The Sixers Renaissance
BEAT L-A! BEAT L-A! BEAT L-A!
It’s such a simple concept: Beat the Los Angeles Lakers. But, it’s a plan the Sixers haven’t executed successfully in recent years. It had been three years since the Sixers beat the Lakers—on Iggy’s buzzer-beater in 2009—and the Lakers hadn’t lost a game in Philadelphia in half a decade. But, hopes were high because these were the new Sixers and the Lakers had lost some of their luster this year.
Then, Kobe Bryant came out and dropped 24 points in the first half. The Lakers dominated the glass and the Sixers were pulling out all the stops to stay relevant as another installment of the Kobe Bryant Show seemed increasingly likely. It looked like the result would be the same as it ever was. But, this time Doug Collins and company kept fighting. The Sixers coach drew up a double-team scheme that helped hold Kobe to four points in the second half. Andre Iguodala manned up on the superstar down the stretch and forced Kobe into multiple contested, desperation shots that clanked off the rim.
And Lou Williams took this game over. In the waning moments of regulation, Williams scored nine consecutive points for the Sixers including a clutch three-pointer and a gorgeous floater on the team’s next possession. The Sixers were playing from behind for almost the entire game. The Lakers were out-rebounding the home squad 52-24 when the Sixers made their move in the fourth quarter.
Kobe was whistled for an offensive foul when he created separation with his elbow just before Lou Williams nailed that big trey. As he tilted his he’s back in disbelief, an old dude kneeling court side popped up and told Kobe where I go. With a flurry of finger pointing this Col. Sanders-looking guy announced the arrival of the one thing the Sixers have lacked this season: swagger.
Lou Williams came down and hit that three and then the dagger floater. Suddenly, the crowd was belting “Beat L-A” and Lakers fans were heckled as they made for the exits a little early. After the game, Andre Iguodala kept the pace by taking a shot at Kobe’s age saying, “He’s aging a little bit, so something told me that it would be hard for him to keep the pace.”
This team is 18-7. They just went 4-1 on a against the Magic, Bulls, Heat, Hawks and Lakers. They’re on pace to break a league record for fewest turnovers and their leading scorer is eighth on the team in minutes. They hustle, play tough defense, play selfless offense, and, last night, incorporated the attitude they need to have an impact in the post season.
The Sixers don’t have a 40-point scorer or a hands-down all-star starter, but other teams do not want to play a team this fundamentally sound in a seven-game series. Especially if South Philly will be rockin’ the way it was last night.
This team has been winning and the city has been paying more attention than usual. But last night was the official coming out party. It capped off a week that proved to everyone they can shut down elite scorers, compete with quality teams, and make opposing fans head for the exits before buzzer sounds and the confetti flies. Look out Eastern Conference, Philadelphia is in the midst of a basketball renaissance.