Live from the scene of the crime in Philly

by April 15, 2008

By Michael Tillery

Most who know me personally know I’m a Sixers fan. You know of the Doc blood and Moses/Wilt/Toney/Cheeks love that runs deep, deep, deep but I’ve learned this year to be ease back and report on the game objectively…

Yeah right. Who am I foolin’? Not after this game. This was foul.

The Sixers were robbed last night and I’m still wondering why. I say so as a basketball fan, not a Sixers fan.

The Sixers played flat. It’s as simple as that. In fact, they’ve played flat for at least 5 games now. They were down by 12 in the fourth, but on fan appreciation night, you could sense a loyal fan presence that would help them get back in the game.

Louis Williams is beginning to show the game of basketball what it already knew..he is the truth. The Sixers would be very smart in resigning Lou come July because he just has it. That “it” is the threat of super stardom glimpses even though he’s still a kid in the game. He runs off points like Iverson did for so many years here and it’s going to be nice to see his game ascend to what we are all beginning to see.. Lou scored 21 points in a little over 22 minutes and his bucket with 5.1 seemed to be the game winner.

Anthony Gilbert and I watched those last fateful seconds from right outside the tunnel. We were talking about David Aldridge retiring from the Philly Inquirer and how it would affect the town during the time out. DA being there for the last home game of the season added to the already crazy playoff atmosphere. Every person in attendance was standing. It seemed like one of those memorable moments you reminisce on later.


LeBron drove the lane and promptly gets rejected by Samuel Dalembert. Devin Brown gets the rim but misses the put back. The crowd goes crazy–this would have been an emotional win to possibly face Orlando in the first round.

Some of the Sixers celebrate and run into the locker room like kids who just smashed a neighborhood window.
Occasionally, I’ve done some mini recaps for 100.3 The Beat with on of their on air DJ’s Izzo. We taped about 25 seconds when I looked on the court to see the teams still around.

Oh oh, scratch that recording Izz…

“Why what happened?”

This crowd is about to snap they just called a foul?

Yes they did, but it appeared to be after the buzzer according to the replays. You can definitely see referee Greg Willard’s hand go up after the buzzer sounds and then he rightfully motions the game is over.

Here’s his interpretation of the final and damning call:

“At the end of periods, you can review field-goal attempts and fouls that occur prior to the end of the period.”
“The foul was called, and the question is, whether or not it occurs prior to the red light.”

Later he says zeros on the clock…

“You see the contact (their was). We’re not looking at when the hand went up, when the signal went up. We’re looking at when contact occurs, and that’s what we reset the game clock to.”

“You don’t have the sound on there to listen to a whistle. So you’re looking for actual contact when the contact occurs.”

“I have a foul on the baseline.”

They then made a decision to review…

“It’s an automatic process. Anytime we have a play at the end of the period, that’s reviewable, which is field goals and fouls, we go over and review them regardless. It’s not a matter of whether somebody waved it off.”

“Once we conference together and realize that we had a foul and it may have occurred prior to the end of the period, we’re mandated to go over and review it.

What he saw…

“There’s contact on the play by Dalembert.” and they put 2 tenths on the clock.

“The rule is set for that very purpose so that any reviewable situation–field goals or fouls at the end of the priod can be reviewed to make sure that it either occurred before or after the end of the period–before zeros are on the clock.”

“The foul may have occurred after the zeros, in which case the foul would have been wiped off.”

“Zeros is what we’re looking for.”

After that Brown hit the two free throws he was awarded for the win.

Did you get all that? Did Willard forget he was in Philly?

Beers rained down, sodas, basketballs–from the upper level. I was shocked someone didn’t get hurt. Fans screamed anything and everything as the refs left the court. Iguodala’s image almost morphed into Barkley’s as he gave it to Willard. Andre Miller was so mad–I’ve never seen so much emotion out of him–he asked for the ball and promptly kicked it as hard and high as he possibly could as if the refs wore orange. The ball bounced around the score board and it seemed like forever to come down.

