Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AI Back In Philly

Allen Iverson looked rusty in his return to the 76ers after a short-lived one-month retirement. Iverson brought energy to the entire squad in the first half. Samuel Dalembert defended the paint like Dikembe Mutumbo swatting away six shots and finished with a game high 15 rebounds. Thaddeus Young worked inside and attacked the basket to finish with 21 points. AI looked to get his teammates involved, perhaps a few times to a fault. He ended the game with 11 points, six dimes and five boards. Modest stats in light of his supersized career. However, there he was enough of a potential threat that he drew double teams and allowed the other AI, Andre Igoudala, a chance to show what he can do when he doesn’t have to face double and triple teams for entire games.

Igoudala was making everything during the first half, including a 94-foot heave a split second after time expired at the end of the second quarter. He ended the game with 31 points, but only scored eight of them in the second half and six of those came on a pair of triples during the closing minute when the game had already been decided.

Iggy’s production fell off for one specific reason. After a solid, but unspectacular first half in which he had six points, three rebounds and three assists, the Nuggets backed off of doubling Iverson. Instead, they made the adjustment of putting speedy Ty Lawson on him. Lawson was able to stay in front of AI, who admitted after the game that his legs were tired (he shot 4-11 in 38 minutes). With Lawson shadowing his every move (even blocking one of his shots), the Nugs were able to double on Igoudala and force him into tougher looks.

That being said, as Iverson gets his sea legs, he’ll be a 15 to 20 point threat every night and will draw doubles on enough occasions that it will make life easier for Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and at times Igoudala. He might not be a 30-per-game scorer anymore, but I wouldn’t bet against him dropping 30 at least a couple of times before the season is completed.

If the Sixers can maintain the defensive work they put in during the first half, limiting the League’s highest scoring offense to a paltry 41 points, then the addition of Iverson’s offense should be enough to make a legitimate push towards the playoffs, even for a team mired in a ten-game losing streak at 5-16. A bit on that defense to end. Thaddeus Young hounded Melo into a miserable 5-21 shooting affair. Iggy is one of the best wing defenders in the Association and Elton Brand, at one time in his career, could play some D. If Dalembert can bring a consistent effort on defense, this team will be much better. Stingy defense will lead to transition buckets and this team is still at its finest when running the break.

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