough. The Sixers jumped out to a 11 point lead at the end of the first quarter. Part of it was momentarily lazy defense from Indiana. Part was getting to the line early, which then became a trend later in the game. And part of it was just good shot-making. Of course, we knew in the back of our minds that the Sixers could easily surrender the lead; the question was when? And that was by the end of the first half, as a 16-2 run late in the quarter culminated with a 54-53 Pacers halftime lead. At this point, upon further review, the Sixers offense turned into the ball-stopping force that dropped the Sixers from, say, a 6-seed to an 8. Meanwhile, the Pacers made their fair share of tough shots. It goes both ways, like it always does in basketball.
The second half was a jolt of fun to watch, if you’re into games that tear at your heartstrings. The Sixers started off well enough, with Elton Brand torching the nets for jumper after jumper. These jumpers weren’t necessarily open, though; Brand just had it going for him. Meanwhile, the Pacers countered with Tyler Hansbrough, who the Sixers somehow could not stop. Some of it was the bold strategy of leaving him open for several jumpers. Strangely enough it didn’t pay off for us. And the rest was his ferocious offensive rebounding – the Sixers struggled to keep him or any other Pacer big off the boards, but his finishing stood out, especially early in the fourth.
Hansbrough wasn’t the only man playing with an edge. It seemed like everyone had something to prove. There was a lot of contact and fouling – note that there weren’t any late game free throws to pad the totals, there was just a lot of fouls during the course of the game. And for the Sixers, who never get fouled and don’t foul much, it was a welcome change of pace.
Anyway, down the stretch it was tense, but I had little hope for a win. Andre Iguodala missed two late free throws yet again. Execution was lacking. And this team hasn’t given us much hope in those situations in the past. So when we have the ball with 30 seconds left or so, I braced for the worst. As it turned out, with a chance to take a lead, Jrue Holiday pulled up for a 15 footer. It was blocked (he was fouled, but very lightly, and no referee would call that foul in that situation practically ever) and the Pacers got the ball back. The block/foul was a result of poor execution and spacing – the Sixers had every player at the foul line or lower, which made it easy for George Hill to contest the shot, dubiously or not.
Before we get to the end of regulation, an aside. The referees were all kinds of awful in this game. Their performance in the second half and overtime included several missed fouls on both ends (including one spectacular non-call on a blatant shove on the part of Lavoy Allen on Roy Hibbert), suspicious fouls on both ends, and two incorrect calls as to who had possession. Fortunately for the Sixers, the refs made the mistake in giving the Sixers the ball. If it weren’t for that, it’s likely the Sixers lose this game. Of course, then the referees went in the other direction in overtime, not keeping track of substitutions and royally screwing up the final 11 seconds for the Sixers and giving the Pacers every shot in the world to win the game in overtime.
Now, well another aside. Despite Iguodala’s ridiculous failings down the stretch at the free throw line, he proved last night why he’s the best perimeter defender in the NBA. He held Danny Granger to 2-12 from the floor, only 4 points. He was all arms and legs all over the place. Granger couldn’t free himself if his life depended on it. LeBron James is a more versatile defender, but I’m not sure even he could do what Iguodala did last night. Iguodala clearly outperformed their best player last night, something that should be noted when comparing each team’s best players.
The reason I brought up the Iggy-Granger thing is that, in the final seconds, the Pacers will usually go to Granger for the final shot. Last night they went to Paul George. Coach Frank Vogel must have felt he had a better chance to win with George taking the shot than Granger. George missed, so the game went into overtime.
Now, the Sixers didn’t execute well in overtime. It took two ridiculously bad shots by Lou Williams to go in to muster any offense. The first was the quick trigger three that netted us 4 points, the second was a contested shot off a screen which was a classic “no no no YES” shot. The offense late was still concerning to me – it’s fools gold, like the Laker game, because those shots are very low percentage in nature. However, I was impressed with the defense. David West (who played remarkably well, but as I said in the preview we might have had to live with that) hit two very tough, contested shots to keep the Pacers within range, but otherwise the Sixers practically shut them down.
Fast forward now, with about 17 seconds left and down 1, George Hill launched a 28 foot three (I have no idea why), the ball bounced the Sixers way, and Jrue Holiday received an uncontested dunk down the other end. The Sixers had the three point lead with a Pacers inbound on the way. Then the Pacers failed to inbound within 5 seconds. Yes, a 5 second violation. So the Sixers get the ball back and inbound to Evan Turner, who quite clearly was fouled from behind, then tied up by Hill. Of course, the refs screw it up and call a jump ball. Then Hill elbowed Turner on the jump. No call. Pacers ball, still down 3.
The Pacers inbound, and give it back to Granger this time, the guy who threw the inbounds pass and didn’t get the ball at the end of regulation. The Sixers switch on defense, and Thaddeus Young does a good job contesting Granger’s three. He misses, and the Sixers win. What a game. And at this point, I don’t care if it’s repeatable. We, the fans, needed it more than anything.
Also, I forgot to mention that, as he was leaving the court, Doug Collins was yelling “obscenities” at the officials. Sadly I don’t have video, but if I did it would be PG-13 at the least. Let’s say he wasn’t happy with how the last 11 seconds went down. Michael Curry probably failed in his quest to save Doug some cash. As I said at the beginning, this game had a lot going on. It was madness.