I couldn’t blame him. Could you?

Cleveland 91, Philadelphia 90.

This team was shocked. Mo Cheeks was livid. I asked him about the Sixers’ morale after such a tough loss:
On the final call: “Whatever they called, that’s what it is. For them to call that at that particular time, it’s a decision that Wednesday night we still having a shot of getting to the six seed. So it’s a big play. We have to live with every call they make. That’s how it goes. It was a heckuva game though. For us, we got back into the game. We looked like we were just going through it. Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young ..Sam…everybody played well. That’s how we’ve been playing all year. The officials have a tough job. They made a split decision and unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. We have to live with it and try to get ready for them Bad Boys (Detroit).”

On getting back into the game and then losing: “That’s our game. We do have some young guys who are looking for something. We’re always looking for something. I think we’ve found it though. We didn’t necessarily find it in a win, but we’ve found it. We were going uphill then all of the sudden we were back to the way we were before. I told them at halftime that it didn’t have to necessarily come by a win. We come here to play for a win, but we have to find our way again. When we got down twelve, we found our way. Everybody and even the bench was into the game. That’s the way we have to play. We can’t let teams come in here and make shots and lay the ball up. We have to play with some life. Certainly our crowd gave us some life by hanging in there when we were down by twelve, but that’s the way we have to play.

MT: Talking to your team just now, what was their morale?

MC: C’mon you have to be disappointed. We come in the locker room. We’re pretty happy about winning the game–coming back and winning that game–and the switch of emotions from winning and losing? You have to give Devin Brown credit for stepping up and making two foul shots (chuckles). C’mon he made two foul shots like the whole Philadelphia was about to come down on him. That’s pretty big for him. The emotions of the game from being a winner to loser, that’s pretty tough to do.

Andre Iguodala’s jumper was off and if that happens teams can take away his driving ability and thats when it’s hard for this team to score. Miller had a typical game during this run–scoring 26–but the other Dre was deservedly not feeling this loss–especially the way it went down. He and the press was having this conversation because I think we all were still in shock at the turn of events.

MT: Could Willard have been waving it off because the clock ran out?

AI: I have no clue what that guy was thinking. You gotta ask him.

MT: Dre what is your role on the team as you perceive it to help the younger players move on from what could be defined as a devastating loss?

AI: Just try to make them understand how important each minute is on the court. You have to understand how mentally prepared you have to be on the court. It’s not all about being fast or athletic.

MT: If anything, what the heck could you possibly take from this loss that’s positive?

AI: Out of tonight? Uh….(pauses)…we have to play the same way. We played well enough to win the game. That’s basically it. We need to reinforce that.

Lou Williams: When you get into the playoffs, everybody has an opportunity to beat anybody. Golden State showed that last year. We’re not a bad basketball team. We’re not lacking confidence, so let’s go. Jump it up. I’ve never experienced anything like that and neither have some of the other players.

Anthony Gilbert hit up Lou and asked him how he was going to prepare for the next level even though he’s never been in the playoffs: “I’m just like you then. It’s still basketball. That’s how I look at it. It’s still basketball. They just put a title on it and that’s it. It’s playoff basketball. I haven’t experienced playoff basketball, so I’m just going to go out there and play my game.

MT: Lou what do you take out of this game?

LW: Play hard. We’ve…been…warned. Forget all about watching the milestones, just play hard.

MT: Does a game like this old age ya? Does it give you some experience going into the playoffs as opposed to getting a win?

LW: I think how we played tonight in the fourth quarter is the type of intensity we need to play with. If we come out there from the jump ball, I think we’ll be in a good position.

Devin Brown had to hit the free throws to get the win and he calmly did so. Here’s what Devin gave to me after the game: “The ball was swung to me and I was wide open, but in that situation you don’t want to settle. I was going to make them play on the ball. Did not get the foul but the ball went in. Next time down Bron is making a move and I’m trying to circle just to see if I could get anything. It just so happened that the ball was reflected my way and I got the foul call.”

