The Sixers came into tonight's game on an eight-game winning streak against teams below .500, 12-4 in their last 16 home games, and 11-4 in their past 15 overall. Combine those streaks with the home/road discrepancies for each team (Sixers 20-10 at home, Warriors 8-21 on the road) and the fact that the Warriors were smack-dab in the middle of a seven-game road trip, and there's no reason this game should've been close. Nonetheless; the Sixers needed overtime – where they were 1-4 on the season and 2-7 in games decided by three points or less – to beat the defense-less Warriors.
Normally a team who takes care of the basketball – ranking third in the NBA in turnover rate – the Sixers coughed the ball up 19 times tonight, most of which coming in the first three quarters, before they re-gained focus for the fourth and overtime. Collins was visibly irate with his young team's unforced errors, along with the easy penetration of the Warriors guards.
On the surface, tonight's win is one to be forgotten. However; sometimes games, or certain moments during a long NBA season mean much more than the game itself. Tonight was one of those games.
Early last season, during a game in DC, on the day the great Abe Pollin passed away, Jrue Holiday had his first career 10-point game. But his final stat-line start line wasn't the story. This random November evening was the first real glimpse Sixers fans had into the true potential of the point guard of the future. During a measly nine-minute run Jrue joined Lou in leading the Sixers to a near-comeback against the Wizards. He was all over the place – blocking shots, crashing the glass, defending, hitting threes, setting up teammates – in only nine minutes. Knowing not to expect such prolific production from the 19 year-old rookie on a consistent basis was obvious. But that night, during those nine minutes, Jrue showed Sixers fans he had "it" in him, confirmed the potential we'd been hearing about, and exponentially increased the excitement for the future – warranted or not.
A year and a half later, another Sixers' rookie had a very similar coming-out party.
I'll throw Evan Turner's final stat-line out, to get it out of the way.
28 minutes, 20 points (on 15 shots), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, and a +/- +25.
Enjoy the line, brag about it to your friends, but don't put too much stock into it. For one, it was against one of the worst defensive teams in the league, known to allow statistical inflation. Secondly, although he only played 28 minutes, the game went into overtime, further padding his stats.
Stats aside, for the first time in a Sixers uniform I saw a completely unhesitant, aggressive Evan Turner. The way he played tonight was the way he played at Ohio State, where he won National Player of the Year last season. Rumors of him taking a significant amount of time to adjust to a new environment, and his fear of stepping on other players' toes seem more and more validated with each game, as Turner's comfort and confidence sky-rocket.
The amount of extraordinary moves or plays Turner made tonight go beyond the stats, whether it was the surprisingly emphatic dunks, the man's – and I mean MAN'S – rebounds, the powerful pinning of a Warrior's shot against the backboard, or the intestinal fortitude to take and make big shots.
Game's like tonight's make all the bumps and BUSTs we've experienced on Turner's roller coaster rookie season seem worthwhile. To watch him grow as a player is, and will be an gratifying experience as a Sixers fan. Performances like tonight's are why we watch this team, why we write on this blog, and why we invest so much time – for moment's like these.
I realize the luster of Turner's performance may wear off quickly because it was against the Warriors, and we may not see Turner play a game like tonight's for the rest of the season. Being a fan is a fickle business; there are a lot of ups and downs. A week from now I may be ripping on ET for a 1-10, 5 turnover performance. But whatever you do, I encourage you not to completely forget this performance. Regardless of what happens from here on out, we know Turner has "it" in him. What "it" turns out to be remains to be seen, but tonight may have just been a peak into what we all thought we were getting with the second pick.
If the embracing standing ovation Turner received from the Philly crowd after making a jump shot, blocking a shot, then grabbing three consecutive offensive rebounds before drawing the foul – all in a span of 30 seconds – didn't send chills down your spine, I don't know what will.
Despite this post being all about Turner it would be a crime not to mention Andre Iguodala's second consecutive triple double, his clutch shot in the fourth, or the terrific games from the other young studs. Jrue finished with 16-8-7 and 3 steals, and Thad finished with 20-7 with 2 steals and a block. Both benefited from the Warriors awful defense, but Thad – like Turner – had a handful of "man's rebounds", emphatic slams, and typical hustle plays.
71 points (on 53 shots) 33 rebounds, 21 assists, and 10 steals for Iguodala, Turner, Holiday and Young. FUTURE! I won't even bring up Lou's disgraceful defense.
Player of the Game: Evan Turner
Next Up: @ Indiana on Tuesday