The 76ers beat the best team in the NBA last night.  It wasn’t pretty, but rather a sluggish duel between two teams who played with a defensive mindset for the entire game. 

Scrappy, slow-paced and defensive is a style usually played by Gregg Popovich’s Spurs.  It’s a style that typically gives the Sixers a lot of problems, but last night the home team went toe-to-toe with the Spurs in the half court and came away with arguably the biggest win of the year.  It was only the Spurs ninth loss of the season.

The Sixers improved to 25-28 on the season, having won eight of their last 11 ball games.  It’s looking more inevitable that this team will overtake the New York Knicks — who lost to the defending champs last night and are 26-26 — for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

I’m still sort of shocked they came away with this one.  Tied at 67 a piece with under six minutes remaining I figured the veteran ball club (San Antonio) would hold an upper hand.  The Spurs have been in situations like this before and a slow-paced half-court game plays into their favor.  Amazingly, I was wrong. 

Thanks to clutch hustle plays from Elton Brand, big shots from Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala’s excellent lockdown defense on Manu Ginobili the Sixers brought home the W.  The Sixers play last night resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation from the Wells-Fargo Center attendees. 

The most surprising notion to take away from this ball game is the way the Sixers won.  The style of play reflected an ideal situation for the Spurs.  These half-court tempo ball games have been their bread and butter for the last decade. 

Both teams were stout defensively causing the other team to struggle shooting from the field.  The Sixers shot a poor 35.4% from the field and the Spurs connected on 33.3%.  A rough shooting night for both ball clubs, but the Sixers upended the visiting club by capitalizing on fast break opportunities.  We outscored the Spurs 21-5 in transition.  Despite giving up 15 offensive rebounds, the Sixers were able to overcome a better ball club while playing to their fashion. 

The stars of the night for the 7-6 have to be the most shocking pair — Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes.  Hawes fumbled on a few opportunities in the fourth quarter but set the tone early with a solid opening half scoring 13 points.  He also snatched eight rebounds in the game.  It was Spencer’s first time scoring double digits in the New Year, the last time was when he put up ten points against the Phoenix Suns on December 29th.  The only other player to score double figures for Philadelphia was the young point guard. 

Holiday having a breakout performance is something we’ve seen before.  However he never needed a stellar performance like he did last night.  Since the installment of this ‘new offense’ Jrue has played poorly in three of the last four games and it seemed unlikely that his funk would end against a stud opponent like the Spurs. 

But head coach Doug Collins helped Jrue get back on track last night by calling his number early and repeatedly in the first quarter (Just as we requested in our Fo’ with the Foes preview.).  Jrue totaled 13 points on 6/8 shooting in the first.  He would finish the ball game with 27 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 4:43 remaining to lead 71-67.  Also, he nailed four free throws to seal the game in the final twenty seconds.  He got his hands dirty on defense as well, prying three steals and limiting Tony Parker to 10 points.

It’s games like this when Holiday steps up in big moments that give you hope he’ll develop into a top five point man.  He doesn’t lack the athleticism to do so, just the consistent night-in night-out play that you’d expect from a twenty year old.  With three road games ahead before All-Star weekend — Minnesota, Memphis and Houston — it’d be nice to see Holiday string together some quality contests. 

Besides those two stars, props has to be given to the older veterans on this roster.  Elton Brand’s 17 rebounds were instrumental in the victory and Andre Iguodala’s excellent defense on Manu Ginobili late in the game got the win.  Ginobili was held to just eight points on ten field goal attempts.  Andre Iguodala’s defense and Brand’s hustle might go unnoticed in the stat sheet but shouldn’t be undervalued by Sixers’ faithful.

Look at the short road stint lying ahead once again:

            – Minnesota Timberwolves

            – Memphis Grizzlies

            – Houston Rockets

How many wins should we expect from this team with them playing so well?  Is it unreasonable for me to think that they should win out? 

The Timberwolves suck,  we had a W vs. Memphis in the bag at home but collapsed giving up 42 points in the fourth and the Rockets don’t play defense.  But maybe I should be more realistic since our road record is 8-19. 

With all that being said the team should shoot to win two of three heading into All-Star weekend.  

Philadunkia Notes:

  • The Spurs were 24-1 vs. teams with sub .500 records.  Make that 24-2.
  • The Sixers held Manu, Tony and RJ to 6-28 on FGA and 21 points total.
  • In the absence of Tony Battie, Darius Songaila was called into action last night and saw nearly 4 mins. of tick.  He was 0-1 on FGAs.
  • The defensive mind set of last night’s game really didn’t lend to Mo Speights style of play…but we still have to ask, “What has Mo done to see his minutes (3:58 last night) plummet in recent games?”
  • The Spurs out-rebounded the Sixers 57-46 and scored more points in the paint 38-30.  But the Spurs alos had 16 TOs.
  • Of course has the highlights of the huge Sixers upset.

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