The Sixers did not play a particularly well tonight, and lost to the Wizards. Poor defense, worse rebounding, Antawn Jamison -- the list goes on -- but that's not what's important. What's important is what transpired during the final 10 minutes of the game.
Sixers fans have been screaming "FREE JRUE" since training camp, to no avail. Tonight, down 11 with 10 minutes to go, Eddie Jordan finally played rookie instead of making his usual Royal Ivey substitution. (The equivalent of the white flag.) Much like the last game Jrue played, he came in with a quick trigger finger, doing everything in his power to prove that he deserves more minutes. However; unlike the Memphis game, Jrue's shots were falling, which led to good defense, which led to good rebounding, which forced Jordan to leave him in for more than 4 minutes. The result? A ferocious comeback fueled by the rookie. The comeback feel just short when Lou Williams' potential buzzer-beater rimmed out, but that doesn't take anything away from the "Holiday goodness" we saw during the final 10 minutes.
From this day forward, the 19-year-old Holiday should be freed for good, with an emphasis on should since we have no evidence of Eddie Jordan doing what should be done, yet.
Now, for all the people out there saying, "10 minutes dude? Even Eddy Curry had a great 10-minute stretch once," this is a completely different situation. I am not claiming that Jrue is going to be an All-Star, a good player, or even an NBA starter. I'm just saying that he deserves 10-15 minutes a night and should play more than Royal Ivey and Willie Green. There is no logical explanation why he shouldn't. None!
If I were a betting man (which I am), I'd bet that Jrue Holiday earned himself at least a time share with Bill Green as the backup point guard. If not, than Sixers fans really have a right to be outraged. What Jrue did tonight was better than what Green and Ivey have done all year -- combined!
Five paragraphs later, here are Jrue's final numbers: 10 minutes, 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block, 0 turnovers on 4-6 shooting. Even those absurd numbers don't justify what Holiday meant to the Sixers tonight. He was all over the place. And if you think I'm excited, you should've heard Marc Zumoff pop a blood vessel screaming like a 12-year old girl after Jrue made his third three.
I have two more things to say about Jrue "I turn grown men into teenage girls" Holiday -- some good news and some bad news. Which one do you want first? The bad news? Okay. We cannot expect this kind of game from Jrue every night. Duh! The good news is, Jrue is only 19 years old and loves to play defense -- something we can expect to continue every night.
Rest of the game after the jump.
It's a shame that it's taken this long to mention Lou Williams, because he was brilliant tonight. I've been saying that the Sixers need a go-to scorer in order for them to be a legitimate contender, and Lou might be turning into that guy. Don't take this as me bashing Andre Iguodala, because he is still the Sixers best player, but he is not -- and never will be -- a number one scorer. Just like Allen Iverson needed to be surrounded by defensive studs to reach his full potential, Iguodala needs to be surrounded by at least one superior scorer to reach his full potential.
Speaking of Allen Iverson, he is exactly who Lou Williams reminds me of. For better of worse, it looks like Lou Williams is Allen Iverson 2.0 -- a gambler on defense, the ability to make the good pass, but not a true point guard, and the ability to score at will. No, Lou isn't as good as the original and never will be, but keep in mind he is only 23 and has only started 13 games in the NBA.
(The game-winning attempt upset some people. Lou dribbled 11 seconds off the clock and pulled up for a jumper instead of driving to the basket. I completely understand why fans are mad that he didn't go to the basket, but I'm okay with the shot myself. What I'm not okay with is the 11 seconds he dribbled off the clock. I would've much rather seen him take a quicker shot, so the Sixers could foul and get the ball back should he miss. My counter to the people saying he should've taken it to the hoop is: how many NBA players settle for a game-winning jump shot instead of taking it to the hole? 99%. That doesn't make it right, but that's the NBA folks. Everyone wants to be a hero and hold the pose.)
Another developing story is the improvement of our bench players, slowly but surely. Rodney Carney has emerged as a legitimate sixth man. He was no match for Antawn Jamison tonight, but in fairness, neither was anyone else. Most nights Carney will provide good defense, good rebounding, athleticism and the occasional three, but you guys already knew this. Jason Smith is also starting to establish himself as a pretty good 8th man. Add these two to Jrue and a healthy Speights and the Sixers roll pretty deep.
Everyone else was pretty played pretty normal tonight. Etlon looked nothing like he looked he had in the past three games, but left with a sore hamstring, so maybe that had something to do with it. Thad was pretty good, not great. Sam was decent, but still did "Sam-like" things. Bill was Bill. Andre Iguodala was the only real disappointment.
I don't want to spend too much time on Iguodala. He was bad tonight. He's been bad. He takes way too many jumpers and needs to stop. That's all there is to it. On the bright side, he was 8-8 from the free throw line, swishing every one.
But wait, there's an elephant in the room. "The Sixers lost the game. The defense and rebounding were bad once again. They can't win like this."
All valid points, but a wise man once said: "Watch the individual players and hope they develop. Try and ignore the whole team/coach thing if you want to remain a fan and keep your sanity." I saw enough development from two individuals (Lou and Jrue) tonight to get me excited, and I still believe that this team can put it all together and go on a nice run before it's all said and done. If Sam, Elton, Thaddeus, Andre, Lou and the bench all play like their capable of, this team can do some special things. First things first, everyone needs to accept their role, but that's a whole 'nother post.
Bottom line, this is the most excited I've been about a Sixers game since game 3 of the Magic series. For the first 12 games of the season, I barely moved during the games. Tonight I was jumping around, screaming and fist-pumping. If nothing else, it's something to build on.
Player of the game: Lou Williams
*Update* Kate Fagan tweet: Brands saw doc. Has right hamstring soreness and tightness and is officially listed as day-to-day.