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News » Late rally, late heroics keep Sixers unbeaten in preseason

Late rally, late heroics keep Sixers unbeaten in preseason

Late rally, late heroics keep Sixers unbeaten in preseason Early 20th-century humorist Will Rogers liked to say he never met a man he didn't like.

Some people - coaches, mostly - swear there is no such thing as an ugly victory. But Ol' Will might have harbored a secret animosity toward somebody, and the blotchy canvases of some winning games aren't apt to be hung in the Louvre.

Through three-quarters of last night's preseason game with the New Jersey Nets at the Wachovia Center, your new-look 76ers bore a striking resemblance to the Bride of Frankenstein. They were 14 points behind, slightly down from their largest deficit of 17. During the third period, they scored 14 points on 4-for-16 shooting, continued to be blanked from beyond the arc and turned the ball over five times.

The Sixers' highest-profile stars, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, were a combined 4-for-19 at that point, and the team as a whole had combined to miss seven free throws and turn the ball over 13 times.

If that isn't ugly, it is at least a close relation.

But then somebody threw a switch, and a game with multiple blemishes got a radical makeover. By the time the rouge, lipstick and makeup were hurriedly applied, 38 points had been poured in, the last two on an 11-foot fadeaway jumper by Brand with 7 seconds remaining, and the Sixers improved to 3-0 in the preseason with a rousing, 93-92 victory that almost had the feel of a regular-season contest.

It was 12 minutes of Megan Fox-meets-Beyonce.

"Intensity, execution . . . we took it real serious," Brand said of the comeback that roused a previous lethargic crowd of 12,309. "They put their starters out there, we put our starters out there.

"It was fun. The crowd was really into it. They were yelling 'Defense! Defense!' I know it's a game that really doesn't count, but we want to instill that winning feeling."

Second-year power forward Marreese Speights said building blocks laid in the preseason and at practice produce finishes such as this.

"It's a good feeling to close out games," he said. "Last year, we lost, like, 10 games on last-second shots. It's a lot better to win a game like this."

Maybe the Sixers - who have a new coach (Eddie Jordan), a new offense (a faster-paced, Princeton-styled high-post/backdoor-cut amalgamation), new/old uniforms, and several new players - can keep fashioning successes that aren't always aesthetically pleasing, but look better when the final horn sounds.

"We want to win everything. We want to win every game, even the preseason games," said starting point guard Lou Williams, who finished with 15 points but only two assists. "We're competitors.

"To come from 17 down, the idea of it being the preseason goes out the window. You just want to win."

Maybe the pretty stuff will come later, when the team becomes accustomed to Jordan's methods. The shooters will hit the shots they're missing now, the rebounders will rebound, the shot-blockers will block shots. But there is another saying: Statistics are for losers.

You want numbers that will blow you away? Sorry, no can do. Center Samuel Dalembert, asked to do his best Alvan Adams imitation out of the high post, has now played 65 minutes, 45 seconds in these three preseason games and hasn't swatted away a single shot. Williams also appears to be out of his comfort level and has only six assists in a combined 73 minutes, 8 seconds. He's a playmaker who is at his best setting himself up. And Iguodala clearly is a better fit at small forward than at shooting guard, if his 2-for-14 performance last night is any indication. The Sixers' 64-to-63 assist-to-turnover ratio isn't exactly what Jordan is looking for, either.

But the team appears to be buying into the premise that all these changes ultimately will work, and that is a basis for optimism. That, and three victories mostly rooted in a defense that hasn't taken a night off.

"I would like to say that it was our unsung heroes that started our comeback," Jordan said of bench players Willie Green, Dionte Christmas and Jason Kapono, who set the table for the finishing flourishes provided by Brand and Iguodala. "That group got going and in the end, the stars made the big shots.

"It was a full team effort, and exactly what we were looking for from our main guys. Elton was a horse in there, and he's still trying to find his rhythm, but he was aggressive. Andre and Thad [Young] came off the bench cold and made big plays and big shots."

Six shotsThe 38 fourth-quarter points was particularly impressive, given that the Sixers had averaged 38.5 points in the second half of their first two preseason games . . . Marreese Speights scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter . . . Thaddeus Young had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Before last night, he did not have even one rebound in the preseason. *

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 10, 2009


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