The wounds suffered from Friday night’s collapse against Memphis are now starting to heal a tad after the Sixers 110-99 handling of the Denver Nuggets. Surprisingly the Sixers (21-26) were able to protect a marginal lead for most of the evening on their way to completing the season sweep against Carmelo Anthony and his Nuggets.
Some may complain often about this team’s inconsistency, but with a first year coach and one of the youngest rosters in the League, the Sixers have no reason to be hanging their heads. Sunday night’s victory ensured Philadelphia of its best monthly record so far this season at 8-6. And since the woeful 3-13 beginning chapters, the Sixers are now 18-13 and boast an undeniably first-rate home record of 15-8.
The Sixers were able to combat Denver’s excellent night at the free throw (21-of-24) and three point (10-of-19) lines by forcing 17 turnovers and getting the ball out in transition for 22 fast break points. Anthony never was able to find his isolation game and committed six of those 17 turnovers himself. Andre Iguodala called Carmelo ‘the hardest person to guard in the NBA’, and still the Sixers lockdown defender was able to frustrate a star-player again, holding Anthony to 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field. AI9 also forced ‘Melo into committing six turnovers.
For all the flack that AI9 takes, he’s shown the door to several elite scorers in wins this season. Check out this table.
|November 3rd||Pacers-Danny Granger||7 points||W 101-75|
|November 30th||Blazers- Brandon Roy||10 points||W 88-79|
|December 9th||Celtics-Paul Pierce||10 points||L 102-101|
|December 17th||Lakers-Kobe Bryant||9 points||L 93-82|
|January 24th||Suns-Vince Carter||2 points||W 105-95|
Granted Carmelo probably is looking more towards Monday’s doomsday matchup with the Nets. And his Nuggs are now 1-9 if they trail heading into the fourth quarter, showing that this team gives up rather than rally around a guy who doesn’t even want to be there.
But Iguodala’s defense has won games and gives the Sixers an advantage against contenders that other bottom playoff teams don’t have. Iguodala played one of his best overall games this season with 24 points, seven assists, four steals and three rebounds. Iguodala handled the ball more than usual because of Jrue Holiday’s struggles, yet only turned the ball over just once. Overall he was absolutely outstanding.
If it weren’t for Chauncey Billups’ 16 first quarter points (22 overall in the 1st half), this contest may have been a blowout all the way through. In addition to AI9 the Sixers had five other different players scoring in double-digits including Thaddeus Young’s 21 and Elton Brand’s 15 points off of just one missed shot. The blue and red shot 55 percent from the field and had 31 assists compared to the Nuggets 16.
It was almost quite odd how easily the Sixers owned the paint compared to the Nuggets, out-muscling Denver 50-22 inside. Nene is having a career season at the Center position and he was pretty much ineffective with 12 points and six boards. Credit Thad Young and Elton Brand for boxing out and keeping Denver’s usually powerful big men under control.
The 12-0 run in the early parts of the third quarter gave the Sixers a suitable amount breathing room, but even with a 10-point lead headed into the fourth quarter, I was more than nervous about the possibility of another collapse. The Nuggets kept hanging around until Evan Turner entered the ball game for Jodie Meeks with 5:50 remaining. Turner provided a spark, pulling down two boards, sinking a jumper and slamming home a dunk all of course while playing his usual stellar defense (He held Billups scoreless for nearly four minutes in the fourth quarter.).
Turner is playing mistake free basketball and if Jodie Meeks’ reliability issues continue, the rookie may start making appearances in the starting lineup, depending on the matchup. Sunday’s 11 points, a team-high eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers capped Turners best month of basketball in the NBA. The 22-year-old is no longer yawning in frustration from lack of playing time. Instead his confidence and decision making are soaring to heights unimaginable around early December. Turners +/- rating of +11 was the highest of any player off of Philadelphia’s bench, who rank first in scoring (39.7 ppg.).
There were two losses in January in which the Sixers utterly disintegrated; at Detroit and Friday’s horror episode against Memphis. But there were many more rewards this month than problems. Convincing wins over Chicago, Utah, Phoenix and now Denver are victories this team will remember as the chase for the playoffs continues.
- The Nuggs hit there first seven 3PAs of the night (10-19 overall from deep). To their credit, the Sixers hung tough during the hot streak and never let the game get away from them.
- The Nuggs had 17 TOs which led to 22 fast break points for the 7-6. Thad especially thrived in the open court game last night.
- Billups absolutely abused any Sixer who tried to guard him in the 1st half and if we’re honest it was a thing of beauty to watch a backcourt player with that versatile of a skill set.
- After the game, Anthony said both knees were “sore”. Too much ‘Dre we guess.
- More ‘Melo drama — How about the dumb technical foul Anthony received a after the first half ended for throwing his head band into the crowd? We have never seen that one before…
- Of course NBA.com has the highlights of this Sixers win.