After a two game road skid the 76ers bounced back with a 95-89 victory last night over the Denver Nuggets who were missing star Carmelo Anthony. Anthony – averaging 24 points and 8.3 rebounds per game – missed his third game sadly due to the death of his sister. His absence has harmed the Nuggets who have now lost three straight games without their scoring leader, their largest losing streak of the season.
The Denver faithful might not of seen this loss coming with an 82-70 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the 76ers (12-18) fought hard to steal a victory. Denver was on a 22-6 run with eight minutes remaining in the fourth and a twelve point lead when things turned in favor of the Sixers. Behind starting guard Jodie Meeks with nine fourth quarter points – six at the free throw line – the Sixers ran away with a 25-7 run to close out the ball game.
Amazingly, the run came from nowhere as it seemed the Sixers were dead in their tracks and the game belonged to the Nuggs. But our young guns fought hard and solidified their second victory on this treacherous road stretch that has four games remaining against Golden State, Phoenix, Los Angeles and New Orleans. The dagger that destroyed Denver’s chances came at the hands of three-point specialist Jodie Meeks who nailed a trey-ball with 47.1 seconds left to give us a 92-86 lead. Meeks who saw his fellow guard Jrue Holiday get doubled and in search for an outlet, made an excellent play. Jodie managed to find open space and flash high at the top of the key where he received a pass with no one to contend his shot attempt. Game, set, match the play put the nail in the Nuggets coffin.
Meeks wasn’t the only player who had a strong showing with the game on the line. Jrue Holiday had a fabulous second half picking up 18 points. With the offense at a standstill in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Holiday made a deliberate effort to attack opposing guard Chauncey Billups and scored seven points in the process. It was impressive to see the 20 year-old finally respond to the problems that veteran Chauncey Billups was giving him on the other end. The two went back and forth all night, a classic battle between new school and old school players, with the one-on-one battle ending in a draw.
Elton Brand had a few battles of his own in the post. Brand put together one of his best all-around contest tallying 16 points, 17 rebounds while also harassing Kenyon Martin and Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson defensively. Martin and Birdman were held to a combined 1-8 from the field and three points. Brand did a fabulous job on the offensive boards grabbing seven of them, a contributing factor to the 76ers 48 points in the paint.
Brand wasn’t the only Sixer crashing the glass hard, Thaddeus Young collected five offensive boards of his own. Young — inconsistent of late — put together his first 20 point game off the bench since December 7th against the Cavaliers. He’s had his struggles finding a role with the offense at times, but his athleticism and versatility make him a dangerous threat off the bench.
Overall a good win for the 76ers. When the opposition is missing their star player (Carmelo Anthony), it’s a game you need to steal to better your chances f making the playoffs. When things were looking sour in the fourth quarter the team never gave up and fought hard into the closing minutes. Something that can be credited to the motivation of head coach Doug Collins on these younger athletes. 2-2 on the toughest road stretch of the season is a positive note, with four road games remaining let’s see if this team can grab another pair of victories against an easier slate.
- Evan Turner had a fabulous 2nd quarter with eight points. The 76ers offense was stagnant and needed a spark after 13 1st quarter points. The rookie Turner gave them just that, attacking the basket in transition and finishing some pretty layups at the rim. The assertiveness he showed is something this organization would love to see moving forward from ET.
- Tony Battie saw some playing time returning to where he was drafted in 1997 (fifth pick overall). Battie was on the floor for nine minutes but didn’t connect on his lone field goal.
- Jodie Meeks went 9/10 from the free throw line, which was critical in the closing minutes of the ball game. From the field he wasn’t so hot overall going 3-12 from the field. I guess you can’t complain though? When it mattered most he came through. However, I’m curious to see how is shooting fares the next four ball games.
- Besides Meeks, the rest of the club shot 11/22 from the charity stripe. Iguodala was the main bearer of the bad shooting only hitting three of ten free throws. Unusual for Iggy considering he’s a career 74.9 free throw percent shooter.
- Lou Williams was not present for the 76ers. Missing the game for the birth of his daughter, best of wishes to him and his family.