The Philadelphia 76ers handed the Charlotte Bobcats their 15th consecutive loss on Monday en route to their 20th win of the season. The final score indicates the Sixers won by a decent margin, but the game was uncomfortably close from about the midway point of the third quarter on. The lead was as small as a two points a few times, including as late as 6:31 left in the fourth, following a miracle Kemba Walker three. However; a few seconds later Louis Williams answered with a three of his own, igniting a 17-10 Sixers run to end the game.
After the game Lou essentially admitted to Meredith Marakovits that the Sixers lost focus in the third quarter because the Bobcats suck, they had blown them out before and they were looking ahead to Orlando. At least he's honest. This team has spoiled us all season by not only beating inferior opponents, but never leaving any doubt. Monday they let the Bobcats hang in the game, gain confidence and make the Sixers work a little harder for their 20th win then they probably should have.
Losing focus and looking ahead aren't necessarily things you want one of your players admitting to, but to spin it positively, at least the team, via Boss, acknowledges they let up and that, along with Collins, will likely prevent it from happening too often. Up to this point, the Sixers have earned a free pass for games like this.
What's weird about all of this is, the Sixers won a road game by nine points in a place they hadn't won in six trips and the story-line is "The Sixers won, but not impressively". As Tom Pavlo pointed out on Twitter, this might have been the type of game the Sixers would have lost in previous years. They completely let up in the third and the Bobcats had all the momentum, plus growing confidence and the "crowd" behind them. This year's version of the Sixers never flinched. They went to work and won the game.
In a game like this, there was more good than bad, but I'll focus on the good and sweep the bad under the rug cause I'm feeling sexy on the eve of Valentine's Day. Make the jump.
- Jrue Holiday has been the victim of mass criticism this season for his shot selection and lack of free throws. He followed up his season-high eight free throw attempts on Saturday with half that on Monday, but was in full attack mode in the first quarter/half. He finished with 19 points on 15 shots and only one assist, but he really did play great basketball in the first half. He was driving to the paint relentlessly, either finishing or setting up his teammates and mixed in a beautiful post-up-fadeaway-swish over Kemba. He disappeared in the second half, but that's normally what happens with this team – everybody gets their shots – and he hit a big shot late in the fourth. Most importantly, I don't recall a single long two Jrue attempted.
- Iguodala passed the ball well tonight and had a team-high nine assists.
- Thaddeus Young scored 20 points on only nine shots. He incredible efficiency can be credited to his season-high nine free throw attempts. His post-work, foot-work and garbage-into-gold-work were all, for lack of a better word, working, tonight. His patented awkward-looking lefty baby hooks still surprise me when they go in, but they do more often than not. There was once sequence when Thad put on a display of flawless footwork in the post against one of the league's better shot-blockers in Tyrus Thomas – a thing of beauty.
- Boss was Boss, leading the team and the Night Shift in scoring with 23 points. It only took 14 shots for Lou to reach 23, so the verdict is ... good Boss tonight. He was also second on the team in assists with four (to only one turnover), including a brilliant pass to Thad early in the game. The highlight of Lou's night was the previously mentioned three-pointer following Kemba's hail mary and the 28-foot dagger he hit just for show with 28 seconds remaining.
- Nikola Vucevic played very well off the bench, scoring eight points (on eight shots), 10 rebounds (eight defensive) and two blocks. Vooch is never going to be an efficient scorer because he never gets to the three throw line, but can be a very effective big off the bench. What he lacks for athleticism, he makes up for with pure basketball skill and decent awareness for a rookie. Like Thad, Vooch showed incredible footwork in the post a few times, highlighted by a brilliant up-and-under-step-through on Biyombo (I believe) which caused Marc Zumoff to react like a 12 year-old girl would if Justin Bieber re-tweeted them. He also performed adequately on the glass – a sight for sore eyes when it comes to Sixers bigs.
- Evan Turner only played 14 minutes and 42 seconds. With 7:46 remaining in the fourth he committed one of the Sixers seven turnovers, followed by a bad foul of Corey Maggette on an And1. Collins immediately pulled him for Iguodala and he never saw the court again. Read between the lines all you want, but there was just no room for Turner tonight with Boss and Thad both on fire, Iguodala's defense needed on Maggette and Meeks hitting threes.