Yeah the Pistons are more talented, more experienced, and on their home court. Yeah the Sixers — based on their roster — have absolutely no right to be where they are right now. Yeah every expert on God’s green earth picked the Pistons to roll in this series, and we’d have been hard-pressed to see it otherwise.
But isn’t that why we watch?
The Sixers reminded us of that fact on Sunday night, beating the Pistons at their own game on their own court. The 90-86 win displayed everything we’ve come to love about this Sixer team: fast breaks, stellar 4th quarter D, and an unlikely hero. Tonight it was Reggie Evans, who chipped in with 11 points and 14 boards in 32 minutes off the bench.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, of course. It’s one game, and there’s always the fear that this game will awaken the mighty Pistons from their slumber. But the Sixers took Detroit’s best shot tonight, found themselves down by 15 midway through the 3rd quarter, and rallied to make the key defensive stops and free throws they needed down the stretch.
That’s one down, three to go. But if the Sixers are really going to pull this off, a couple of things have to happen:
- The perimeter D has to keep it up. As the announcers constantly remind us, the Sixers are the worst 3-point shooting team in basketball, while 4 of the Pistons’ starting 5 can knock down the trey. If Philly can limit Detroit to anything like the 4-12 deep shooting like they did tonight, then they might be able to do this.
- Run, run, and run some more. A 16-12 fast break point advantage is good, but the Sixers’ odds will get a lot better the more that advantage improves. If Flip Saunders refuses to use the “Zoo Squad” that acquitted themselves so well down the stretch (with the exception of Jason Maxiell, who played 30 effective minutes tonight), then run those old starters (average age: 31) into the ground.
- Andre Iguodala has to start making his legend. We’ve heard it all: Iguodala’s not a franchise player, he’s “a quality supporting guy forced to become ‘The Guy’ on a lottery team” (Simmons just last December), the Sixers will never go anywhere while he’s the best player on the roster, etc. He stuffed the stat sheet with 16, 9 boards and 8 dimes tonight, and he’s got to do that and more if the Sixers are going to pull this off. Andre Miller is important, Samuel Dalembert is important, but if the Sixers win this series, it’ll be because Iguodala put the team on his back and carried them to the second round.
Game 2 is on Wednesday, and if you’re near a computer while you’re watching the game, I highly recommend taking part in Depressed Fan’s Live Blog (no matter what Rick Reilly says about live blogs).