Okay, so it wasn't Marreese Speights Appreciation Night going into the game but rather Australia Day. I accept that. Despite the copious amounts of kangaroos running around the Air Canada Centre pre-game, Speights earned the final spotlight as he helped the Sixers come away with their first victory against the Raptors this season 107-94.
As soon as he entered the game at the start of the second quarter, Speezy was ready to contribute in a way that Sixer fans (or anybody) haven't seen all year. Marreese posted up in the paint, made an extremely awkward move, and dropped a shot that probably shouldn't have gone in. That score was the only one of his field goals that, in all honesty, had no business finding the bucket. After that make, Speezy was making great cuts to the basket, being aggressive on drives, and getting offensive put-backs as easy as I've ever seen.
Assisted by gorgeous passes from Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Andre Iguodala, Speights was able to record his season high in points... after just eight minutes of play! Speights was able to finish off the half with 17 points and 5 rebounds already etched in his statline. Yes those numbers are impressive, but what I was most elated about was that every single shot attempt was inside the paint. When he attacks the bucket off pick and rolls or weak-side cuts, Speights is infinitely more effective than in the pick and pop we've seen so much from him as of late.
The only downside to his terrific effort tonight was that he only played 17 minutes. I'm not exactly sure why Doug Collins was so hesitant to go to him in the second half. It wasn't like starting center Spencer Hawes was outdoing Speights at the start of the third or anything. Speights was attacking the boards early and being aggressive down in the paint, a style of play that warranted more time on the floor. The fact that Hawes ended up playing more minutes than him is a little mind-boggling (or bottling). Despite playing less than half the game, Marreese finished with an oustanding 23 points and 9 rebounds (6 offensive). Here's to hoping we get some good Twitter material after such an accomplishment.
Many other Sixers also played better than average games. Check out their nights and other thoughts after the jump.
Post jump means it's time for... BULLET POINTS!
- Turner continued to show flashes of what he can become. The way he was creating separation on drives and pull-ups took me back to his time at Ohio State when he was virtually impossible to contain. Not only was he able to get shots for himself, but he also got his teammates involved in transition. Two fast breaks come to mind in which he received the ball at one end, lead the rush down the court, and dished to a streaking (hehe) teammate for the finish. One of those being to Speights in the first half, the other being a Thaddeus Young flush towards the end of the game.
- Jrue Holiday finished with a double-double (15 points, 11 assists). He was finding open cutters like he were Jack Bauer looking for somebody to kill (hint: very easily). His shot selection, however, was the downside to his performance. Don't get me wrong, Jrue had some phenomenal takes the basket either finishing solo or finding the open man. It was possessions when Jrue would be fading away as he shot that didn't do it for me tonight. He's too strong splitting defenders and getting to the basket or even pulling up off screens to be attempting those fadeaway jumpers. His 15 points came on 16 shots which is not the most efficient night he could have hoped for.
- The Louis Williams Hate Advisory Index (LWHAI - thanks Soman!) looked to end in the Sepia range for the second straight game. Lou had a very strong third quarter that saw him hit 3 consecutive three point attempts and finish with 11 total points. Then the isolations, jump passes, and early in the shot clock long two's joined the party. Dweeb proclaims it ended lemon, so it shall end lemon.
- Iguodala was a gorgeously efficient 7-11 from the field tonight as he limited his pull-up jumper attempts. Dre continues to look much most comfortable in catch-and-shoot situations and cutting to the basket. Just another stat sheet stuffed night from AI9.
- The Sixers allowed Andrea Bargnani to drop 15 first half points as they stuck Hawes and Young on him. Hawes was not able to get around screens quick enough to stay with Bargnani while Thad bit on every single pump fake since the beginning of time. The second half? A much different story. The Sixers did something that I'm certainly not used to as a fan of this team and that was make second half adjustments. And boy did they work. Bargnani was only able to get net 2 points on just one field goal in the second half while not getting to the line once (he had 4 first half attempts). I could get used to this whole idea of adjusting at halftime in order to fix problems.
- Was Speezy wearing a belt tonight? I bet it was BCBG. Who wants action on it?
- Reg, Reginald Evans had a white shirt, red tie, and black coat as his ensemble for the evening.
- 3 in a row and only 3.5 back of the 6 seed? What? Isn't this the same team that started 3-13? How many sentences in a row can I end with a question mark?
Player of the Game: Mo Speezy
Next Up: Greivis Vasquez and the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night in the WFC.