In a season where losses are expected, it's hard not to get excited about close contests and potential wins. Furthermore, with a young team that epitomizes an "underdog", you'd be hard-pressed not to root for them. They've been criticized, disrespected, and ridiculed. Yet for a team that's been labeled "the worst team", they sure don't play like it.
The Philadelphia 76ers have seemed like a different team lately. While their offense still looks like a train-wreck at times, Brett Brown has coached this band of young, inexperienced upstarts to play some inspired defense. The combination of youth, athleticism, and length has allowed this team to excel on the defensive end by blocking shots, forcing turnovers, and out-hustling their opposition. A team that was lacking an identity has finally found something to hang their hat on every night.
Tonight was no different.
The Miami Heat started off the year well but have struggled recently after losing some of their key players to injuries. While Chris Bosh was still sidelined, Dwyane Wade returned and looked at times like he was 8 years younger, making tough shots and passes. A 15 point lead at halftime ballooned to 23 after Shawne Williams caught fire to start the 3rd.
Many teams may have folded at this point. Many players would check out. But to the credit of Coach Brown and the players, this team didn't. Even while they were undermanned (only 8 guys suited up), they kept clawing their way back by sticking with their identity: Defense.
The Sixers generated 22 TOs over the course of the night but 14 of them came in the 2nd half. It kick-started a flurry of offense for the Sixers and stalled the Heat from running their own. In the final period, the Sixers held the Heat to only 9 points to cap off a 45-18 run over the last 20 minutes of the game.
Yes, this team is still only 4-23. There are and will still be a ton of ridicule at the expense of the Sixers from those outside looking in. However, to you who are on the inside, to you who felt the pain and anguish while watching possible historical notoriety, to YOU who are watching this team now... this is our young, fun, up-and-coming 76ers. They may not win many games but they'll give their all trying to grasp for victory.
And lately, they're not coming coming up empty.
Odds and Ends
- Defense! Defense! 11 Blocks, 22 TOs Forced. This team, in the month of December, has risen to near the top of the league in Defensive Efficiency. Kudos to Brett Brown and his staff for coaching this team up and working with what they got.
- After a late Tony Wroten scratch, only 8 guys suited up tonight. Let's cover them all.
- Michael Carter-Williams' line: 20 pts (9-18, 2-4 3pt), 3 boards, 5 assists, 6 steals, 1 block and only 3 TOs. There must be something about playing the Miami Heat because he's a nightmare for them. MCW played over 44 minutes tonight and was the only actual ball-handler playing on the team. He hit some huge shots tonight and played valiantly as he led the team back.
- After a great stretch of games by Nerlens Noel, he hit somewhat of a snag tonight. He missed a few point blank shots and looked poor on offense, overall. However, he was great on the boards and his defense, as usual, was outstanding. I'll take it.
- #POINTKARR was a thing tonight, as JaKarr Sampson played the "backup PG" role for the few minutes MCW was on the bench and did okay. Like most on this team, he played good defense and made some crafty shots, including a nice Eurostep during the comeback.
- Jerami Grant has gotten some good burn lately to and is making the best of it. He's been putting in some Thad Young-esque work!
- Henry Sims did things, sometimes. Yep.
- K.J. McDaniels struggled early but played much better in the 2nd half, making some sensational put-back dunks that helped the Sixers comeback. Check it.
K.J. McDaniels will hang on all of your rims, thank you very much. https://t.co/szwnE2n5Ie— Shamus (@shamus_clancy) December 24, 2014
- Robert Covington didn't have a great shooting night but he came up big by icing the game at the end.
- Finally, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. I've been vocal about my displeasure of him for the better part of the year. To say he still doesn't annoy me is a lie. However, his play and activity as of late has been great. His "veteran savvy" was on display multiple times tonight making some great moves on offense and playing some great defense. While I wouldn't fall in love with him trying to be an offensive play maker on a nightly basis, the Sixers couldn't have overcome their deficit without him.
- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Everyone.