But tonight he didn't show why. Chauncey Billups missed 3 of 4 free throws and an easy layup in a span of a minute late in the fourth quarter tonight and passed on what could have been a foul-line jumper as the clock ticked away. In incredible fashion, the Sixers came back from 15 down and stunned the Pistons in their playoff opener, 90-86. It was Philly's first playoff win in the Palace and it was certainly unexpected.
It was also Philly's first nationally televised game of the season, not counting NBATV. They are proving themselves to everyone, not just the Sixers fans any more.
I knew going in that this was the best-case scenario for the Sixers, who proved late in the season that they couldn't beat the Cavs, struggled against Orlando all year, and well... the Celtics were the other option. Okay, no words necessary. Let's go Hawks!
Back to the game. The Sixers came out running. Thaddeus Young was hitting shots and things were clicking on all cylinders. But Andre Iguodala struggled early and Andre Miller wasn't looking for his shot, so soon things were all Detroit. The second half was most interesting, with run after run until the Sixers quietly took control. A 27-point fourth quarter to Detroit's 16 clinched it. As did Philly's defense down the stretch. I was nervous when Sammy Dalembert committed that extremely stupid and completely obvious offensive foul when he could have easily passed to the guy cutting to the basket. I was nervous for the entire fourth quarter when I started to smell victory. I was nervous. And I think the Sixers were too, but those nerves are what drove them to what many call the incredible, unbelieveable, huge upset that we just watched unfold.
My favorite moment HANDS DOWN of this game was when Reggie Evans-- a just-under 47% free throw shooter-- hit a pair and then Chauncey Billups (Mr. Big Shot, 92% from the line) missed a couple. Reggie Evans was a star in this one with 11 points and 14 boards. He averaged just five points during the regular season. Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams also looked more seasoned than they are. The team as a whole played like they were more seasoned, so kudos to the coaching staff and players with the little playoff experience they have for getting the guys ready.
It's the second straight victory in the Palace for Philly, who downed Detroit 83-82 on March 12th.
All that said, the Pistons will come out firing on Wednesday. Stealing two games is nearly impossible; winning the series is still a long shot. This W feels good for now, but it's nothing to celebrate. The Sixers have to stay focused, get back to work, go out and get it done.
With the win Philly becomes the first lower seed to steal homecourt advantage.