The 76ers continue to do everything right at the wrong time.
Facing a near insurmountable deficit -- the 76ers are still 7.5 games out of a playoff spot with 17 games left to play -- the 76ers find ways to compete with, and this time beat, a quality team. Over the last 3 games, the 76ers have beaten Brooklyn (38-27) and Indiana (40-26), and very nearly ended the Miami Heat's then-19 game winning streak.
It seems that the 76ers have finally found their stride at the exact time most fans want them to stutter.
Leading the charge for the teams reversal of fortunes have been Spencer Hawes and Jrue Holiday.
Before the Brooklyn game Holiday had averaged 12 points over his previous 5 games (all losses), shooting a mere 26.7% from the field. Over the last 3 games he is averaging 21 points per game (on 49% shooting) to go along with 10 assists per game and only 2.3 turnovers.
In the first half, it appeared as if Jrue Holiday could have had himself a career night in the making. Holiday had 20 points (on 9-13 shooting from the field) to go along with 6 assists and 0 turnovers. He struggled a bit in the second half, shooting only 3-12 from the field, although he did hit some big shots late when the Pacers were trying to make a final push. He ended up with 27 points (12-25), 12 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 turnovers on the night.
The turnaround for Hawes, however, has been more startling. Whereas Holiday looked like he could have had a career night after his torrid first half, Spencer Hawes did have himself a career night. One that turned out to be somewhat historic in nature.
Hawes, much maligned around here -- and for good reason -- has had great games twice in the past 3 games. Against Brooklyn he chipped in with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. After a dud against Miami, he came back with 18 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 7 blocks against Indiana, who brings with them the #1 defense in the league in terms of defensive rating.
The 16 rebounds and 7 blocked shots were both career highs for Hawes.
As the game wore on and the possibility of Spencer Hawes getting a points / rebounds / assists / blocks quadruple double became a real possibility, it was pointed out that very few people have ever done that. Basketball-reference (which only has full game logs from the 1985-86 season on) lists only David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon as having accomplished the feat, although some research points out that Nate Thurmond has accomplished it as well. Regardless, it would have been a heck of an accomplishment.
Even so, just going by what Hawes did accomplish, he entered very rarefied air. Only two people since '85-'86 have had 18+ points, 16+ rebounds, 8+ assists and 7+ blocks in a game: Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon was the last to do it all the way back in March of 1990. Barkley was the last 76er to do it when he scored 31 points, collected 21 rebounds, and dished out 9 assists and blocked 7 shots. That was in November of 1986.
Where is this Spencer Hawes most nights? As I said a few days ago, I don't trust him, and games like tonight and against the Nets simply make him more frustrating to me. But there was no denying how great he played last night.
"Spencer is an incredibly skilled basketball player. Incredibly skilled. And I'm so proud of him," Collins said after the game.
There's also little denying how much better the ball movement and offensive execution have been of late. The 76ers are averaging 99.3 points per game on 49.6% from the field over the last 3 games, shooting 45.7% from three point range. They have averaged 34 points per game from the three point line and free throw line combined during that time. On the season, the 76ers are averaging 92.5 points per game on 44.3% shooting, 36% from three point range, while getting just 30.6 points from the free throw + three point lines.
Similarly, their shot chart is much improved. On the season, the 76ers take 29% of their field goal attempts at the rim, with another 29.6% coming from between 16' and 23', universally regarded as the worst shot in basketball. Over the last 4 games, 40.7% of the 76ers attempts have come at the rim, with only 23.6% coming from 16' and 23'.
Those 4 games include Indiana (1st ranked defense) Miami (10th ranked defense), and Brooklyn (15th ranked defense).
"Everybody is sharing, we're getting high percentage shots, and guys are having fun. It's fun to watch," Doug Collins said after the game.
Hawes echoed a similar sentiment.
"We still have spells where the ball gets stuck a little bit," Hawes said. "But when we are moving it and when everyone's touching it, everyone gets a little more pep in their step on both ends."
At the very least, it's far more enjoyable to watch, even if the revelation came too late to save the season.
The 76ers took control of the game in the 4th quarter. After trailing by 1 entering the final frame, the 76ers took the lead for good with a 19-4 run to start the quarter. Lavoy Allen (4 points during the run), Dorell Wright (5 points), Evan Turner (6 points), and Thaddeus Young (4 points) provided the scoring for the 76ers, whose defense held the Pacers to 4 points over the first 6 minutes and 15 seconds of the decisive frame. For a team that played last night and traveled, the Pacers legs started to look tired.
"Their bench wasn't quite as effective in the second half, so I thought their starters had to play some more minutes, which I thought was a factor coming down the stretch," Collins said. Before the game, Collins, because the Pacers were on the tail end of a back-to-back, had talked about pushing the tempo and preventing the Pacers bench from making an impact offensively to try to increase the minutes the Pacers starters needed to play.
Thaddeus Young banged knees with David West in the second quarter. He went on to play 18 minutes in the second half, scoring 7 points and grabbing 5 boards. He was walking somewhat gingerly in the locker room after the game, but said it was fine. I suppose we'll see tomorrow after he has been off his feet and the knee has had some time to potentially swell.
Nick Young was a DNP-CD last night. He was available to play, but with Dorell Wright and Damien Wilkins playing well and needing defenders on Paul George, he didn't get any minutes. Nick Young played 5 minutes the previous game, his first action since missing 7 games due to an ankle sprain.
Andrew Bynum was in the 76ers locker room before the game, although he was not available to the media. Still, that is the first time Bynum has been seen in the locker room in some time.
Post game interview - Spencer Hawes