The battle for the Atlantic took place tonight in Philadelphia. No, it's not 2001 when, if the divisions were set up like they are today, these two were the tops. This battle was to find out who deserved the bottom rung in the division ladder. A treacherous end of the fourth quarter stretch assured the Sixers that coveted position as they fell to the Raptors 94-86.
Going in to a game in the midst of a four game losing streak against another bad team, I was hoping for solid play from the future pieces of the franchise in Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner and a possible win to put that tasty cherry on top. At least one of those things occurred.
Read all about it after the jump.
Both Holiday and Turner did not fail to deliver in the development/performance sector. From the start of the game, Jrue was getting in the lane recognizing that Toronto guards Jarrett Jack and (especially) Jose Calderon aren't the NBA's greatest defenders. One play in the second half jumps out to me when Jrue went into "beast mode" and split a double team, took it to the basket, got fouled (it wasn't called), got the ball back, went right back up and connected while also drawing a foul. That certainly wasn't the only time Jrue was able to get to the bucket as he hit six out of his seven attempts at the rim. I love the way he's been attacking the past couple games.
Although he "only" finished with seven assists, Jrue was setting teammates up all night long. When the team shoots a collective 36% from the floor, chances are a lot of assist opportunities will go for naught.
Where he excelled most of the game, Jrue started to falter in the last couple minutes. Two costly turnovers (although just one was actually credited to him) and two missed close range floaters pretty much sealed the deal for the Raptors. However, if you want to take a positive out of it, he did an excellent job of splitting the D on the two missed floaters. I'll keep saying it: he's only 20, he'll continue to get better. Have fun watching it.
The rookie Turner played an extremely efficient game tonight. He set a mark for his career high in rebounds, now standing at 12, and tied his high in assists (4). He took just 8 shots (five in the first half, three in the second) and his first attempt in the second half didn't come until the 3:30 mark in the third quarter. I'd like to see him get more aggressive and start creating shots for himself, but once again, he's a rookie, these things will come. It took time for him to develop his style of play at Ohio State and it will be the same for the NBA.
Turner grabbing 12 rebounds is not something I can say I'm surprised at. He's been a rebounding machine all year, even putting up a higher defensive rebounding percentage than Blake Griffin and Pau Gasol, some of the best rebounders in the league. That percentage only went up tonight as the Villain put up a ridiculous 32.3 DREB% this game, better than the best rebounder to ever live who goes by the name of Reggie Evans (25.8%).
Elton Brand continues his flash-from-the-past season putting up 27 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. He completely murdered Reginald on the offensive end. I know Reggie's defense looks good because he hustles so much but Brand was doing whatever he wanted with him. Reggie couldn't stop Elton from positioning himself on the low-block, turning and facing, or driving to the basket from the high-post. Although he hit just one of five attempts from 10-15 feet, Elton had the spacing to knock them down, he just couldn't capitalize.
I've got a genius idea guys. How about we freeze Elton like Austin Powers and bring him back in 3-4 years when Jrue and the Villain are more developed? That's a pretty strong 1,2,3 right there me thinks. It can't be that hard can it?
- The Sixers had no way to stop Andrea Bargnani. He was excelling in the mid-range game hitting jumpers off the catch-and-shoot, off the dribble, and turnarounds. He's a pretty nice offensive player who can create some deadly mismatches on the offensive end.
- Sonny Weems dropped a career high 25 points, matching Jrue with six baskets at the rim. He and Joey Graham are the best offensive wings in the game according to the last two Sixers games apparently.
- Dongaila played six minutes and airballed two jumpers (almost three but it just grazed the rim). Craig Brackins needs to be activatized (new word).
- Marreese Speights came off the bench in the first quarter after a DNP-CD last night and didn't seem to play too bad. He grabbed two offensive rebounds, getting a put-back on each one. A horrible attempt (again) to draw a charge got him his second early foul and he didn't see the floor for the rest of the game. His replacement in the second half, Tony Battie, only managed one rebound in seventeen total minutes while also missing all three shot attempts. It would have been nice to see at the very least half of those minutes go to Speezy.
- Lou was awful. He missed all seven shot attempts and refused to try and take Calderon off the dribble. That shoulder must still be hurting him as he seemed hesitant to draw any contact on the two times he did get to the basket (he was blocked on both).
- Where Thad normally excels, at the basket, he had some trouble tonight as he hit just three of his eight attempts at the rim. The opportunities were there, he just couldn't finish.
- The Sixers shot an even 38% in the first half and were even worse in the second, shooting just 35.1% for an overall total of 36.8%.
- There were a lot of Lithuanian supporters in the crowd.
- NoceOne will provide his take on the Andres' performance in the comments
Overall, we got solid play out of JayRue and ET and although it looks like a bad loss now, it will more than likely be a net positive once Ping-Pong Ball Fest happens in Secaucus, New Jersey. #missionBJ'ers should be estatic with this outcome. Onward and