Heading into the Air Canada Centre to face the Toronto Raptors, the 76ers have struggled in the New Year on the road having lost five consecutive. Overall, the road hasn’t been very friendly to the 7-6 this year as their 5-18 record on the season indicates. However, in Toronto last night their road luck changed as the Sixers beat the Raptors 107-94 and improved to 20-25 on the season.
The victory is the third straight for the 76ers and ran their record to 1-2 vs. the Raptors in 2010-11. Toronto seized the two previous games between the teams back in November when the 76ers were struggling pitifully. It was part of their 3-13 stretch, and Raptors’ center Andrea Bargnani owned the 7-6 in those two games, including a 30 point effort in Philadelphia.
This time around things were very different. The team continued to respond to head coach Doug Collins’ defense first philosophy, held Bargnani to 17 points and beat the Raptors thanks to Mo Speights and a great second half.
Since our early woes, the Sixers have done a fabulous job upping our team defense and limiting our turnovers. Take a look at the table below to see the improvement of play:
|First 16 games||Since|
The simple formula of valuing each possession while preaching stout defense on the other end, has resulted in an above .500 record since late November. With the Sixers holding a 7-5 record in the 2011 — with two losses in overtime — this young roster is poised to begin competing in the postseason. Luckily for us, as the games progress, we’re seeing some of the younger guys develop into needed contributors.
It was told by the tale of the Raptors game. The Sixers’ bench outscored the Raptors 50-17, with center Marreese Speights scoring a season-high 23 points on 10-12 shooting (in only 17 minutes of action). Speights was joined by the ever-improving Evan Turner who pitched in with 10 points and combo guard Lou Williams with 15. Turner has been more aggressive attacking the basket of late and has done a superb job leading fast break opportunities. It looks like he’s finally learning his role in the offense and the appropriate times to look for his shot.
Speights has been inconsistent (That’s putting it kindly.) this season and you never know what you’ll get from him. Collins understands that he features extreme athleticism and watery jumper for his 6-10 frame, but his frequent mental lapses on the defensive side of the ball have limited his playing time. Against the weakened frontcourt of the Raptors — missing former Sixers forward Reggie Evans — Speights finished around the rim at will. Without his contribution, this match may have tilted in favor of the home team.
It all began after a slow 29-20 deficit in the first quarter. We were shooting the ball poorly only hitting 8-22 field goals in the opening quarter. In the second quarter things dramatically picked up thanks to Speights’ energy off the bench. To open up the second quarter, Speights led a 17-4 run with 13 points of his own. Most of his baskets were around the rim and over smaller Toronto defenders. He finished with 17 points in the quarter as the Sixers shot an improved 12-23 from the field.
The defense tightened up in the second half with the score tied at 50 to begin. The Sixers outdueled Toronto in the final half with 13 more points. Lou Williams caught the hot hand knocking down three trey-balls in the third quarter. While Jrue Holiday did a fabulous job penetrating the paint and dishing to his post players, closing out with 11 assists.
It was a formidable win against a faint team. The one negative notion from the game is how well DeMar DeRozan played totaling 29 points on 9-18 shooting and 11-12 from the charity stripe. The Sixer guards really struggled to stop the athletic second year guard from USC. DeRozan has improved dramatically this season from his rookie year averaging 6.9 more points per game.
DeRozan came from the same draft class as Jrue Holiday. Both seem to be finding their grooves in their second campaign. At only 20 years of age, Holiday’s progression of understanding the point guard position has been alarming for the rest of the league. Against the Raptors, and in recent play, he’s shown great leadership qualities and found the open teammate for easy assists. In a League rich with top-notch point guards, it’s refreshing to see the 7-6 have found a franchise star with a BRIGHT future.
- The Sixers out rebounded the Raps (43-33), scored more points on the break (30-22), won the turnover battle (13-14) and hit more buckets in the paint (56-30).
- Holiday picked up his ninth double-double of the season with a 15-point, 11-assist effort in the victory. Holiday also grabbed 5 boards.
- Jodie Meeks is in a major funk. Meeks was scoreless from the floor against the Raptors, shooting 0-for-5 from the floor and finishing the game with just two points, a rebound and an assist in 20 minutes. What is even more disturbing is that Meeks struggled against a very weak opponent (TOR) who played a ton of zone defense last night. Meeks is now averaging 5 points per night in his last seven games while shooting 10-39 from the field and 7-23 from deep.
- Of course NBA.com has highlights of the Sixers third straight win.
- With Memphis traveling to the Wells-Fargo Center on Friday, they’ll look to extend their winning streak to four — their longest streak of the year. The Grizzlies are coming off an ugly road loss against the New Jersey Nets. It’ll be the first time the Sixers compete with the Western Conference foe in 2010-11.