For the second consecutive game the Sixers held a double-digit fourth quarter lead, but unlike Friday they were able to hold on for the win. The game started out without a lick of defense being played, and the Nuggets lead 34-32 at the end of one. Tonight's first quarter, combined with the abysmal fourth quarter of Friday night's collapse against the Grizzles saw the Sixers allow a total of 76 points on defense. However; for the remainder of the game they "locked all windows and doors", allowing just 65.
The Sixers dominated the points in the paint, turnovers and assist categories, doubling-up the Nuggets in all three areas, while the Nuggets relied on their three-point shooting (10-19) to keep them close. Both teams got typical production from their explosive benches, with the Sixers holding a 46-39 advantage, including 3 players in double-figures, led by Thaddeus Young's 21.
This was a nice victory for the Sixers over a top 6 Western Conference opponent, but given the Nuggets now 8-14 road record, and their hit-or-miss effort with the year-long trade rumors hanging over their heads, it's difficult to get terribly excited. Tonight's win would've also been more satisfying if the Sixers held onto a 21-point second half lead against the Grizzlies two days ago. Tonight would've been the Sixers second consecutive quality win, and season-high fifth straight win -- tremendous momentum going into February. But, coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Individual observations after the jump.
- Defensively, Jrue Holiday was abused by Chauncey Billups, especially during the Nuggets first-quarter explosion. On offense Jrue wasn't much better. He finished with 5 points on 7 shots, but did have 7 assists to only 1 turnover. His two makes came on a first-quarter three, and an impressive driving finish in the second half – other than that he was pretty invisible.
- Andre Iguodala played like a man possessed tonight, and was clearly the best player on the floor. Not only did he stuff the stat sheet – 24 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 4 steals – he was efficient (only 12 shots and 1 turnover) and played stellar defense. He must've had at least half a dozen deflections, and helped force Carmelo Anthony into 6 turnovers and 3-12 shooting. He also had this sexy slam.
- Elton Brand only played 27 minutes tonight because of foul trouble, minor injuries, and match-ups. He was on fire though, and scored 15 points on 7 shots. His mid-range J was as wet as ever.
- Thaddeus Young's evening was filled with Thaddeus Young things – hustle, crafty finishes near the rim, efficient scoring, and dunks. He scored in a variety of ways tonight, and even mixed in a few rare jumpers. He finished with a line of 21 points on 12 shots, 7 boards (3 offensive), 3 turnovers, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks. My favorite plays from Thad came on his blocks – both were emphatic and unexpected.
- Marresse Speights had solid production, but only played eight minutes and change. He rebounded well, made a jumper, and took a charge. The only way I can justify Speights receiving half the minutes Hawes gets is to keep a fire lit under the sometimes-lazy Mo Speezy, because he's clearly the better player.
- Evan Turner had his ups and downs tonight. He finished with an impressive line of 11 points (on 13 shots), 8 rebounds (1 offensive), and 6 assists. He had some nice finishes, but also took a handful of awful, Boss-like shots. With Jrue struggling so much Turner played a lot of defense on Billups, and did a decent job. But where Turner really impressed tonight was his passing. He made a bunch of beautiful passes, and smart decisions, which explains his 6 assists and 0 turnovers.