For a Sixers fan, this game couldn't have started off any better. Philly hit their first seven shots, while Dallas STARTED the game with a turnover and followed up with a few bad misses. Rick Carlisle stuck Dominique Jones and Jae Crowder into the starting lineup, apparently with the hopes that they would bring something defensively. Clearly that didn't go as planned. And to top it off, the only starter who seemed capable of finding any offense was Chris Kaman, who hit a few jump shots and backed into the paint to draw a foul.
Oddly enough, the players who sparked the offense with a changing of the guard in a timeout were Vince Carter and Darren Collison. Carter walked in and hit a three pointer, and Collison completed two gorgeous assists- the first, an angled lob to Shawn Marion for the alley-oop, the second a perfectly-timed bounce pass to Elton Brand. The Mavericks went on a scoring run, forcing the Sixers to take a time out after a nasty/vintage Carter put-back off a Brand miss. Probably my favorite part of the first quarter, however, was when Darren Collison took a jumper, missed it, but stuck with the ball and forced a turnover that resulted in an easy bucket for himself.
The second quarter began much as the first ended. Brand made his way to the line a few times and thanks to his training at the Duke University School of Free Throws, he dropped them in with ease. Carter made another heads-up play when Troy Murphy missed a three by catching the air ball and putting it in himself. You know what? Let's pretend it was a Murphy pass to Carter for the easy bucket. Let's go with that. There were a few nice examples of the kind of ball movement that comes with trust, specifically a fast break off a turnover where Dominique Jones took the ball up, kicked it ahead to Jae Crowder who dropped it off underneath to Dahntay Jones for the score. Extra passes equaling points.
Collison was a highlight in the second quarter, playing MUCH improved defense, grabbing four steals (his career high is five) and forcing numerous other turnovers. He looked to be playing with a different kind of energy and a little more confidence than we've seen in the past few games. The team as a whole looked considerably more energetic, and it showed on the score board. They forced nine turnovers that led to 19 Dallas points, and they spent more time in the paint, scoring 28 of their 56 points down low. One of the players racking up those points was Brand, who showed signs of life we haven't yet seen this season. He surpassed his previous season high (11 points) in the first half with 12.
Dallas looked out of sorts coming out of halftime. They gave Philly back the lead temporarily, but Kaman kept up his energy and dropped an and-one to tie it back up. The crowd then collectively held their breath and booed in unison as DoJo went up for a dunk, missed, and drew the foul on Thaddeus Young. To be fair, it was all ball, and none of us who know Jones thought he would actually convert. A couple of timely baskets from Crowder and Marion kept a small cushion on the lead despite some unnecessary fouls from the Mavericks.
With just under four minutes to play in the third, the Sixers snuck back into the lead on an Evan Turner baseline jumper. O.J. Mayo, previously invisible in this game, then made a driving layup out of a timeout to tie things back up again. One of those seesaw games, guys. There were a few head scratchers thrown in for good measure, including a blown fast break from DoJo (again) and a disgusting air ball three from Troy Murphy (whose only job is to shoot threes?). The final seconds were stolen by Darren Collison, who hoisted a three as time expired to give the Mavericks back their lead. Sad story though, it didn't count despite the fact that the clock went from .2 to .9 to .8 to 0. So uh, yeah.
The fourth quarter gave Collison a chance for redemption, thankfully. He began with a long two and then dropped another one off to tie things back up. After a few lead changes, the Sixers went on a twelve-oh run and took the lead off of eleventy billion Collison turnovers. Literally SIX STRAIGHT TURNOVERS (from the team). They went a full four minutes without even attempting a basket. Pretty sure that's never happened ever. Finally, with five minutes left in the game, Vince Carter hit a three and stemmed the bleeding. A timely three from previously-absent Mayo brought the score to within five, a totally surmountable deficit. For a team that isn't falling apart at the seams, that is.
Dallas managed a few more turnovers and hair-pulling moments, but then something strange happened. Vince Carter pulled up for a three about 4 feet behind the arc, and hit it, making it a four point game. Then they got the ball back and Carter made some nifty spin move after an offensive rebound, draining a deuce and making it a one-possession game. They made a stop on the defensive end and called a timeout. With 17.4 seconds left, they inbounded the ball and Mayo drew the foul with 2.7 seconds on the clock. He missed the first, then intentionally missed the second. Jae Crowder took an excellent shot off the rebound that just barely didn't go down. A heartbreaker at the end, the Mavs fell to the Sixers,100-98.
Now for some bullets:
- Dominique Jones continues to baffle as a finisher who can't finish. He blew multiple fast break layup and dunk opportunities, and despite drawing fouls on some of them, makes me shake my head vigorously.
- Mavericks committed their first personal foul at 9:51 in the SECOND QUARTER, but then finished with 22 in the game. 18 of those came in that second quarter, giving Philly plenty of free chances to keep it close.
- Elton Brand showed some extra hustle that we haven't seen yet, getting put backs, drawing fouls, blocking shots, and scoring season-high 17 (and pulling in eight rebounds) in his homecoming to Philadelphia.
- Shawn Marion quietly scored a season-high 17 points and also pulled in eight rebounds with zero turnovers. He continues to anchor the team in the absence of Dirk Nowitzki but doesn't get nearly the recognition he deserves. Except from us here at Mavs Moneyball.
- OJ Mayo disappeared again. He scored eleven points. After so many consecutive 20+ point games, it's hard to watch him struggle on the offensive end. He did dish out seven assists, so that certainly helped.
- Collison had such great moments, and then became a sieve with the basketball. His five steals were negated by his four turnovers. Twelve points and six assists would be respectable for a backup point guard (remember, he didn't start tonight) but his line was disrupted by those TOs.
- Chris Kaman had a team-high twenty points, which would be AWESOME, except he also had three turnovers and just four rebounds. That's not what a center's stat line should read at the end of a game.