After one particularly crushing defeat earlier this season, I remember saying to a friend that the Sixers had run out of moral victories, that the 150+ losses the Process Era iteration of the team has suffered since October 2013 had depleted us of whatever optimistic energy one must have in abundance in order to take solace in defeat. I was wrong.
Monday’s 95-91 road loss to the Jazz, one in which the Sixers battled from 19 back midway through the third quarter to take a tenuous and ultimately fleeting lead early in the fourth, in addition to the team’s 111-104 win over the Suns on Saturday gave us something we’d been missing for so much of this season: hope.
And don’t get me wrong, I think that most of us have remained relatively hopeful about the future of the Sixers, at least those of us still down with TTP, but I think many had resigned themselves to a season with results markedly worse than the two prior, perhaps even historically worse. And for good reason. The team’s first win of the year, against the Lakers on December 1, came on the heels of five straight competitive games that legitimately could have gone either way. In the 12 games that followed, though, Philadelphia lost by an average of 17.2 points, losing by fewer than 10 points just twice during that stretch. But the addition of Ish Smith and the rejuvenated play of Nerlens Noel, who has played center in each of the Sixers’ past two games with Jahlil Okafor resting due to knee soreness, has made this team look a lot more like the one we saw at the end of last month than the one we’ve seen since.
Against the Jazz, Smith finished with 22 points (8/21 FG) and 11 assists, and his chemistry with Noel was yet again a welcome sight. Five of the veteran point guard’s assists were to Noel, who went 8-for-9 from the field on the night for 18 points to go along with six rebounds. But the second-year big man was most impressive on the defensive end of the floor, where he blocked five shots, came away with two steals, and held Utah to 3-of-9 shooting on attempts he defended inside of five feet.
Richaun Holmes had his best game of the season coming off the bench, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and blocking three shots in 22 minutes. Coming off his 17-point outburst against Phoenix, Nik Stauskas was held scoreless for the fifth time in his last six games, despite playing 25 minutes. Veteran big man Carl Landry notched his first start of the year, but he played just eight minutes and didn’t notch a point, rebound, assist, block, or steal in that time.
Oddly, Kendall Marshall played just four minutes off the bench, while T.J. McConnell picked up a dozen. It should be noted that the Sixers started Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, JaKarr Sampson, Carl Landry, and Nerlens Noel.
Ish Dishes To Nerlens, Toothless Dude Approves
All ‘Dem Blocks
A Wild Chad Lewis Jersey Appears
Chad Lewis jersey at the Philly/Utah game = major flex pic.twitter.com/xkhAL201wR— maurice (@tallmaurice) December 29, 2015
Things To Bicker About In The Comments Section:
1) When Jahlil Okafor comes back (probably on Wednesday against the Kings), who starts, where do they start, and how do you stagger minutes between him and Nerlens Noel?
2) After two games with Ish Smith back, how do you feel about the trade? Has your opinion changed at all since it originally went down?
3) Does Mike D’Antoni have anything at all to do with any of this?