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Saturday, March 27, 2010

76ers-Hawks Last Night at the Wachovia Center

Yes, I went to the 76ers' 36th home game of the year and watched them win their 26th game (against 47 losses) by beating the now 46-26 Atlanta Hawks, 105-98. A few observations:

1. The Wachovia Center, which seats over 20,000, seemed to be about half full.

2. I paid $60 apiece for two tickets whose face value is $114 apiece. That got us into the 7th row downstairs, right across from the 76ers' bench. It also got us a preferred parking pass and let us park right outside the arena, so close that it took us all of 30 seconds to enter. StubHub can be the great equalizer, especially when you need only one set of tickets for one game (and, to confess, we went to see the Hawks).

3. In this week's Sports Illustrated, an NBA scout from a Western Conference team absolutely buried the 76ers, calling them pretty much every name in the book. That quote had to be bulletin-board fodder for the team, which looked loose and relaxed and seemed committed to finding the open man and playing help defense.

4. 76ers' assistant coach Jimmy Lynam very much resembles Don Rickles' character in the movie Casino. He seems to be right behind head coach Eddie Jordan, hunched over, the way Rickles' character shadowed Robert DeNiro's. Uncanny. (I tried to find a recent picture of Lynam but failed, but if you see a 76ers' game on TV you'll know what I'm talking about).

5. Each NBA team seems to have more than 5 assistant coaches. What can all of them possibly be doing?

6. As for the game, it was a great one and an example of what the NBA can be. It was highly competitive. As for the 76ers, I think that they've found a true point guard in Jrue Holliday. He plays with great energy and enthusiasm, looks for the pass first, can penetrate with a spin move that would have Earl "The Pearl" Monroe nodding his head with approval. He also seems to energize his teammates, particularly Sammy "Hands of Stone" Dalembert (who had many slam dunks off great alley-oops from Holliday, but, truth be told, the 76ers might have won by double figures had Sammy been able to grab control of at least three boards that clanged off his hands and went out of bounds). Jason Kapono hit some key threes, Elton Brand banged inside for his points, and Andre Iguodala was the best player on the floor last night, almost scoring a triple double. The main problem with this team is that they have only 2 or 3 bona fide front-line NBA players and a bunch of guys who would fit in nicely in rotations for good teams (Dalembert as a back-up center, Brand as a back-up power forward, Thaddeus Young as a back-up forward, Lou Williams as a back-up guard, Kapono as the designated shooter off the bench). Holliday is a starter, as is Iguodala, but the team has a lot of work to do.

7. Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta's back-up center, has one of the best names in the NBA, an announcer's dream.

8. Joe Johnson is a quiet assassin. He's not flashy, he's built like a tight end, and he can bury you. Al Horford is a very smart player who not only gets his double doubles, but he also does the little things well, and it's those things that distinguish a contender from an also-ran. Josh Smith seems to be an emotional catalyst for the Hawks. Marvin Williams really didn't show up last night, and Mike Bibby still has a lot of game left in him. The announcer said that he's 6'2", but comparatively he didn't look like he's more than 5'11". Both he and Johnson can really stroke it.

9. The announcers said that Elton Brand is 6'9". He looked no taller than Andre Iguodala to me.

10. The 76ers also got good games from Jason Smith and Willie Green off the bench.

11. There are too many side shows at the game -- dancing women, dancing high school girls (no joke), choirs, contests, t-shirts shot into the stands. They detract from the game and interfere with the players.

12. As I watched the dancing women out there in attire more suited for beaches in Rio or South Beach than your average sun-deprived American city, I got to wondering what was more unlikely, the 76ers' playing the Princeton offense (for which they and Eddie Jordan have been oft-criticized) or Princeton University's men's basketball team having scantily clad dancing women at their games. Knowing both fairly well, I'd say that the 76ers would be much more likely to run the Princeton offense successfully than Princeton University ever would host the 76ers' dancing women. They'd be more likely to make Sarah Palin a visiting lecturer than host the 76ers' dancing women.

13. Overall, a fun experience. We ate at Chickie's and Pete's at the Pavilion, my son won a t-shirt from the sports talk station 97.5 by answering a trivia question, the crab fries hit the spot, and it was a very good basketball game, and traffic was surprisingly light (put differently, it's much worse on a Friday night when 45,000 people are trying to get to Citizens Bank Park than when 10,000 are trying to get to the Wachovia Center). We went there expecting the Hawks to blow out a spent, done-for-the-season 76ers' team, and we ended up seeing an outstanding product. Kudos to the 76ers and Hawks for a great effort, well worth what we paid for (but still not worth the face value of the tickets that the people sitting near me paid).

Good night for the 76ers and for their fans.


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