Despite the positive (albeit reserved) news on the Andrew Bynum front, the Philadelphia 76ers are at a very pivotal point of the season. After having just lost 5 straight games and about to depart on a brutal 8 game road trip, any win by the 76ers right now is a good win.
Against an Atlanta Hawks team that had won 12 of its previous 16 games, and in resounding fashion? That qualifies as one of the best efforts of the season.
The 76ers were buoyed by the returns of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner to the lineup. Holiday had missed the previous 4 games (all losses) due to a sprain in his left food, and Turner left midway through the Houston loss with a sore left ankle.
Coach Doug Collins didn't give the ailing young back court much rest, as Turner and Holiday played 41 and 36 minutes, respectively. That being said, they (along with excellent play from Thaddeus Young) carried the team to a much needed win.
Turner finished the game with 21 points on 10-17 from the field, to go along with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Holiday had a fairly modest 11 points (5-13 shooting), 7 assists, and 4 rebounds, but played excellent defense on Jeff Teague, holding him to 5 points and 3 assists on the night. The Hawks were never able to get into a rhythm offensively, shooting just 39.2% from the field.
"I think you can see the difference that Jrue makes in our team when he comes back," Collins said after the game. "He just gives us a settling presence."
While the returning guards are a major story for the team going forward, last night belonged to the sheer effort and hustle of the 76ers front court, Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen.
Allen's stats were relatively modest (6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists in 35 minutes), but his activity and physicality were much needed against a team with some good front court players. And Thaddeus Young was everywhere, whether that would be running out on the break or blowing up pick and rolls on the defensive end. Young finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals on the night.
"[Thad's] been arguably our best player all season long," Collins said.
The 76ers shot well (51.2% from the field, 42.1% from three), took care of the ball (31 assists to 12 turnovers), and defended the point of attack exceptionally well (holding the Hawks to 39.2% from the field). The one negative you could find if you had to nitpick would be that the 76ers only got to the line 7 times on the night, something they'll have to correct (somehow) if they want to be a more consistent offensive team.
Also, the 76ers fans in attendance got free big macs, despite the team only scoring 99 points. So there's that.
Andrew Bynum update
Tony DiLeo, Doug Collins, and Andrew Bynum met with members of the media before the game to discuss the results of Bynum's most recent test.
I was in attendance at the press conference, and you can check out some of the quotes from the interviews (as well as some video) at my story on the subject from earlier in the day.
While the update wasn't ground breaking, it wasn't bad either, and that's a very good thing. If you were expecting Bynum to resume basketball activities and get back on the practice floor tomorrow you were probably a little optimistic.
Still, in a situation that was originally measured in days and has now grown to months, a press conference where a setback wasn't announced is very good news in my book. Bynum announced that the bone bruises were healed and the swelling had subsided. It's only non-impact activities (riding a stationary bike, weight training, etc), but it's a start.
Do we have a time frame? No. Are we even sure he'll play this season? Not necessarily. There's still plenty of time for Bynum to suffer a setback, plenty more "good days" we'll have to get through before the 6 step process they put out for him is completed. But today wasn't a bad day, and right now I'll take what I can get.
Video: Jrue Holiday after the game
Video: DiLeo, Collins, and Bynum on Bynum's rehab
Player of the game: Thaddeus Young (18 points on 9-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 turnovers.
Next up: Sunday, 3 PM at Brooklyn