The thought of the Sixers going 3-2 on their 5 game road trip to start the season wasn't something I thought would be out of the realm of possibility. After they collected 2 wins in their first 4 games, I was fairly confident they'd accomplish the goal (and jump through the ring floating in air?) and win the finale in New Orleans. Thanks to a near perfect 4th quarter, the Sixers met what expectations I had for them.
The standout stories to this game were very easy to recognize for anyone who watched it; Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and Jrue Holiday.
Turner was fabulous from the get go (well, get go meaning from the time he came off the bench). He entered at a point of the game when the Sixers were avoiding the paint like it were contaminated with Come-In-Here-And-You'll-Smell-Like-Wet-Garbage Disease. The Kid ET apparently had the antidote to this as he was attacking just about every time he got the ball. While his effort was unsuccessful in his first trip as he was blocked by former Sixer Jason Smith, Turner never hesitated to go back, ending the half with 11 points. He didn't miss a beat when he checked back on the floor late in the 3rd quarter (far too late for him to re-enter the game, by the way) as he continued to embrace his attack mode style. The Villain finished with a line of 21 points on just 12 shots (5-5 from the line), 6 rebounds, and 4 assists which is something I envision happening many more times this season and in the future.
More on the Sixers victory in New Orleans after the jump.
Evan's young brethren in the backcourt, Jrue Holiday, put together a more-than-noteworthy 4th quarter of his own tonight. After struggling from the floor the first 4 games of the season, Jrue got into his zone tonight hitting 3 clutch triples that all came a time when the Sixers absolutely needed a bucket. Jrue was able to collect 14 of his team-high 23 points in said quarter. He did it in the preseason game against the Wizards but seeing him do this in a regular season game on the road was certainly something special.
While the clutch scoring is great to see from the youngster, the assist category is equally as important for a point guard. Coming into the game, Jrue was averaging just under 3 assists and an even 3 turnovers per contest. That assist-to-turnover ratio for a point guard is something that makes me cringe. Jrue certainly helped his ratio out tonight though, as he collected a cool 8 dimes while not giving the Hornets the ball once. Sources close to Liberty Ballers (completely made up sources named Theodore Sampson and Walt Strunk) are confirming that Jrue was heard singing "I got dimes, on dimes, on dimes" while walking back into the locker room.
The fact that both Jrue and Evan were two staples in securing a road win for the Sixers makes me absurdly excited about their future together. We're still a long ways away from that point, but I can't wait (hope) that we get to see it fully blossom one day.
Spencer Hawes continued his shockingly impressive play, especially in the third quarter. He collected 2 fouls early and with Nikola Vucevic sidelined with a lumbar back strain and Lavoy Allen too busy watching Temple knock off Duke (Hey-ooooo!!!), he had to sit on the sidelines so as to not get in any serious foul trouble. With a line of just 4 points and 2 rebounds for the first half, I thought the time he came back down to earth had arrived. Well, coming out fresh in the second half, WHITE HOWARD (love the nickname xEgan/Mikey) got into the zone grabbing some tough rebounds (AHHH!), blocking shots, and connecting on just about every shot attempt he took. I'm the first to admit that I did not see this type of play coming from Spence in the slightest when he signed the qualifying offer to remain a Sixer, but I'll absolutely take it (for now - still don't want them signing him long-term at this time).
While these three were the guys that put forth the best performances, the play of the day came from a man who didn't have his stuff tonight; Andre Iguodala. Up 5 late in the fourth, Hawes took a rather uncontested mid-range jumper that didn't fall. As the ball caromed off the rim, Dre came racing in from the weak-side, rose up, and threw down the tip-slam with his left hand. I don't find myself making noises during games a lot (well, noises that relate to the game itself) but this one literally made me jump out of my couch, put the hand over the mouth, and do the required "OHHHHHH!!!" that is normally reserved for onlookers during a sick battle rap. I can't wait until this gets posted on YouTube.
Despite getting the win and a lot of positives from the Sixers, there will always be some concerns:
- Jodie Meeks has not been good this year and it continued tonight. He was continuously getting beat by Eric Gordon whether it be off the dribble, off screens, or neglecting to close out. Not only was he not defending well, but he hasn't been doing the one thing he's in the line-up to do; hitting shots. If this continues, there really shouldn't be a reason that he gets replaced with Turner.
- The Sixers shot selection early in the game was atrocious. They were hitting jump shots at a pretty nice clip the first 4 games and I think they started to realize this as they neglected to attack the basket. Every possession seemed to end in a contested jumper early in the shot clock that predictably did not find its way through the hoop. When the Sixers decided they'd use ball movement and attack the basket, the points started coming.
- Related to the point above, Jrue continues to settle for long 2-point jumpers rather than get to the cup. The shots he was getting in the 4th quarter were open good looks but in the first half he was forcing too many ill-advised jumpers. He could be so dangerous going to the hoop and I hope he does it more frequently in games/seasons to come.
- Tony Battie's airball put-back attempt. Enough said.
- No cuts to the bench to see a celebrating Speezy.
All in all, it was a terrific comeback that made me extra excited because it was lead by the two guys that I cherish the most on this team in Holiday and Turner. Getting 3 wins on a 5-game road trip to start the season is something that I'll take any day of the week and especially Wednesdays (that's today!). Let's see if they can keep up the effort as they come home to Philadelphia on Friday to take on the Detroit Pistons.