Doug Collins said it the moment he arrived in Philadelphia. This roster may not have a superstar that will drop 20+ points on the regular, but it is filled with solid contributors who can all give an equally efficient effort (inadvertent alliteration right there!) en route to a victory. Tonight was the exact example of what he was talking about.
Every single member of the Sixers who played over 20 minutes was able to reach double digits in points tonight. And if my counting is correct (double check for me please, I struggle with counting sometimes) that would mean 7 of the 10 players who even saw the floor reached the double figure mark including everyone in the starting lineup. The only players not to get there were Everyday I'm Hustlin' Andres Nocioni, lightly used veteran Tony Battie, and the even less used (to my chagrin) rookie Evan Turner.
Despite the excellent display of team play on the offensive end, the Sixers had their troubles defensively with the Hawks for the first 2.5 quarters of the game, allowing them to shoot over 51% during that time span. This all changed when Thaddeus Young, who is know very little for his defense, brought something to the table (it was barbecue sauce!) to spark the rest of his teammates on that end for the rest of the contest.
Predictably enough, Thaddeus provided the usual offensive game we've seen from him all year. He was getting position around the basket and finishing with his smooth left hand with ease on his way to an incredibly efficient 7 makes on 12 attempts. But what really made Thad the standout guy for the night was his incredible defensive effort at the end of the third and throughout the entire fourth quarter. Wherever the ball happened to be on any given possession, Thad seemed to get involved in a defensive stop. If the ball was inside, Thad was coming away with blocks or strips. If he got switched onto a perimeter player, specifically in the fourth quarter on Joe Johnson, he would absorb contact and hit the deck to get the offensive foul call.
While it's mostly just the offensive side of his game that normally gets the fans' juices flowing, Thad's claim to fame tonight was definitely his ability to energize the Sixers on the other side of the floor. With an improvement on this end, it's looking like the price tag to retain Young after this season is getting more and more expensive. Every day I find myself changing opinions on whether I'd be happy or not if the front office were to shell out a few more bucks to keep Thad in the red, white, and blue.
Thanks to the outstanding defense displayed by the Sixers late in the game, they took another step in the right direction on the path to the 5th seed in the East. The Sixers now stand 2.5 games back of the free-falling Hawks who have now lost 8 of their last 11 and gained another game (now at a full 2) on the under-performing new look Knicks for the 6th slot. The last 3 weeks of the season could end up being pretty exciting for this franchise for the first time in a long while.
Hit the jump for some individual observations.
- Once again, I'll start with Jrue Holiday. I have mixed feelings about the outcome of his game tonight. While his jumper was silky and he made some gorgeous passes to set up teammates for easy buckets, he also gave Kirk Hinrich way too much room on the perimeter and was very lazy with a few passes at the start of possessions. I'm not sure why he wasn't able to close out on Hinrich's jump shots since chances are Hinrich wasn't going to burst by him if he got in his grill. I was really hoping to see Holiday obliterate Hinrich on both ends of the floor tonight, but alas, my dream was withheld from me.
- Andre Iguodala came back after missing Saturday's game in Portland with a right knee injury. He came out playing absolutely outstanding defense on Johnson which is nothing anyone should be surprised about. As the game progressed, however, you could tell the knee was bothering him and eventually affecting his performance. In the fourth quarter, Johnson made a quick dribble towards Dre's right that Dre didn't even attempt to stop. He was hobbling noticeably after every stoppage in play and every offensive Sixers possession. He is clearly still hurt and I would not be surprised in the slightest to see him take a few more games off before the season is done with.
- Jodie Meeks was absolutely stroking the ball tonight. What a pleasure it is to watch a Sixer take open threes and know he will knock it down. Even more impressive, Jodie hit a three-ball off the dribble. He recognized the Hawks went zone, dribbled to his left and pulled one that snapped straight through the net. Jodie is not one to get unassisted buckets so I absolutely had to rewind on the ol' DVR to make sure what I thought I saw actually happened. Well done Meekster.
- Louis Williams had himself a Lou kind of game. His line is extremely efficient, there's no denying that. The shots he took to achieve that line, on the other hand, were mostly cringe worthy. The only shot attempts I was glad he took were when he drove to the basket in transition and when he pulled an uncontested three-pointer that nobody should have passed up. Lou is Lou, he'll take some awful shots but somehow connect on them and rack up points. That's who he is (and that's who he cares about).
- Turner played 4 minutes in the beginning of the second quarter and that was it. Collins is clearly in "We Need Veterans In To Maximize Our Chances of Winning" mode now that includes regular rotation minutes for Andres Nocioni and spot minutes for Tony Battie. That means no available minutes for Turner or Marreese Speights. Apparently this franchise doesn't have a future worth worrying about. And if the reason is that the veterans give the Sixers a better shot at winning, I'd seriously disagree but I guess we'll save that for some other time.
- Although Elton Brand didn't have the best offensive night (13 points on 15 shots), he certainly brought it in the rebounding department. He was outhustling the Hawks' interior all game and grabbing loose boards out of thin air. Once again, finally being fully healthy can really do wonders for an athlete.
- It was close but we got above 300 comments tonight in the GameThread. My favorite part was when the middle of the fourth quarter turned into quote your favorite line from "Imma Boss".
Player of the Game: Thaddeus Young
Next Up: Friday we take our talents to South Beach to visit Eddie House and the Miami Heat