The Sixers beat an inferior opponent at home in a game that wasn't particularly dramatic. Do that enough times and you're in the playoffs.
So that whole "battle-of-the-young-guards" thing worked out pretty well for the Sixers tonight, as they put the Cleveland Cavaliers to the sword by a final score of 86-79.
The main story of the night was Jrue Holiday's general mastery of Kyrie Irving, who came into the game 5th in the NBA in scoring. Irving wore Holiday like a shirt, as the Sixers' fourth-year guard stayed with his man all night. Holiday didn't resemble anything like Bruce Bowen in his prime, but he poked, checked and blocked Irving into taking bad, rushed and contested shots all night. The former No. 1 overall pick was held to nine points on 4-of-14 shooting to go with only four assists and five turnovers. The tough defensive showing was no doubt aided by a relatively hands-off approach from the referees, with 31 personal fouls leading to only 27 foul shots between the two teams. Tyler Zeller (4 fouls) was alone atop the game leaderboard in that category.
On the offensive end, Holiday contributed a Woodrow Wilson special: 14 points, nine assists and only two turnovers. Evan Turner, for his part, was all over the place, going for a game-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, a career-high nine assists and six rebounds.
Continuing the banner night for Sixers guards, Jason Richardson chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds, which tied Spencer Hawes for the game high. The hallmark of the night was ball movement--the completely egalitarian scoring totals for the Sixers came as a byproduct of 27 assists on 34 made field goals, a spectacular ratio. All things considered, there was a lot to like about the Sixers' offensive performance, even though they didn't shoot all that well (their 45 percent from three-point range notwithstanding).
Well, for the most part they didn't shoot that well. Nick Young was Good Nick Young tonight, dropping five field goals from six attempts for 13 points in only 16 minutes of work (nary an assist, in typical Nick Young fashion), and all this in spite of wearing an extremely loud pair of sneakers in a color that might best be described as "Neon Salmon" and in any case matched no part of his uniform.
But on this of all nights, Il Swaggadocio left the game near the end of the third quarter, complaining of dizziness. His status going forward is as of now unknown.
Speaking of remorseless chuckers, Spencer Hawes' stat line (14 points, 9 rebounds, four blocks) belied a total-game performance where he often seemed out-of-sync, timid and too eager to pull up for a jump shot. Kwame Brown was a near-total loss, starting but delivering one block, three personal fouls and no other statistical contribution in only nine minutes, to say nothing of his -8 plus/minus rating, the worst on either team. Again, in nine minutes.
Together, they were pretty well dominated on the boards by Cleveland's duo of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, with Cleveland out-rebounding the Sixers 48-41, a margin that would have been worse if not for the efforts of Turner and Richardson.
Nevertheless, the game was close throughout, with the Sixers finally making a breakthrough early in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to a sudden hot streak by Hawes.
Toronto is up next on Tuesday, and for those of you who are traveling for the holiday weekend, we thank you for flying Liberty Ballers.
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