We’ve given you a bunch of exciting reports from NBA games over the past few weeks, whether it was Lang from the Nets-Suns Double OT Classic, Cub from Denver in a high-scoring weekend thriller, Appleson and one of their comedy pieces on the ineptitude of the Knicks, and so on. This Blazers-Sixers game was not as entertaining. The final score was 81-79, and that doesn’t begin to describe how bad the offense was from these two teams. But the game was secondary.
I was in Philly, at the Sixers game, on the night where the collective media and fans were waiting for the Iverson announcement. WWBKD? What will Billy King do?
Pre-game I tried to do some investigative journalism. Talked to some administrative types with both teams to gage what’s going on. Either nobody knew anything, they were afraid of snitching, or I just didn’t push hard enough. So, I started irresponsibly putting the rumor out there myself. Iverson to the Magic for Grant Hill, Jameer Nelson, and a little bit more. It makes sense. Jameer goes back to his college town, the Magic still have Arroyo to back up A.I. and Dwight Howard doesn’t have to worry about developing post moves as he scores 25 ppg just cleaning up Allen’s misses.
Then at some point during the game, I read Lang’s SI column about how Iverson going to the Knicks is the perfect trade. I would love that even more. I went to both locker rooms before the game. I talked to LaMarcus Aldridge about Kevin Durant. He says that Kevin is better now than he was as a freshman, and that Kevin should definitley go #2 in the draft behind Oden. We talked about how sick Vince Young is too. A lot of pride coming out of UT these days. I can’t wait for “We Are Marshall” to hit theaters to bring them back down to earth, when they have to disown Matty McArmstrong.
I told the Blazers about the new ball decision, and my tape recorder happened to be running Here’s the wiretap:
As you can tell, they were excited, especially Z-Bo. One guy that actually likes the new ball more: Jarrett Jack. He said “Don’t by all these excuses from these old dudes.” I asked him if he was just saying that because he was playing so well with it. He kind of snapped at me “What the hell kind of question was that?” Hey man. I was complimenting you.
The Sixers locker room was, as you might expect, really depressing. Iverson’s locker was cleaned out with nothing but a white bathrobe remaning. His nameplate was missing. I don’t want to push this metaphor too far, but it was like a funeral. There was an unopened PS3 in the box sitting in Iguodala’s locker. That was the most uplifting sight in there.
Gametime. No Iverson. The Wachovia center was like an open casket. Looked like 30% attendance.
Iguodala starts the game with a fast break dunk. The crowd started warming up.
And before you know it, that’s Philly’s only points and they’re down 10-2. Mo Cheeks needs an early timeout, and the boos rain down. They would have been louder, but nobody’s here.
Chris Webber tries to wake everyone up by dunking on Ghostface Pryzbilla. It doesn’t go down. Stay away from Ghostface please.
A fan heckles Zach Randolph, he listens intently and shrugs while staring at the fan. He goes to the bench at the end of the first with 7 and 5. Was that the fastest quarter of basketball you’ve ever read about? It’s for your own good. I’m sparing you.
There’s a Billy Joel has a banner hangin here. 46 sell outs. Make that 47. I thought you were in a New York State of Mind, Billy! This game is more depressing than the customers lives in Piano Man.
2nd quarter, Travis Outlaw goes to what looks like his pet move; blowing by someone on the baseline and trying to dunk on 4 people with 2 hands. It works this time.
LaMarcus travels the first time he gets ball. Shuffles his feet before a wing jumper. But then he deflects a pass, hustles to the hoop, beating everyone down the floor. The Philly scout to my left shakes his head and mutters “They didn’t even try to get back.”
Jamaal Magloire backs in, backs in, finds Aldridge cutting for the dunk and foul. It’s 30-17 Portland about halfway through the 2nd.
Webber blows by Zach, who falls down in slow motion. Gets up and acts like the floor had a wet spot. After the game I asked Z-Bo about that play, and he said “I thought a sniper might have got me.” I think he was joking, but you can’t be sure. He picked up his third foul with 5 minutes left in the half.
Kyle Korver gets the ball, and aggressively takes it along the baseline into Magloire’s chest for the layup. One player I left this game impressed by was Kyle. He’s more than just a shooter.
Louis Williams in for Philly with a little more than a minute left in half. He’s TINY. Monta Ellis would tower over him. Jarret Jack does.
A fan yells out “HEY BILLY KING… YOU F–KING F–K!!!” or something like that. People cheer. Love that Philadelphia passion.
The half ends with Iguodala attacking Outlaw and picking up some free throws. Ends the half with 17 on 6 of 7 shooting, some of those were jumpers and plays that ran through him. You didn’t see that back when Allen Iverson played for the 76ers. The halftime score is 43-37 Blazers. Great. Outlaw and Zach lead Portland with 7 each.
John Barr and and an ESPN camera crew were hanging around in the press room at halftime, waiting to break trade news I suppose. The press core ravaged the snacks provided. Popcorn, chips, pretzels. I would have loved to have some of any of that. Animals.
The second half begins with a quick spurt from Philly. Portland has Udoka taking on 3 guys at a time going to the basket. Zach picks up his fourth foul with 9 minutes left in third, and he still has 7 points.
The “late arriving” crowd is maybe 50% full and I’m being kind.
