Last night was a killer, there's no doubt about it. As much as that loss hurt, this win was just as satisfying. The Sixers were clicking in every facet of the game and took advantage of a Pacer team that came out flat and passive.
The Sixers came out of the gates with great energy and capitalized on a team that hadn't played since Saturday. They played lights out defense, holding the Pacers to a pedestrian 31% field goal percentage (yuck). Although the Pacers only turned the ball over 13 times, the Sixers cut off passing lanes, altered jump shots, and rotated the best I've seen this season.
The Sixers had a great first quarter, jumping out to a 15 point lead at the conclusion. Even Spencer Hawes got into the first quarter fun (or as Mike described it, "chocolatey goodness") supplying seven of the first twelve Sixer points and also playing competent defense. He wasn't trying anything fancy, just getting his hands up and holding his ground against a bigger Roy Hibbert.
Hawes' partner in crime in the starting lineup, Elton Brand, stole the show early and never gave it back (rude). He was working the pick and roll partnered with a nice little two man game with Jrue Holiday early on. Brand was getting in his mid-paint area at will, either taking the ball to the bucket or drilling the soft jumper. He was causing problems for the Pacers all night on both ends of the floor.
One thing that Brand wasn't doing in the first four games of the season was getting to the line. He (hopefully) ended that drought tonight attempting seven free throws and connecting on 100% of them (that means he made all seven). This Elton truly is a different, inspired, and active Elton and something I thought Sixer fans signed up for in the summer of 2008. His final line was an exquisite 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers. Look good on ya EB!
The Sixers took a 26 point lead at the end of the first half, which would end up being the only half for Coach Doug Collins. Collins was suffering from vertigo symptoms related to the concussion he suffered from a fall back in May that also kept him out of a couple pre-season games. Collins did speak with reporters after the game about what had caused him to miss the second half. He said he can't take his medication on the day of games because it causes drowsiness. Combine this being the second gameday is as many days with a heartbreaking loss that caused Collins to get just three hours of sleep, there was a good chance the symptoms would appear. He seemed in good spirits during his interviews and was even joking that he suffered headaches and dizziness because of questions Daily News reporter Bob Cooney was asking him earlier. I feel bad for him. His first win as Sixers coach and he can't even be on the floor to take it in. Get well soon Doug! Hope to see you back on the court this Friday.
More thoughts on the Sixers first win after the jump.
- As a unit, the starters did not play as well as when a few subs came in. Jrue, Brand, and Andre Iguodala all had +/- totals above 17 whereas Hawes and Andres Nocioni were both in the negatives. The unit that looked most impressive together was the one I featured in the preview today: Jrue, Andre, Evan Turner (+23), Thaddeus Young (+21), and Brand.
- Iguodala's stat line (11 points on 4-9 shooting, 9 boards, 4 assists, 4 blocks!, 1 steal, 0 turnovers), while extremely efficient and above average, doesn't justify the impact he had on this game. Andre was giving Danny Granger, one of the league's most prolific scorers, fits all game long. Andre held Granger to just 2-14 from the field. This wasn't just an off night for Granger as mostly every shot he took was heavily contested by Andre all game long.
- In the preview, I set the marker for Sixer turnovers in a win (if all held equal from the games before) at 14 or under. Clearly all was not the same as the other games, all the Sixers played their best game in all areas, but they did manage to get under 14 turnovers (finished with 10). They probably would have won if they eclipsed 14, but hey, whatever gives me some sort of credibility (it doesn't) amirite?
- Lou Williams continued his impressive start to the season, finishing with 11 points on 50% shooting and 4 dimes. Who would have thought the best players on this team five games into the season would be Elton Brand and Lou Williams? Not this guy.
- There was one sequence in the first half that was great to watch (Derek tweeted about it earlier as well). Jrue's defense forced a miss, Turner pulled down a beastly rebound, made a smooth pass to Jrue who found Thad (missed), Paul George makes a lazy pass going up the floor, Jrue promptly swipes in leading to a wide open free dunk. The two times Jrue and Evan hooked up with each other in the first half was also a thing of beauty and should get any Sixer fan excited about the future. They both played very well and Turner continues to be a monster on the glass. 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 turnover for Jrue? Just another day at the office.
- Marreese Speights came to play tonight. He was playing defense down on the block and collapsing on penetrators while not settling for flop. Although he didn't shoot well, Speezy came away with 11 rebounds! Associate Head Coach Michael Curry, during his press conference, said Speights "is starting to understand that just playing offense is not going to get him on the court or keep him on the court." I like the sound of that. He also wears size 16.5 shoe (I saw his shoebox in his locker during the post-game interviews).
- The third quarter collapse reared its ugly head again as two Josh McRoberts threes and a Darren Collison hoop in transition lead the Pacers on a 15-3 run. The Sixers still luckily had a 17 point advantage at that point. The third quarter, however, remains a concern for this team.
- Thad is looking mighty pretty in this role. He was hitting jumpers early, which made his pump fake that much more effective. Once defenders fell for the hesitation, Thad was able to get to the bucket and finish with both his left and right hand on separate occassions.
A nice first win of the year for our boys. We got it in convincing fashion and thank goodness because I don't think I could take another close one after Cartier Martin ruined my evening yesterday. We're 1-4 and on our way back up. See you at .500 soon (or not)!
Player of the Game: Elton Brand
Next Up: Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday in Philadelphia.