By Sean Kennedy
The trade deadline has come and gone, and while most fans are excited about the future of the franchise after Sam Hinkie’s flurry of moves, there are still 20-something games left to be played in the present. With future second-round picks not actually being physical entities capable of taking the court, the Sixers only had 8 players available for last night’s game against the Mavericks. Given the circumstances, the team put forth a spirited effort, but playing shorthanded and undersized, they understandably ran out of gas down the stretch. The Sixers closed the deficit to 4 in the third quarter but that was as close as they would get, suffering their 10th straight loss in a 124-112 defeat to Dallas.
Even with a full squad, the Sixers might not have had a chance the way Dirk Nowitzki was shooting the ball. Always a tough matchup for Thad Young given the 4-inch height advantage, the future hall-of-famer hit 9 of his first 10 shots on the night, including a back-breaking three at the buzzer of the third quarter that seemed to visibly deflate Philadelphia. Nowitzki finished with 5 made threes for 25 points in just 27 minutes of play. With literally the only big men suited up for the Sixers being Young and Arnett Moultrie, neither of whom are considered shot-blocking threats, Dallas also felt free to take the ball to the hole on the interior. Shawn Marion and reserve DeJuan Blair were the biggest beneficiaries down low, as the two combined for 40 points on 18-23 shooting.
Still, as I mentioned, it was largely a positive outing for the Sixers. Thad Young definitely looked to be pressing in the early going, as he turned the ball over 3 times in the first three minutes of the game. However, he eventually settled into his new role as focal point of the offense, finishing with a stuffed stat line of 30 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7 steals. Young put the ball up 29 times, easily topping his previous career-high of 24 shot attempts in a game. The points and rebounds tied season-highs and the 6 assists were a career-high as well for Young; it seems clear that we can expect plenty of more action from the lone player remaining from Philadelphia’s last playoff run.
Despite the short bench, Brett Brown employed the full-court pressure for large portions of the game, and it worked for a change. The Sixers forced a bushel of steals in the second quarter, as they cut the Dallas lead from as much as 22 points down to 5 in the first half. 17 Dallas turnovers in the first half were the biggest reason the Sixers were hanging around, as a number of young guys stepped up with their increased roles.
The biggest shift in role was probably felt by Elliot Williams, who received the start in place of the departed Evan Turner. Williams had a couple nice forays to the rim and made a few nice passes in transition, one a full-court outlet to Lorenzo Brown for a lay-up, and another a perfect alley-oop feed to Tony Wroten that got the crowd off its feet.
Speaking of Wroten, he and Michael Carter-Williams were basically the sole ball-handlers for the Sixers with Turner’s gargantuan usage rate out the door, and both young guards thrived. Wroten lived up to his wrecking ball nickname, attacking the rim with reckless abandon on his way to 21 points. He did commit 5 turnovers and could have easily been called for a couple more charging fouls, but a 9-13 performance at the foul line is a much-needed aspect of the game for a Sixers team that struggles to get to the charity stripe. MCW played a more controlled outing, finishing with 25 points and 6 assists against just 2 turnovers. Carter-Williams had a couple gorgeous circus-shot finishes at the rim and hit a few mid-range jumpers as well. Both guards recognized that Dallas is not a stout defensive squad themselves, and put pressure on the Mavericks accordingly.
- Sam Hinkie joined the guys in the booth for nearly the entire first quarter. Aside from the fact that it was an interesting discussion about the organization’s thinking behind all the recent trades, it was a pretty calculating move by Hinkie. Not only did it reiterate all the benefits of the moves to fans at home that might have been upset about the team getting rid of 2 of their 4 best players, but the in-booth interview served as a distraction to Dallas scoring 41 points in the first quarter on 77% shooting. Hey guys, don’t worry about Nowitzki hitting yet another three, just think about the second-round draft picks we’ll have this summer.
- Part of me feels scared for Molly Sullivan whenever she goes into the crowd for the Zoo’s Crew guys. On both occasions, the Crew has consisted of mostly a bunch of drunk middle-aged guys yelling non-sensical things like ‘Tearin’ it Up’. Dude, you’re sitting in a sparsely populated Wells Fargo Center, nothing is being torn up. She gamely tries to ask people questions about their thoughts on the future of the franchise but the atmosphere is more Eagles tailgate than philosophical salon. I certainly wouldn’t mind if this segment was canned when the next Zoo’s Crew night rolls around. Save Molly!
Although it was yet another game along this long string of losses for Philadelphia, it was a much more spirited effort than some of the blowouts we’ve been forced to watch lately. The team seemed to take solace in the distraction of the trade deadline finally being behind them and the young guys played with a care-free abandon that made for fun viewing, even if it wasn’t the best basketball being played. I like that MCW and Wroten have the ball in their hands even more with Turner gone and guys like Elliot Williams making the most of an increased opportunity. I look forward to seeing what guys like Sims and Maynor can add to the big when the Sixers are playing with a full deck in the next game. 4/5 tanks