Usually on nights following an epic collapse, the 76ers would struggle out of the opening gates, forcing up shots and playing sluggish defense. But Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center was a different story. The 76ers scored 32 first quarter points, never came close to relinquishing the lead and defeated the Bobcats 109-91 for Philadelphia’s third win in their last four games.
You mean to tell me the 76ers actually held onto a halftime lead?! Yes, yes they did. Philadelphia’s superb help defense, protecting the basketball (only 11 turnovers) and spreading of the rock (23 assists to Charlotte’s 16) helped nearly every 76er get involved in the action. But all of these components of Saturday night’s winning formula have to take a backseat to the 76ers new starting shooting guard.
Jodie Meeks received his second straight NBA start and the second round pick from Kentucky easily put on the best 76er shooting clinic of the season. Meeks canned 7-of-10 three pointers, including six in the first quarter, where he ended up with 20 points. And majority of his three pointers were coming in transition for the 76ers. Meeks’ floor spacing was excellent; his three pointers came from an assortment of spots beyond the arc. Meeks’ 20-point eruption tied Allen Iverson for a Sixers record for points in a quarter. The Sixers led 32-11 after Meeks’ final three and the energy in the building was like nothing it had been all season.
Your telling me that a guy who did not reach the floor in the first six games this season is already showing up Evan Turner not only in the box score, but in fan excitement? Pretty much every one of Meek’s attempts was a wide-open shot, but that doesn’t matter. He’s capitalizing on a golden opportunity and is able to help be a leader for an up-tempo type of 76er offense.
Meeks’ sudden emergence will more than likely cement his spot in the starting lineup until at least the New Year. Meeks’ deadly shooting capabilities are going to open up more minutes for Thaddeus Young, who can come in and play the three position over Andres Nocioni. Young was like a garbage man out there against the Bobcat’s bigs, collecting all the trash underneath the basket. Thad finished with 20 points in 26 minutes and seems to thrive off the fast-paced basketball Philadelphia was playing. The Sixers finished with 27 fast break points, their second highest total this season.
Some Philadelphia faithful may have been scratching their heads on the Evan Turner benching for a few days, but you can’t deny Jodie’s talents. After all, he is now the starting shooting guard, and the strengths in his game fit what best describes the two position in the NBA.
And just because he was a second round pick, doesn’t mean he can’t be successful in this league. Gilbert Arenas, Dennis Rodman, Carlos Boozer, Manu Ginobli and Rashard Lewis were all taken in the second round and have all appeared in All-Star games. Meeks did pick up a couple of early fouls which kept him on the bench for awhile, but there just isn’t a doubt in my mind that his energy is exactly what the 76ers need right now. Let Doug Collins ride Meeks as long as he can.
Last night, as a whole, the starting unit was nearly invincible. Every single starter had a +/- ratio of +16. The starters drilled 30-of-53 shots good for 56 percent from the floor. Each player brought exactly what the Sixers need to be a consistent team for the remainder of the year. With ET seeing a decreased amount of minutes, Andre Iguodala took on more of a passing role than a rebounding one and the results were fantastic. A 15 point, seven assist and five rebound stat line during a blowout win is extremely solid from Iguodala. His around the back pass to Thaddeus right before halftime almost made me jump out of my seat. Iggy would add his own monster AND-1 jam later in the third quarter to give the 76ers a commanding 83-63 advantage.
Elton Brand’s midrange jumper somehow always gets disrespected to open up a game. Brand sailed three straight jumpers from around 15 feet right through the net. Brand finished with 15 points and 10 boards. He has pulled down at least 10 rebounds in three of his last four games.
And Jrue Holiday was not only dishing out dimes like it was his day job (well it kind of is) but his defensive intensity really took out DJ Augustine from the game. Augustine only could record 12 points and one measly assist. Holiday poked two steals away from the Bobcats and even had two blocks. Holiday even hit three triples of his own, his best since an early November win against the Knicks where he hit four.
Even Spencer Hawes was registering season highs with nine rebounds on the evening.
There are some encouraging signs to take away from the victory even though the Bobcats were stone cold from the field. The 76er help defense was some of the best the entire season. Routinely Charlotte was being forced to launch up a frantic jumper as the shot clock expired. Larry Brown coached teams are notorious for slowing down the pace of the game. Credit Doug Collins approach to start the game running, an approach that made Charlotte’s closest comeback just a mere eight points.
As bad as we’ve played so far in 2010, we are only 2.5 games out of the eighth seed in the east. New Jersey and Detroit are now tied with the Sixers for last place and throwing together six wins in the next 10 games would do more than salvage the season.
Of course NBA.com has the highlights of the Sixers W last night.