This instant recap of the Sixers huge win in Orlando comes from Andrew Unterberger.
Say what you will about the Sixers, they know how to follow a script.
Stop me when this sounds familiar: The Sixers, down double digits in
the second half of the first round's game one, start to rally back just
as it seems the game's getting out of reach, and crawl ahead in the
final minute to stun the home court and pull off the upset. But as
amazing as their win was to start the playoffs last year in Detroit,
the finish to this one took it to a whole new level. Down 18 with just
a minute left in the third, it looked for sure like this thing was
over--the Magic were hitting from all over, the Sixers looked
completely directionless (and went five and a half minutes without a
field goal), and you could just sense that the Magic had gotten the
better of the Sixers this time out. My Sixers insecurity complex kicked
in full throttle as I pictured sportswriters/broadcasters/naysayers around the country chuckling to themselves and exclaiming "How the hell did this team ever get to the sixth seed?" Worse, I thought they might have had a point.
But then a couple buckets to close out the third left it a 14-point
lead, and the Sixers begin to chip away. Royal Ivey and Lou Williams
both hit threes, and as he always seems to when the Sixers are making a
fourth-quarter run, Donyell Marshall poured in a couple more. A Sweet
Lou three-point play cut it to two, and eventually Andre Iguodala was
at the free-throw line with a one-point deficit and a minute to go.
When he bricked both, and Dwight Howard posterized Theo Ratliff at the
other end to make it a three-point game, it was time to break out the
concessions--"well, at least they didn't give up," "well, if so and so
had gone different," etc. But then a third Donny three to tie it up, a
stop at the other end, and suddenly the opportunity was there to walk
away with the win. With three seconds to go in the game, Andre "I Won't
Call You Iggy Ever Again After This" Iguodala stepped back at the top
of the key, fired a fadeaway jumper over Hedo Turkoglu...and buried it.
Hedo put up a desperation heave well behind the arc as the game ended,
but it was way off. Final Score: Philadelphia 100, Orlando 98.
The thing I didn't even realize until watching Iguodala's
game-winner for the fifth or sixth time was how immaculately it was
defended. Andre tried to do his trademark swoop-and-pull move on
Turkoglu twice to get separation, and neither time bought him an inch.
When the shot actually went up, Turkoglu's hand was so far into Iggy's
face that he could probably smell the Cheetos that Hedo was eating
during the last quarter break. The shot simply could not have been
defended any better without Turkoglu actually grabbing the ball out of
Iguodala's hands, and he drilled it anyway. It was the kind of shot
usually reserved for guys who wear numbers like 23 and 24. Good thing,
too, because those missed free throws could've haunted Andre's
clutchness rep for some time to come. Now I doubt anyone will even
remember them by the time the next SportsCenter airs.
It was such an unbelievably satisfying win--vengeance for Rashard
Lewis's last-minute game-winner earlier in the season, if nothing
else--that it's important that we not start trying to read too much
into it. Yes, what the Sixers did tonight was phenomenal, but if you'll
remember, that Detroit series didn't end up finishing so hot, and
Orlando still proved tonight why they are such a dangerous team. I've
never given Dwight Howard the same credit that others have because I
thought his game was still shallow--he was never really dominant in the
interior, he missed a lot of key free throws, and he got in foul
trouble too early, too often. Well, if there was a flaw to be found in
D-12's game tonight, I couldn't see it--he was absolutely sick on both
ends, denying the Sixers anything easy in the paint, and abusing
Ratliff and Dalembert offensively in the post. In the third quarter,
his unstoppable offense got the team's wings all the open shots they
could handle, and they took advantage, to say the least. The really
scary thing is that Theo and Sammy both actually played Howard fairly
well--there was just no stopping Superman II tonight, on his way to 31
points (11-13 FG and a stunning 9-12 FT), 15 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Whether this was a fluky strong performance or the start of Howard
taking his game to that next level remains to be seen, but for the
first time that I've actually witnessed, he looked like an MVP tonight.
Wherever the series goes from here--and you're absolutely nuts if
you don't stick around to see it for yourself at this point--this game
illustrates why, in my opinion, making it to the post-season at all
costs is so important. You never know when your team is going to go out
and, when you least expect it, turn a game into an absolute
classic--the kind of game that takes second-tier, relatively unknown
young talents like Iguodala and turns them into the stars of tomorrow.
Even if the team doesn't end up advancing, it's just not right to rob
your team and fanbase of potential to make memories like that.
Oh, and I've decided that at this point, after keying a fourth
fourth-quarter game-winning resurgence for the Sixers, Donyell Marshall
absolutely must have a nickname, or at the very least some sort of lame
Chris Berman-ism. So far, I've come up with the following
1. Dagger Donny
2. The Marshall Plan
3. He Is Marshall
4. The Secret Weapon
5. The Amplifier
Votes and other nominations are welcome and encouraged.