Okay, so this was a little predictable. It's weird to say but, the Sixers seem like a more talented team, judging by their recent performances. Plus, they try really hard and that's won them a lot of games as an underdog. So of course, when the 76ers are actually favored to win a game, they have a pretty good chance at winning it.
What wasn't really expected was Nerlens Noel being an absolute monster on both sides of the ball. Just a week ago, the Sixers watched DeMarcus Cousins put up an absurd almost 39 point, 24 rebound effort. It seemed like Noel took a page from that book ending the night with an impressive stat-line of his own: 23 pt, 14 reb, 5 stl, 3 blk, 1 ast. (Most of this damage was done in just 3 quarters!)
After 2 poor opening possessions by Noel, it seemed as if the 20 year old rookie kicked into another gear and never looked back. Active hands, violence at the rim, around the back passes... it just seemed like Noel's night as the Knicks were pretty helpless trying to slow him down.
Offensively, Noel found a few quick and easy buckets from various oops and dunks, ending with 12 points in the first quarter alone. Defensively, it's been more of what seems like the usual: blocks, steals, and altering plenty of shots. The lack of the Knicks front court presence was truly evident as Noel was able to collect his 14 boards, 7 (!!!) off the offensive glass.
Once Michael Carter-Williams left the team, it was hard to tell how the team would respond. More specifically, how would this team perform with the loss of their de facto leader?
While Noel seems to have responded to the call, he'd be no where without the lightning-fast Ish Smith. While he struggled his first few games as a 76er, his play as of late is what sparks this team. Smith's speed and ability to break down the opposing defense has opened up a lot for the Sixers' offense. Specifically, the Ish-to-Noel connection is real.
With this win the Sixers are now tied with the Lakers with 17 wins on the season. Predictably, with each win this time of year, the draft and lottery consequences are glaring. Furthermore, the conversation about the merits of winning and losing are going to be talked ad nauseam.
I'd say 'relax', but I know that's not what some fans would like to hear, especially since the draft and the lottery has been the light at the end of the tunnel. So I'll just say this, try not to think about it too much as there's nothing you or I can do. Enjoy the games and be happy for some of these guys who are trying to earn their place in this league.
#SIXERSWIN pic.twitter.com/65doRFHaPl— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) March 21, 2015
Odds & Ends:
- I think, at least for the rest of this season, the Isaiah Canaan vs Ish Smith PG battle is over. It's apparent how smoothly the team runs with Smith at the helm and how it struggles with Canaan. Neither are great on defense, but the offense flourishes under Smith. Outside of his shooting ability, Canaan has disappointed.
- While he still gets minutes, I'm not sure why Robert Covington isn't starting. There are some logical reasons and some speculation. Regardless, I wish Covington got more minutes with Ish so he'd have more uncontested shots.
- Did you see that Furkan Dunk? Yes, Furkan Aldemir played and played well. With Thomas Robinson out, it was his time to shine. While we take this game with the grain of salt because... well, Knicks... it was nice to see Aldemir more comfortable and get to see some of his offensive game.
- This was the Alexey Shved Revenge Game. In his 17 game tenure with the Sixers, he made 17 3-pointers, total. In tonight's game, against the Sixers, he made 7. Whatever, man.
There were a few games of relevance tonight. Let's do a quick review of a few finished games:
- MIA 108, DEN 91: Good. Separate themselves a little from the field. Pick remains at 16
- OKC 123, ATL 115: Trust in Russ. At the moment of this writing, OKC is 1.5 GB of the 19th slot.
- ORL 111, POR 104: Good/Bad? It may be better for Orlando to separate itself a bit on the off chance the Sixers leapfrog to the 4th spot. However, it hurts the chances of the Lakers pick conveying.
- SA 101, BOS 89: Good. Still behind the Heat in the standings, but provides a little buffer
- BKN 129, MIL 127: This game went to 3OT. Bad because Nets, Good because Bucks? Depending on how you look at it, it can be both.