Last night at the US Airways Center with Andre Iguodala watching from the bench, Evan Turner and Andres Noicioni scored season-highs, Jrue Holiday played Steve Nash to a draw, and the Sixers topped the fast-setting Phoenix Suns in a hyperthyroidal 123-110 win.
The Sixers improved to 13-19 and, for those of you who pay attention to these things in December, slid a half-game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks and into the eight hole in the East.
Going into the game, the story was in the other locker room. After he missed the better part of two weeks with a knee injury, last night marked game one of Phoenix’s Vince Carter experiment. I don’t like being the guy who watches the Sixers so he can watch their opponents (at least I don’t like admitting to being that guy), especially in a win, but last night I couldn’t take my eyes off Vinny, even though he”s now a shadow of himself. I’ve always been, for lack of a better word, interested in him; his athleticism, his weirdness, the disproportionate ire his weirdness draws from the fan bases of the (at this point, many) teams he’s played for. I don’t necessarily root for him, but I keep close tabs on the guy.
And this is abso-freakin-lutely his last chance in the League. If you can’t make it in Phoenix, you can’t make it anywhere. The Suns training staff are miracle workers. It’s clearly a HuGe Help to guys to work with that staff. I f he bombs with the Suns, it might be time for him to think about hanging them up.*
*An aside here:: This might sound like a blaspheme to Suns readers (it is very unlikely we have any Suns readers), but isn’t Phoenix better off at this point if Nash walks away? Their, not terrible, modus of snagging over-the-hill-but-available-vets-and-milking-them-of-every-last-ounce-of-productivity-in-the-hopes-of-holding-open-Nash’s-title-window-for-one-more-year-at-the-expense-of-developing-younger-talent seems to finally have bit them in the ass. While I like Vincanity, I’m not sure he’s the right salve for that bite. Maybe they’re better off taking the hit now and going with a pre-emptive rebuild. Obviously there’s no way this happens.
Carter didn’t look great last night (he scored an ugly 18 on 8/20 shooting and did absolutely nothing else), but 11 days isn’t quite enough time for the Suns’ staff’s “methods” to take effect anyhow.
And onto our Sixers.
Evan Turner was phenomenal. Late in the third, he missed a jumper, got the ball back after a Spencer Hawes O-board, then drove it into traffic, initiated contact with MicKael Pietrus and sunk a bucket that probably could have had a trip to the line tacked on to it had the official had the itch to get involved (A Hawes offensive rebound and an Evan Turner bucket in the paint on the same possession? Yes). Turner went on to score a career-high 23 points on 9/12 shooting, which, after accounting for Sun-flation, comes out to about 12, but was still a great effort from a kid who was playing like he has mono.
ET also got teammates involved. In the fourth period, he drove past the underrated Marcin Gortat, slid across the baseline, then bounced the ball back behind Gortat to a wide open Thad Young, who was fouled on the play by Carter.
The Sixersdemonstrated some grit too. They had a scary moment late in the fourth when Nash hit a three to make it 110-105, and I was visited by visions of blown-leads past, but Holiday –who scored a game-high 25 with seven assists, no fouls, and only two turnovers– immediately banged a long two on the other end before baiting Nash into a technical (one that Doug Collins, in a savvy move, chose to let Evan Turner shoot). The Sixers put it away shortly thereafter when Evan Turner (EVAN TURNER!!!!!!?) banged a thee to push the lead to 117-107 with 1:42 left.
Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks.
Last night was a diamond.
- Turner, who came into the game shooting just 38 percent, shot 9-for-12 in scoring 23 points in less than 30 minutes. ET also had five rebounds, two steals and just 1 TO.
- Brand had 16 points (5-11 on FGA) and 7 rips last night. Over his last 4 games, Brand is hitting for 16 points and 13 rebounds per night. In the month of December, EB is currently averaging 14.2 ppg. to go along with 10.5 rpg.
- Last night, the Sixers scored more points in the paint (44-40); killed the Suns on the boards (46-31); got more buckets on the break (20-14) and shot 55 percent against the Suns.
- The Sixers next 3 games : @ Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, then Monday @ New Orleans and Wednesday vs. Wizards. A 2-1 run in those three games would be very nice.
- Of course NBA.com has the highlights of last night’s 76ers win.
- For a look at this Sixers W from the otherside of things, we turn to our THN friends at Valleyofthesuns.com.