When I originally started writing the recap at the beginning of the 4th quarter, I was singing praises about how the 76ers used some hot shooting and great defense to stifle the Nuggets into a blow-out. Unfortunately, the moment I started counting them chickens, the Nuggets hatched a furious come-back that went down to the final minute, turning a 28 point blow out to a 7 point nail-biter.
Fresh off the victory, I felt better about the close losses against Atlanta and Cleveland than I did about this win. After further thought, however, considering the Sixers are on a SEGABABA, it's pretty amazing that they were able to get out to such a big lead and managed to hold onto it despite a great rally by Denver.
The fan in me gets carried away sometimes and forgets that these young guys play their hearts out night in-and-out. The team's play over the last 2 months have been proof that these kids are developing. Brett Brown and coaching staff, You The Real MVP.
Tonight, Hollis Thompson made all of his 2013 fans happy by breaking out in a big way. He was en fuego in the first half, going perfect from the field on the route to 19 of his 23 points. Even Marc Zumoff was taken aback and had to correct himself after halftime and this tweet:
"Probably the best first half of his career." - @marczumoff playing it safe on Hollis Thompson making all of his shots for 19 points.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) February 4, 2015
This year hasn't been kind to Hollis after coming off an encouraging rookie campaign that saw him shooting 40% beyond the arc. There was an easy explanation why this dropped to 33% as we learned that his shot has been tinkered with to allow for quicker release. Furthermore, his sick leave in December didn't make things easier as he reportedly lost around 20 lbs. It's been rough.
Over the past 3 games, however, Thompson seems to be rounding back into form going 15-27 from the field, 10-16 beyond the arc. The Sixers, as a team, have been shooting pretty well beyond the arc over that time period (37-95, 38.9%) and it seems like the whole team has a green light (NO! STOP IT HANK SIMS, NOT YOU). We'll get back to this later.
On the other end, the Denver Nuggets are a far cry from George Karl's teams a few years ago. The team looked lack-luster and really just seemed out of it for most of the game. However, give them credit, much like the Sixers recently, the Nuggets did not give up and made a game out of it with flurry in the late 3rd and 4th quarter behind their 2nd unit.
Danilo Gallinari ripped off his jersey to reveal a Knicks' one and reverted back to the type of play that made him a household name (22 on 11 shots). Wilson Chandler followed suit and managed 19 points behind 5-10 beyond the arc.
Still, a 28 point deficit is hard to overcome, even against the Sixers. The Nuggets are at a weird spot with Brian Shaw at the helm, with him deflecting blame to the media and players seemingly tuning him out. I don't envy them.
With the win, the Sixers are 11-39 on the year. With 32 games left and other teams starting to position themselves for the off season, the young and hungry Sixers have a legitimate chance to break 20 wins. In years past, I'd rather the Sixers accumulate losses to help their draft chances instead of empty wins. This year, behind a young, developing roster, I'm happy regardless of the results. Haters and hypocrites be damned, the Sixers aren't and won't be the laughing stock of the league this year.
Odds & Ends
- The Sixers young wings have been the primary reason why the team has improved as the year has gone on. Jerami Grant, JaKarr Sampson, K.J. McDaniels and now Hollis Thompson are the products of this great coaching/development staff. Many will point to draft picks or free agents when evaluating Sam Hinkie, but if all things work out, hiring Brett Brown may be Hinkie's best move. I'm getting way to ahead of myself. Pull me back down to earth.
- Michael Carter-Williams was having a great night up until the fourth quarter. He was clearly slower on defense due to his injuries but managed to handle Ty Lawson well enough. He was making smart plays on offense and was one of the reason the lead ballooned. But then the 4th quarter happened, where he started making poor decision and taking poorer shots. At one point, he inexplicably rushed down the court and tried to make a quick lay up when the the Sixers were trying to sit on the ball, let clock run, and nurse their lead. Liberty Ballers' hive-mind activated:
- Larry Drew II did some things, including a slick cross over and lay up. Not sure if I'm all that sold on him moving forward but his 2nd 10-day is basically up so the team will have to make a decision.
- General Grant. Lord Covington. Does JaKarr have a cool title yet? Doc Sampson?
- Sixers play the Boston Celtics in Boston this Friday. Can they make it 2 in a row?