In what was unquestionably the most entertaining game of the young season, the 76ers used big games from Jrue Holiday (21 points, 14 assists on 7-16 from the field) and Evan Turner (25 points, 11 rebounds, 9-19 from the field to sprint past the Boston Celtics 106-100.
After running out to a 12 point lead at the half, the 76ers pushed that to 15 mid-way through the 3rd quarter before Boston started chipping away. A Jason Terry 3 point shot trimmed the lead to 4 with 10 minutes and change left in the game before a 4 straight points by Lavoy Allen, followed by an Evan Turner three pointer and a Thad Young three point play pushed it back to 14.
The Celtics once again fought back, getting the lead down to 4 on the aging backs of Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but Evan Turner iced the game at the free throw line, making 2 straight to secure the lead just moments after he had missed a pair from the line.
Despite only forcing 14 turnovers, the 76ers were able to push the ball in transition, outscoring the Celtics 26-9 on the break and 56-38 in the paint.
Holiday's performance raised his averages to 18.6 points and 10.4 assists per game, with a 49.6% assists percentage. Holiday once again controlled the game, doing a tremendous job of using the new-found floor spacing to find the open cutter to the hoop or shooter stationed on the perimeter. His creativity and court vision really are at another level than we've previously seen, and you can't help but wonder what the tandem of Holiday and Bynum will be able to do when they finally are able to play together and get comfortable on the court.
Turnovers were once again Holiday's bugaboo, as he turned the ball over 7 times, and now stands at an astounding 5.4 turnovers per game on the season. In this stage in Holiday's development, I'll take the turnovers if it means Holiday is consistently showing this creativity in creating for his teammates. As Holiday gets better at predicting where his teammates will be, I think the game will slow down for him. It's not something Holiday can get away with throughout the course of the season, but it's also something I expect to come down substantially as the season goes on.
The player of the game, however, was Evan Turner. After struggling mightily during his first three games, Turnver has turned it on and is now averaging 13.2 points, a team leading 9.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. Yes, the 76ers leader in rebounds per game is their shooting guard, as Turner is posting an incredible 25.9% defensive rebounding percentage, second on the to Spencer Hawes' 26.8%.
The 76ers made a concerted effort to get Turner involved early, and the guard at one point had more missed shots than the 76ers had points. He turned it around quickly, however, doing a good job of both breaking his man down off the dribble and hitting his catch and shoot opportunities. Any time Turner makes 2 three's and gets 7 free throw attempts (even if 4 of them came in the waning moments of the game), he has played a good style of basketball.
Tonight was the type of game that allowed 76ers fans to daydream about what Turner could ever establish that jump shot and force defenders to pick him up 20 feet from the hoop. If defenders had to work to close out on Turner on the perimeter, his driving lanes would open up considerably and it would open up all other facets of his game. It was only one game, and Turner could go back and make 3 of his next 20 three point attempts, but for somebody who only made 11 three's all of last year, that was nice to see.
Giving up 100 points to the Celtics is a little bit unnerving, and the defense broke down too frequently in the second half, but for a team that has struggled to put points on the board so far this season, that game was eminently watchable. The 76ers travel to Toronto tonight to take on the struggling Raptors, but with the Raptors idle and the 76ers on the second half of a back-to-back, especially with the injuries they've had, the game might be a little closer than many expect.
Player of the game: Evan Turner. 25 points (9-19 from the field), 11 rebounds, 4 assists, steal, blocked shot.