Sam, is that you ????
Posted by Ricky - Sixers4guidos on February 7, 2009
Few hours after Sixers learned that Elton Brand would have been out for the season with the shoulder injury, the often criticized (also here, of course) Sam Dalembert picked up the slack and pulled out a monster performance in Sixers’ 99-94 W over Indiana (24-24, .500).
Sixers desperately needed this game, coming off a memorable fourth quarter (offensive) collapse versus the Nets and the hearbreaking last second loss against the reigning champs, Boston f’n Celtics.
They needed a total team effort and a great night from another whipping boy, Willie Green, and the two Andres to avoid another late comeback by their opponent. It was a fun game, in which both teams saw pretty big leads evaporate.
Since this recap comes one day late, I won’t go with the quarter-by-quarter analysis, instead I will try to focus on some facts that I found interesting.
Indiana (the team) has a hole in the paint just as big as Indiana (the State). Dalembert dominated for the whole game on both ends of the floor: he had 7 rebounds in the first quarter alone and could have ended with 20+20 had he not missed a couple of layups and putbacks under or just around the basket.
Ok, not so difficult to do when you face Foster, Nesterovic and Hibbert, but still Sam was a presence like he should always be, and changed the game.
His 6/6 from the line has to be underlined also, Sam is usually a pretty good free throw shooter (around 70% over the last years) but this season he has rarely been involved much offensively and his pctg from the line decreased a little bit, also because the number of attempts has been significantly reduced. Clearly, he found his rhythm last night.
Sam’s rebounds started a lot of fastbreaks, and we could score many easy points in transition. Speaking of first quarter nice stats, Andre Miller had seven dimes in the period, and Sixers knocked down nine of their first eleven shots (23-14).
Willie Green was extremely comfortable in this kind of running basketball, but actually saved his best for the third period, in which he scored eleven points, many of them in the paint (!), taking advantage of the size edge over Ford and of Pacers’ forgettable defence.
He was so hot that Di Leo let him on the court also in the fourth quarter, something we seldom see, and Green rewarded him with a big basket that put the Sixers up four (93-89).
On the following offensive possession, Iguodala fed Dalembert for an alley oop, and the ensuing 96-91 resulted being decisive. Andre played like an all star last night, and had other clutch plays, like an offensive rebounds off a miss by Green and two free throws to seal the game (98-91).
His stat line speaks for itself, and consider that a couple of his misses came from outside shot bricked: Pacers simply couldn’t guard him.
Evans, Ivey and, to a lesser extent, Lou Williams did their usual job, while Speights is now slumping a little bit, but nothing to be worried for. With Brand out, he will find more minutes and chances to continue in his impressive growth.
Because this is the point: what will happen now that Elton is done? I obviously feel sorry for him, and won’t join any “Brand bashers” group (a lot of them lately…). I don’t think he is/was a bust, or that he can’t/couldn’t fit in Sixers’ system. My opinion is we don’t have sufficient elements to judge him as a Sixer.
Of course he underperformed with Cheeks, but I would say that the same happened to a lot of players at the beginning of the season (remember Iguodala’s horrible start, Miller trying to be Iverson and taking 20 shots per game, Lou Williams’ awful stretch etc…). It was the chemistry lacking, and all the ingredients looked a bad fit in that “cocktail”.
Then he got injured, there was the coach change, and the team found a “new” identity without him, an effective one. Then he got back had some good flashes, a couple of bad nights and got injured again. What conclusion can you draw? I can’t come to any.
I think Brand is an excellent player that will eventually find his role in Philly. I mean, it can’t get any worse.
Let’s try to see the positive side(s) of this. There are several ones.
First off, there will be no more “what will Brand’s role be” discussions. Thad will start at PF until the end of the season, Green (sadly, LOL) will keep the starting SG spot and Sixers will stick with this lineup for the remaining part of the year – unless some trades will be made, of course.
(Just to make it clear one more time: I hope Miller WILL NOT BE TRADED. In fact I would like to extend him for another couple of years, at a reasonable price).
I am more than ok with the “old/new” line up, it already showed it can work well last year. But this time we have also a Marreese Speights coming off the bench, not only Reggie Evans (+ Jason Smith), and add even good ole Theo Ratliff to provide even more depth in the frontcourt. I think we can still reach a 5th-6th seed in the East with THIS, Brand-less roster.
And, of course, if Dalembert and Iguodala continue to play like this, we could be even better.
The upcoming game vs Miami, our rival for a playoffs spot, will tell us something more. Go Sixers, good luck Elton.