A very interesting comment was posted earlier in the GameThread asking if what we saw from the Sixers was just an average team beating up on a bad team. My answer to this would be a partial yes. It was obvious tonight; the Suns are not good and it's very hard to argue against that. What the Sixers did, however, was something that every aspiring "good" team needs to do. They went on the road and handily beat a worse team, doing it relatively easily. It was refreshing to see these guys not lay an egg in a game they should win 8 times out of 10.
The Sixers struggled a bit out of the gate, reverting back to what they doing on the offensive end against Portland; jump shots. Because of tenacious defense, especially from Andre Iguodala, the Sixers were able to end the quarter up 7. Iguodala was able to use this defensive effort to end the first half with 4 steals to go along with his 12 points (3-3 from beyond the arc) and 5 rebounds, giving the Sixers a double-digit halftime lead.
Normally from this team, I'd fully expect them to give up an 8-0 in the first 2 minutes of the second half to allow the other team right back into the game. This was not the case tonight as the Sixers jumped all over Phoenix, netting 19 unanswered points in the first 6 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Tough defense, dribble drives, making the extra pass, and intelligent shot selection allowed the Sixers to get out to a 30 point lead, pretty much ending the game before the 4th quarter even started.
The Sixers defense, at least for me, was the biggest factor in the game tonight. While they struggled, as usual, with the pick and roll early on, they were able to compensate with off-the-ball defenders getting multiple deflections and getting active within the passing lanes. To give you an idea on how tenacious the defense was tonight, check out Steve Nash's assist to turnover ratio (if you don't feel like looking, I'll tell you; it was 1:6). While part of this improvement over Monday's game has to do with the Suns not being as talented as Portland, it was evident that they were much active than against the Blazers.
It was the exquisite play of Andre Iguodala that I'll take the most from this blowout win in Phoenix. Dre was as active as ever on the defensive end, finishing the first half with an astounding 4 steals. More importantly, those 4 steals lead to 8 points on the other end. Tonight was definitive proof that points off turnover/transition points play an integral part in an eventual victory.
Not only was Dre on point defensively, he was absurdly efficient from the field. He only took 7 shots throughout the entire game (he didn't play the 4th quarter), but was able to tally 15 points. He took 3 shots from beyond the arc and connected on 100% of them. Not only did he score for himself, but Dre also notched 6 total assists (5 in the first half) in the winning effort. Tonight was about as much as you could ask for from Andre, and is the reason I'll defend him to the ends of the earth.
The Young Lads and Zumoff:
- Nikola Vucevic made his first regular season appearance of his career tonight. The nerves were evident (I'd be a sweaty disaster before I'd play a minute if I ever made a roster - I'M AVAILABLE!) as his first two jump shots were not even close and was pretty much thrown across the lane on a Robin Lopez box out. He did, however, get into his groove (Stella) around the basket once he got a tip-in for his first NBA points. One play that stands out in my mind was a beautiful pick-and-roll he executed with Louis Williams. Lou drove his defender off Nik's screen and found him curling straight to the basket for an easy bucket. A pretty nice debut for the rookie, definitely something I admit I wasn't expecting.
- While Evan Turner didn't have the number he put up the last time he was in Phoenix, he still delivered a very impressive game. Turner was aggressive on both ends of the floor but what encouraged me the most was his effort on offense. It's well documented that he played shy last season which, at least early on, isn't the case whatsoever this year. Evan was on a mission to get to the cup tonight, and he did it beautifully. His jumper is still a little flat for my liking, but it's definitely headed in the right direction (especially how quick his release is).
- Early on, it looked like Jrue was going to have his second straight let down game. He missed his first 6 shots from the field, all of them being jumpers. He got back into the game, got an offensive rebound, and scored on the put back which got his confidence going and, in turn, his overall productivity going. The second half was when Jrue started to shine like we all know he can. What excited me the most during that time was when he drove to the bucket on 2 straight possessions and got fouled on both, dropping all 4 free throws in the process. He's much more effective playing this style, either going in himself or dishing to an open teammate, than sitting outside taking jumpers. I expect more of what Jrue did in the second half for the rest of the season.
- Marc Zumoff, well known for his love for saying "lock all windows and doors" when the Sixers need a defensive stand, decided to change it up today and definitely caught me off guard. Instead of his usual LAWAD, Zumoff blurted out "seal all windows and doors". Keep an ear out in case this ever happens again. is SAWAD something that could be in our future? Why do I even care about this stuff?
It was certainly an encouraging effort from the Sixers tonight and something I hope to see continue throughout the season. The Sixers came away with a good win and a ton of performances that should leave fans excited about the rest of the season to come.
Player of the Game: Andre Iguodala
Next Up: Friday at Utah (9:00 PM EST)