Despite a double-digit loss to LeBron and the Heat, I'm thrilled with the way the Sixers kicked off the season. No, not because I'm rooting for ping pong balls again, but because of the way they fought – a fight they lacked all of last season. After watching this team pile up lackluster performance-after-lackluster performance under Eddie Jordan, tonight they flashed the heart and hustle that won the hearts of fans during their recent playoff runs. If game one is any indication, watching the Sixers develop under Doug Collins will be an absolute joy to watch for the rest of the season.
The proverbial "cherry on top" for the evening was second overall pick Evan Turner. The Villain temporarily silenced his critics finishing with 16 points on 10 shots, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 30 minutes off the bench. And here are three things that didn't show up in the box score: 1) The way he boxes out and positions himself for rebounders is very impressive. 2) The crossover he put on D-Wade followed by a wet 17-foot jumper was awesome. 3) He held his own against both Wade and LeBron defensively – no small feat for a rookie making his NBA debut. That sound you hear is millions of people jumping off the 'bust' bandwagon.
A few more thoughts after the jump.
- Jrue Holiday only played 21 minutes, yet led the team in turnovers with 5, and shot 2-9 from the floor. His decision-making was poor all evening, whether it was ill-advised jumpers or lazy passes. His highly-praised defense also looked awfully mediocre. I don't know whether the pressure of Collins calling him a top 5 point guard in training camp is weighing on him, or if he's putting pressure on himself, or if it's simply a bad first game for a 20 year-old going up against D-Wade. Whatever it was, it's nothing to be alarmed about. One game, 20 years old.
- Andre Iguodala filled up the stat sheet. He had some nice dunks. He settled for way too many jumpers. He played solid defense. I'd like to see him attack the rim more.
- Spencer Hawes was terrible. I'll cut him a little slack because he's been injured all pre-season, but in 14 minutes he showed nothing for Sixers fans to get excited about, outside one nice interior pass to a cutting Iguodala.
- Elton Brand had his ups and downs against Bosh defensively. He grabbed more rebounds than I expected (9) and racked up 3 steals and 2 blocks.
- Lou Williams was 5-14 from the floor and attempted two free throws. In fairness, he was probably hacked on at least 3 of those misses, and should've gotten to the line more. He also made some nice passes, leading the team with 7 assists.
- Thaddeus Young had a nice showing on offense, slashing to the hoop the majority of the time and scoring his typical "hustle baskets". He had a couple nice jumpers, but aired a corner three terribly. His defense and rebounding were expectedly poor.
- Andres Nocioni scored 10 points on 9 shots (some of which were extremely ill-advised), grabbed 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His hustle and toughness were as advertised, and he seemed to be all over the floor when he was in the game.
- Mo Speezy played 3 minutes and went 0-3. He also flashed one of his patented terrible flops.
- The difference between an Eddie Jordan-coached team and a Doug Collins-coached team was evident. The Sixers had a lot of 'no layups' fouls tonight. They fought till the very end, almost making a game out of it. They were active defensively, and patched together rebounds. And even though Collins played a lot of small ball, his rotations made a lot more sense than Eddie Jordan's.