There was a stat I saw while posting the GameThread today that I decided not to include for fear of jinxing the Sixers. That number was the Wizards atrocious 0-16 record on the road this season. It looks like my superstition was justified as the Sixers handed the Wizards another loss outside the confines of DC.
The best player on the Wizards is clearly John Wall. Tasked with defending him tonight would be the Sixers' own version of an up and coming point guard in Jrue Holiday. With the responsibility of guarding one of the quickest players in the NBA, it would be understandable if Jrue's game on the offensive end took a bit of hit. This was not the case.
Jrue played one of his best games of the seasons despite Wall being opposite him. After two quick turnovers at the start of the game, Jrue poised himself and started working the offense like the point guard many of us here at Liberty Ballers believe he will be.
Although Jrue showed flashes of encouraging play during the first half, it was the third quarter when he really turned on the jets. On two straight possessions he hesitated off a screen, drove past both Wall and whichever big man hedged off to help, and finished at the basket. When the helping big was able to stay in front of Jrue, he quickly kicked it to the screener for uncontested jumpers. This happened at least three times between Jrue and Elton Brand in the second half alone. If one thing gets me excited about the play of a point guard, it's decision making ability off pick-and-roll sets and Jrue was doing it to perfection tonight.
During Jrue's second half dominance, I, along with many others who participated in the GameThread tonight (love you guyz!), caught a glimpse of how good Jrue can actually be while running an offense and making it 'his' offense. Every possession seemed to end with either a bucket from our point guard or him setting up the open cutter or shooter. One possession in particular comes to mind when thinking about how Jrue recognizes the defense and how he can capitalize on mismatches. Jrue got the ball in the corner with Kirk Hinrich closing out on him. Jrue made a quick first step baseline to gain an edge on Hinrich. Once he had a step, Jrue played the angle and went near side rim instead of going for the up and under, which is where the helping defender was headed. It's the little things like that that get me so excited to see what else Jrue has for us in the future. I need a life.
Jrue ended with a line of 26 points on just 14 shots, 9 assists, 3 turnovers (3:1 A-T Ratio!), 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. He took nine free throws which is a quality amount and I hope to see that number climb as he becomes more of a regular focal point of the offense.
Defensively, Jrue did all he could against the number one pick from this past summer. Wall is one of the toughest guards to stick in all of the league but Jrue held his ground. Wall hit just three of his ten shot attempts as Jrue was contempt with letting him shoot long two's and the occasional three (Wall was 1-4 from beyond). Wall ended up padding his scoring stats in the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided. If someone were to ask who was the best point guard in tonight's game, the answer would be Jrue Holiday without a question.
Apparently other guys not named Jrue played in this game as well. Some thoughts on them that will probably end up leading to more Jrue love after the jump.
- Louis Williams had a very efficient game scoring the rock tonight. In just 26 minutes Lou was able to total 26 points on even less attempts than Jrue (10) and also got to the line for eleven free throw tries. Lou's jumper was on tonight as proven by his extremely wild fadeaway jumper at the end of the third quarter that dropped through without hitting the rim. Lou and Jrue were a combined 17-24 for 52 points compared to the 7-28 for 15 points in Monday's loss to New Orleans. That's a pretty hefty difference. Whether you are happy about this usage or not (Mike isn't), you can't deny that this one of his better games of the season.
- Elton Brand was abusing Andray Blatche on both ends to start the game. Elton was 3-4 from the field and 4-4 from the line after the first quarter, totaling ten points. Elton was getting the ball in the post and working the not-so-great defender Blatche early and often. On the other end, Brand was feisty on Blatche and didn't let him get any clean looks. Blatche certainly has a height and length advantage so he was able to create some space, but Brand caused a few problems of his own such as forcing a shot-clock violation by not allowing Blatche to get off a shot. Despite his great first quarter play, Brand didn't see much time in the second quarter because....
- Marreese Speights was very effetive in his nine first half minutes. During that time, Speights was actually dishing to cutters and giving an effort defensively while canning mid-range jumpers that the Wizards were for some reason giving him all sorts of room to shoot. When Speezy does these things, he can be a valuable player. Collins has said he's been happy with Marreese's effort the past week so I would not be surprised to see more playing time in his future. The second half had very little Speights but from being a consistent DNP-CD kind of guy, I'll take his second quarter production.
- We already mentioned that the number one pick in the draft played pretty well (but not as well as our point guard) so how did the second pick in the draft do? Well, Evan got a healthy number of minutes (26) and took just five shots, none of them on takes to the basket. Many times I saw lanes that Evan could drive through and at the very least draw a defender and kick it out. Every time this happened, Evan either pulled up for a jumper prematurely or quickly passed the ball without even attacking. Was he self-conscious because of the poor shooting game he had on Monday? Was he deferring more to Jrue or Lou because they were hot? I can't tell you but I would have definitely liked to see him be a little more selfish and attack the rim. It'll happen, just got to stick with it.
- Andres Nocioni had an extremely quiet double-double with ten points and ten rebounds. After I saw his numbers, I did come to realize that a lot of rebounds seemed to find Noce's hands. Although he was the Sixers' leading rebounder tonight, Noce was getting torched defensively all night by Rashard Lewis. Lewis was getting by Noce whenever he wanted to which allowed Lewis to come away with 18 points of his own. The effort was there as always, it was the match-up that was bad.
- Tonight's Derek Bodner Fun Stat Special: Jrue is averaging 17.9 points on 49.3% shooting, 4.1 rebounds, and 8.5 assists in the 10 games that Andre Iguodala has missed.
- Speezy is back on Twitter! Follow him @mospeights16. Trust me, it's worth it.
- Scotty Hopson has awesome hair. Whoops, sorry. Currently have the Tennessee/Memphis game on in the background.
- Over 300 comments for the second straight game. We win again!
Courtesy of Tom Moore, here's Lou post-game from the Sixers' locker room:
If I neglected to mention something that you noticed during the game, post a comment about your thoughts. I'm sure I missed some stuff.
Player of the Game: The Jruth
Next Up: Friday vs. Chicago, the team that beat the Sixers by 40+ points a couple weeks ago.