Despite what one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all-time (Kris Kross) said, tonight was certainly not the night (I realize Mike used this earlier but he used the Dexter version. Way different) the Sixers would officially clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That, of course, has nothing to do with the Sixers actual performance in this game as it's the Cleveland Cavaliers loss in Charlotte that did not allow the Sixers to clinch.
Coming off an enormous win against the best team in the East, the Sixers' came out on fire tonight hitting their first 5 field goal attempts. Leading the charge during the first quarter offensive explosion were the native west coasters (is that the correct term to use? West coastians? Those guys from over near the Pacific Ocean?) Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes. Those two combined for 15 of the first 22 Sixer points and connected on their first seven collective shot attempts. Mix in 6 assists from Andre Iguodala and the Sixers ended with an encouraging 33 point first quarter. 33 points in the first! With that scoring they had to have a big lead right? Well. the opposite of right (wrong).
Defense was not the aspect of the Sixers' game to write home about tonight. On many possessions, players looked uninspired and flat-flooted without any real effort to close out on shooters or stay in front of their men. Kyle Lowry was getting all over Jrue early on and started right where he left off the last time these two saw each other. Joining in on Lowry's parade were Luis Scola and Chase Budinger. Budinger had himself a mismatch on the offensive side all night as he is much longer than his counterpart in Jodie Meeks. Couple that with Meeks' lack of defensive prowess and it was a no-brainer that Budinger was able to do some damage.
After the first quarter, the Rockets took the lead and held it for the majority of the second and third quarter. The game was being played at the pace the Rockets prefer (quick possessions, not much defense) and it showed in the scoreboard. Much like the game last week against the Atlanta Hawks, it wasn't until the end of the third quarter that the Sixers were able to buckle down and play the type of game they know how. After a late Lowry free throw, it became Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young time.
Lou came right down the court, took an off balance runner, and predictably made it as Mike started weeping somewhere in his Ithacanian house/apartment/restaurant/nook. Shortly after, Lou went into iso mode, came off a screen, and buried a 3 to end the third quarter. Thad joined in the party in the 4th getting himself a transition slam, a tip-in, and a silky smooth jumper back-to-back-to-back giving the Sixers a lead that they would never surrender for the remainder of the game.
More important than the offensive outburst coming from the Sixers' top bench scorers was the defense displayed by the Philly boys. The proverbial switch was finally flicked to "on" as they surrendered just 6 points in the first 7.5 minutes of the fourth while holding the Rockets to 2-14 shooting during said timeframe. Regardless of the bucket=stop=bucket=ice cream cone philosophy one might adopt, this performance in the fourth truly showed how important it is to lock down and defend no matter how many times you score. Once the Sixers started to defend, the point differential widened in their favor. Coincidence? Not at all.
Once the lead got to 10, the Sixers never looked back and came away with a victory despite not playing to what I feel could be their best against a team with an above .500 record. I guess that's an encouraging sign. Come playoff time, however, night's off defensively in the first 3 quarters will most certainly not cut it.
Need some more observations? Hit the jump and you might find some.
- Just kidding, you won't find any.
- Just kidding about just kidding. There really are some tidbits I'd like to share.
- Our little boy Jrue Holiday put together a rather impressive game offensively tonight. First and foremost, he wore the Kansas style Crazy 8's that I also tend to wear every now and then which means he's got great style. Now, on to his actual game. Jumper? Silky. Takes to the hoop? Gorgeous. Finishing at the rim? You betcha. Creating for his teammates? I do believe so. Using the size differential between him and Lowry to his advantage? Of course. Short questions with even shorter answers? Okay, you got it. Mike compared his game tonight to an in-prime Baron Davis with better shot selection. I'd have to agree except less beard as well. He ended with an outstanding 24 point, 12 assist night that made me proud to know he's my best friend on the team (only because I've talked to him the most). Yes his game struggled in the defense department early on against Lowry, but he got it together in the second half and played very efficiently for the rest of the game.
- Spencer Hawes continues to play with a confidence level that I haven't seen him portray ever. There is zero hesitation when it comes to him putting up a mid-range jumper when he has space and making (still somewhat awkward) moves around the basket. This new confidence level is definitely working as he hit 6-12 from the floor and collected 7 boards in the process. What may shock some the most is the spike in minutes he's been receiving. He's eclipsed the 25 minute mark in 4 of the last 5 games and went over 30 in two of them. If his output continues to be what it has been, I'd say those minutes are well-deserved.
- There was a lot of concern that the injury Thaddeus Young suffered on Monday would hold him back a bit and his game would consequently suffer. Well, that concern was put to rest tonight as Thad continued his onslaught racking up 22 points and 9 rebounds along with outhustling just about every player of the floor. Working for Thad tonight that hasn't been in his arsenal as much this year was his jump shot. The Rockets played back on him in the mid to long 2 range and he capitalized perfectly. This did not come at a loss to his crafty game around the rim either. He continues to do nothing but add on to his already stellar season and make it an even harder decision with what to pay him this offseason.
- Andre Iguodala got his teammates involved excellently tonight. Why he didn't take Budinger to the basket every time he got the ball is beyond me but when he did, interior defenders would collapse and Andre would easily find the open man. Hawes has someone to thank for setting him up so well tonight, and that someone is Iguodala. He did a very adequate job on Rockets shooting guard Kevin Martin holding him to 5 points below his season scoring average.
- Andres Nocioni played while Evan Turner did not. This disgusts me in more ways than mayonnaise does (if you know me, that means a lot). Nocioni provided zilch during the game and I'm not buying the veteran presence garbage at all. I never have and I never will. Disgusting.
- The Cavs had a horrendous last possession on a chance to beat the Bobcats and officially send the Sixers to the playoffs. This means, unfortunately, the Sixers might just have to win another game this season.
Player of the Game: You could go either way with Jrue Holiday or Thaddeus Young on this one. Gun to my head, I'll go with Jrue.
Next Up: Friday at home against Johan Petro and the New Jersey Nets.
And just for kicks, here's the new Lou-Will rap...