02/28/11 10:39 am EST
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the laughing stock of the NBA this season. The old Sixers, you know the ones from November, lost to this scrub team twice (in November). The new and improved Sixers, who are accounted for the last 43 games of this season, have now defeated the Cavs twice.
Cleveland’s sad season features the worst losing streak in all of sports when they accumulated 26 consecutive losses from late November to early February. Much can be blamed on the devastating franchise loss of LeBron James to South Beach, but losing that amount of games in any fashion is unacceptable for a professional ball club.
Heading into the bout verse the 76ers they were 3-2 in the last five with a win over the rejuvenated New York Knicks on Friday. Despite a late game surge to get within three points, which was saved by a Thaddeus Young steal with a few ticks below 15 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers fell short 95-91 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
For the Sixers this marks their very first four game winning streak and the only time this team has surpassed .500 record-wise. You can credit this team’s success to the easy challengers it faced in Houston, Washington, Detroit and the League’s worst team, Cleveland.
A real test for the Sixers will come on Tuesday night against Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks who are sitting pretty at 43-16 and are cruising with a six game win streak.
It’s time to get excited as a Sixers fan. Realistically, this team cannot make a run in the Eastern Conference playing superior talent in a seven game series. But how about pulling off a first round shocker? It would do wonders for the young core on this team to get experience in the postseason and be exposed to pressure situations.
Obviously, if we draw the Heat or Celtics the chances are slight of pulling off an upset. However having won 13 of the last 17, it’s looking like a strong possibility that New York will be scooting over in the standings as we jump to sixth. In that spot, we’d face a tough, but beatable opponent in either Atlanta, Orlando or Chicago. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, but how I can I not be excited?
Getting back to the Cavaliers game which was closer than expected. We must praise the three core bench players — Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and rookie Evan Turner — who have been the reason for the Sixers League-high bench scoring average. On tonight’s game, each had special moments:
Lou Williams: We came out very flat against a softer foe. It was like we were just going to prance in their, play half-hearted ball and walk away victorious. After beginning the game down 23-12, Lou Williams got the juices flowing by scoring nine points to close out the final 1:40 in the opening quarter. His run included two pull-up trey-balls plus an AND 1 possession. Sometimes the first quarter is overlooked in importance, not this time though, his solo scoring act really gave us a needed wake-up call.
Evan Turner: Retaining the spark lit by Lou-Will, the rookie put together an excellent second quarter scoring eight points off an array of difficult pull-up jump shots. Turner has truly been a great defender this season off the bench. Offensively, we’re still waiting for the light bulb to go on. It’s exciting to see Turner score in spurts like he did in the second, it gives 76ers fans hope he can develop into an all-star guy. Keep in mind this a player who started off slow at the high school and collegiate levels.
Thaddeus Young: Young and Lou both deserve sixth-man of the year recognition. Young arguably had the biggest play of the game when he pried the ball away from J.J. Hickson only a 91-88 lead and 12 ticks on the clock. He went 6-8 during the game and finished with 12 points. Thad has been difficult to stop around the rim this year hitting on a career-high 55.1% from the field which puts him seventh in the league.
Sometimes our bench guys can be overlooked for our starting five. Our above .500 feat wouldn’t have been made possible without their ability to score on any given night. On Sunday they got things going as Jrue Holiday and Jodie Meeks took a half to arise.
Starters Jrue Holiday and Jodie Meeks scored zero points in the first half. After a halftime break, quenching their thirst with water or Gatorade and a pep-talk from the ‘ole ball coach they decided to begin playing. Meeks and Holiday combined for 27 in the second half including nine of our final 11 points. Each connected on a pair of free throws to keep the game out of reach for the Cavaliers in the final 11 seconds.
There is no star on this Sixers roster. Every time I write a recap I’ve grown accustomed to highlighting whoever stepped up in each match. It’s unlike other playoff contenders where guys like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Amar’e Stoudemire garner constant recognition. Instead for Philadelphia, there are many players that can shine on any given night.
- The win marks the first time the 76ers have been over .500 since November 6th of 2009.
- The Sixers overcame a solid game game from the Cavs’ JJ Hickson (22 & 16) and won the battle in the paint 44-40.
- The Sixers shot 45.5% from behind the arc (5-12). No 3-ball was more important then the one Meeks drained with 3:43 left which pushed the Sixers lead back to 8 points.
- Of course NBA.com has the highlights of another Sixers win.
- Last night the Knicks staged and huge 4th quarter rally, erased a 14-point deficit and pulled off an upset W in Miami. So the Sixers remain one game (2 in the loss column) behind the Knicks for the 6th playoff spot in the East.