MT: When you were at the line for the winning free throws, what was going through your head?

DB: All I was focused on was getting the first one in the air without being short. A lot of times when you are waiting like that, the foul shot may be short. Once I made the first one, the second was a rhythm shot. It really wasn’t any pressure on me because you make it good–but if you miss it at least we have O.T.

MT: How difficult of a job do the refs have? Especially being in Philly making a call like that?

DB: I mean…especially here. In a situation like that, where they are fighting for seeding. We’re fighting as well, either was they were going to be criticized. When they step up and make the right call, you give them credit. They reviewed it–which is what they were supposed to do–and made the right call.

MT: Going into the playoffs, was this the type of win you needed to help galvanize the team?

DB: Oh yeah. It definitely helps. It does so much. They know we’re ready. We know what our goal is. We’ve known it since the stat of the year. A win like this will keep some of the critics away for a little bit but we are definitely ready to go.

LeBron scored 27 in the win. He also threw down this vicious dunk that made the entire press row feel as though we were dirty. Dre Iguodala tried to get out of the poster to no avail, but at least he put his head down. That dunk was straight up African! Sick dunk and it seemed like Bron Bron was sniffin’ the rim he was so high–he took off outside the dots. The last two National League MVP winners–Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard were in attendance. They sat under the visitors basket and saw first hand how ridiculous James’ dunk was. The look on Howard’s face was priceless. I thought his eyes were gonna bug out of his head. Think Robin Harris. I spoke with LeBron and Ryan in the locker room and Ryan seemed to almost scold Bron Bron for putting him in the precarious position of giving the dunk it’s proper respect in the City of Brotherly Love.

LeBron on the final play: “I haven’t been part of anything like that in awhile. I’ve never seen something like that happen before. They didn’t review it right away. They called a foul, but they said the foul occurred after the clock went off and we said it didn’t. Check the replay, it didn’t.

MT: What does this win do for you? Does it give you everything you need for the first round of the playoffs?

LBJ: “Oh it doesn’t matter, we are playing the Wizards. We don’t need no extra focus or motivation.
I knew how important this game was. Philly was making a playoff push and we wanted to lock up home court. I was really focused and motivated on tonight’s game to get a win.

On Boston and Detroit getting all the pub: “It don’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many games Boston or Detroit have won in the regular season. Look at the Dallas Mavericks last year. They had the best record in the league and lost in the first round. It might matter for some teams but you are 0-0 when the playoffs start. We had twelve wins last year–looking for sixteen.

MT: Do you look to make history every time you step on the court?

LBJ: Nah, I’m just trying to get a win. If history comes by doing that, then it’s a great thing as an individual. I really put a lot of passion into my game.

So if it happens, it happens.

The Cavs sewed up home court advantage in the first round with the win and the Sixers fell to 7th in the East with the loss. They now have a date with the 2nd seeded Detroit Pistons. Yeah they’ve beaten the Pistons twice this year, but this will be a brand new challenge.

As far as the Cavs playing the Wizards in the first round, will Gilbert go off in historic fashion or pull out a wet pea shooter against the squad they’ve played the last two years in the playoffs and lost both times?

I spoke to Cavs head coach Mike Brown before the game. He’s caught his fair share of wreck these last two seasons in particular so I wanted to see where his head was entering the playoffs.

MT: Mike, you are going into the playoffs this year with everyone having heightened expectations of your squad. What are you learning personally?

Mike Brown: I’m learning the difference between this year and last year. We want to compete for the title every single year. We’re a playoff team and if we play the right way we just a good a chance as anybody else. I’ve learned a lot this year because of the different circumstances–injuries, trades this late in the season, hold outs. For me there was a lot of individual growth, but I think there was some growth in our team because of the different circumstances.