On a sultry 94-degree July day in Philadelphia nearly 250 years ago, the Continental Congress met and ratified the text that would become known as the Declaration of Independence. The most famous portion of the historical document reads, and I’m what I guess you can call paraphrasing: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all teams are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and not turning the ball over 27 fucking times.”
When John Hancock and the other 55 delegates put their legendary signatures on the Declaration of Independence, doubtlessly sweating under their powdered wigs and inappropriately heavy suits, the 2015-16 Philadelphia 76ers were not what they had in mind. Had they known that such a disaster of a team would take on a name that paid eternal tribute to the date, these heroic men would surely have ripped the document into shreds and gone to a bar instead. Benjamin Franklin would most certainly not have season tickets, and Thomas Jefferson would not follow the team on Twitter.
As an admirer of up-and-coming talent that hasn’t quite advanced past the hopelessly raw stage, I really want to like Philadelphia’s basketball team, and had I drawn them instead of the Mavericks three weeks ago, I would be standing behind them with conviction despite their awful 0-11 start. As a newly anointed fan of a veteran team who is the opposite of flashy-but-raw, I can certainly admit that the promise of youth isn’t always where you should put your money. By all rights, the 76ers caught the Mavericks at less than their best, and they could have easily taken them down, but their own miscues and inability to execute when it mattered kept them out of the win column, while Dallas moved to a surprising 7-4.
Philadelphia did everything they could to give this game away, and in the end, they succeeded despite an impressive run down the stretch. After getting embarrassed in the first quarter, the 76ers roared back with a 29-21 advantage in the second followed by a 21-19 third period. In fact, with just over four minutes left to play, they had an 82-81 lead over Dallas, a lead that was soon erased with a 9-2 Mavericks run thanks in large part to four Dirk Nowitzki free throws and a three-pointer.
While there’s no shame in giving up some late-game points to a legend like Dirk, all of this is irrelevant when you consider the 76ers committed 27 turnovers, which was of course mentioned in the amended Declaration of Independence above. Had they even cut that number down to Dallas’ admittedly unimpressive 19, they would likely have been coming off their first win last night. The roster is not short on intriguing talent, but what a frustrating way to lose.
Jahlil Okafor was particularly eye-opening in notching a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double, the majority of which came in the second half. In a game that practically pisses on centers in the modern era, Okafor demonstrates what a big man can still accomplish and proves that building around a gifted giant is by no means a faulty strategy, even when it’s players like Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook who really run this league. As Philadelphia continually cut into the deficit and eventually took the lead, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Okafor’s game, and the fact that his old-school, throw-it-to-the-big-man-and-watch style of play proved so effective despite his team’s failed comeback attempt. Were it not for foul trouble, his numbers would have been even more impressive last night.
From the Mavericks’ end, it’s more of the same: a balanced, somewhat boring attack that often struggles to be consistent or take on any kind of clear-cut identity. Nowitzki was largely silent until the fourth quarter, and because Chandler Parsons may die if he plays past his minutes limit, his 20-point, 5-rebound outburst was almost exclusively restricted to the first half. Have I mentioned how much more engaging of a lineup the Mavericks have with Parsons on the floor yet? Yes? I love watching Chandler Parsons, and once he starts getting full-time minutes, I think there will be some lengthy posts dedicated solely to him.
With a four-game winning streak going, things are certainly on the rise in Dallas. They will enjoy a much-deserved day off today before heading off to Boston to rip those Irish bastards apart. Seriously, there’s nothing to worry about on Wednesday night — when it comes to Dirk squaring off against a pack of leprechauns, I don’t see how his height advantage won’t seal the deal.