Webber drives the lane, throws hook shot lob to Dalembert for the dunk. That was off of Iggy and Webber playing the two man game. The Sixers start hustling with the remaining A.I. (Anrde Iguodala if I really have to spell it out for you) initiating everything.
Magloire picks up his 4th foul with 5:44 left in the quarter. Lineup of Udoka, Jack, Dixon, Lafrentz, and Magloire with 4 fouls. This game is stinky.
Lots of ball movement for Portland and nothing happens. A 24 second violation. They really can’t score without Zach or the occasional Dixon or Jarret Jack toss up. The Blazers have no gameplan without Zack. They need an offensive co-ordinatoe or something. Webber rips Outlaw who tried another baseline banger on 7 Sixers. It leads to a break the other way. The quarter ends with a deflection and layup by Dixon on another breakaway. After 3 quarters it’s 61-57 Philly. Should I even be writing about this game? I have to pat myself on the back for breezing through 3 quarters of basketball like this. To the fourth.
Zach is back in. So he backs in, backs in, tosses a floater in over Steven Hunter. He’s got old man moves. Covers a lot of ground with his post-up dribble.
Korver has Disaster Dickau on him in the post. He calls for ball three separate times, after he keeps getting it, kicking it out and getting it back. Misses the shot. I can’t believe I’m at an NBA game with Kyle Korver and Dan Dickau playing late 90’s post-up one-on-one basketball.
And speaking of the one-on-one basketball the NBA has been trying to get rid of, Willie Green pulls off a double cross over, breaking his man’s ankles. The crowd goes “oooooooooooooooh.” He misses the jumper by a foot. A.I. didn’t miss when he did that to Jordan.
With the Sixers paying extra attention to Zach, Jarret Jack gets an open look and knocks it down. With Brandon Roy out, he’s their second scoring option. Jarrett Jack. You know what that means? The Blazers could very possibly have a Texas twosome of Aldridge and Durant next year.
Korver runs the baseline, gets a look at the three, but instead he finds Alan Henderson wide open underneath for the layup. Kyle Korver is a pretty good offensive player.
Zach loses the handle on a post feed. Philly turns it over even worse.
Zach has Webber on him, doesn’t attack. Throws terrible pass that’s picked off. Leads to an Alan Henderson putback And-1 after a miss by Korver.
Zach is doubled by Henderson and Webber, tries to pass and gets it knocked away. It leads to break, Webber to Iguodala for the dunk. Z-Bo has been working on pasing out of those double teams, but his passing is still pretty terrible. He’s got a lower completion percentage on his passes than Eli Manning.
Korver is always pumping up the team after plays. Philly fans, you could do worse than starting out with Iguodala and Korver. Oh, and Samuel Dalembert is still around. I haven’t mentioned him yet, have I? He might have been one of the guys that didn’t get back on the Aldridge lay-up earlier.
The crowd is not lively. The Sixers mascot “Hip Hop” the rabbit is responsible for 95% of the noise here.
Iggy takes a long foray from the left elbow through lane to the hoop with a nice cradle dunk. He would finish with 27 points.
Alan Henderson. All energy. He might win this game for the Sixers.
And then Juan Dixon pump fakes a three, gets to hoop for the floater, and we have a TIE. 76-76 with 1:13 left.
Dear God, please do not let there be overtime. Your pal, S dot Rubenstein.
I don’t want to talk about the Sixers possession. It involved a shot for Kevin Ollie and a few missed putbacks. Timeout Blazers. 52.2 left.
Dixon takes the shot for Portland. Zach fights for a BIG rebound. Gets fouled going back up. His 10th board. MIsses first FT. Good, less of a chance of OT. Hits the second one. 34.4 left, Blazers up 77-76.
Uh… yeah. Anyways, the sixers don’t score. A turnover was involved. I think. It was an ugly play wither way. Dixon hits 2 free throws to make it 79-76 Portland.
Webber is left all alone, nobody within 5 feet of him for the tying three. Blazers put so much attention on Korver, Webber just slipped out and hit it. Huge shot. If this were the playoffs it would be a great basketball moment. Trust me though, these are not the playoffs.
Tie game 13.4 left. The hundreds of fans here go crazy.
Zach gets the ball about 18 feet away from the basket, attacks before the double team comes. Maybe they weren’t going to double unless he got to the post. At any rate, he goes right at Alan Henderson and scores the winning layup. Iguodala gets the ball upcourt in 2 seconds and chucks up a semi-prayer that doesn’t go in. If Philly’s heart is still beating, this was a heartbreaking loss. Zach Randolph only scored 18 and was limited to 28 minutes cause of foul trouble. He still won the game for his team. Kind of bizarro world Blazers. Usually he has tremendous numbers and they lose.
Postgame. The Philly locker room was a media swarm. Chris Webber had his trademark smile on while everyone asked him questions basically trying to get him to break down and cry. Iverson is not on the team, or any team right now. I learned nothing more about where he’s going or what Philly is getting back. You can feel the cloud of doom hanging over this franchise.
Potland’s locker room was much happier. Do what you will with this information: Dickau is wearing a nearly identical sweater to mine. I don’t know which one of us is supposed to be embarrased. Martell Webster had one of those skeleton sweatshirts in his locker. Scary.
I got out of there, and had to do some running through the parking lot to find a cab and make it to the hotel check-in deadline. Barely made it.