The 76ers bench was the difference in the Wednesday night showdown against the Houston Rockets, outscoring the opposition’s reserves 43-20. With a 108-97 victory, the Sixers swept the season series against the Rockets for the third time in the last four seasons including winning six of the last seven match-ups.
After an impressive showing in Chicago against the conference leading Bulls, Doug Collins’ squad continued their efficient play while seizing back-to-back victories following the poor loss to Sacto on Sunday. Defense was up to par once again, as the second-highest scoring team in the NBA was held nine points under their average (106.1 ppg). The pair of victories puts the Sixers at 39-36 after totaling just 27 in the win column last year. With seven games remaining, the 7-6 will look to fend off the Knicks for the sixth seed playing five of their final seven at home where they are 24-12.
Houston, featuring Philly native Kyle Lowry, continue to battle for the eighth seed out West. The road loss puts them at 39-36 and 2.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. Point guard Kyle Lowry led the Rockets with 19 points on 6-14 from the field including five three-pointers. One blemish on his night though, was a technical received in the fourth quarter for disputing a questionable foul drawn by Jrue Holiday. Lowry also had a tough time keeping up with Sixers’ guard Holiday.
Holiday, had a solid performance overcoming five turnovers with 24 points and 12 assists. Jrue has scored in double-figure five consecutive times following four of six games where he failed to reach that plateau. The young gun attacked the basket relentlessly getting rewarded with a game-high seven free throws where he connected on all of them. Jrue did need help from the bench though, with the veteran starters failing to contribute scoring-wise.
Trailing by one in the final minute of the third quarter, Lou Williams caught a hot streak that carried into the fourth quarter and a 9-0 scoring run. Lou-Will had his hand in each point, scoring three field goals and assisting Thaddeus Young for an easy dunk in transition that led to a timeout by the collapsing Rockets. It was nice to finally see Williams in shooting rhythm again considering he was 3-23 from the field in his last two outings. At the Wells-Fargo Center last night he went 6-12 for 15 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds.
While Lou’s hot streak helped the Sixers administer a fourth quarter beat down, it was Thaddeus Young’s 22 points that led the way for bench scoring. Thad continues to hone his skills in his third season as he’s developed into a versatile force off the bench. Instead of settling for unexplainable jumpers, Young has made an effort tp drive the ball to the tin and has improved his play around the glass. All while limiting his contested two-point jump shots.
Usually, Evan Turner would be the third contributor of the non-starters. But on Wednesday night, which will likely become a recurring theme,Turner did not see the floor in favor of veteran Andres Nocioni. For the first time in 2011, Turner had a DNP-Coaches Decision. The questionable move from Collins — play Nocioni over Turner as the postseason approaches thanks to his veteran experience — netted six points and three rebounds in the contest.
An 82 game season can wear down veteran players who have clashed with serious injuries throughout their careers. For Elton Brand, it’s becoming evident that he’s a victim of the treacherous slate. The 31 year-old only scored eight and his comeback year has quietly slowed down of late. The first 50 games of the season, Brand led the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game on 52.8% from the field. However, in his last 23 contests, he’s managed 13.0 points per game (ranks fifth on the team) while hitting on 46 percent of his shot attempts. If/when we do clinch the sixth spot, it’d be nice to see Elton get some much needed rest to prepare for the postseason stretch.
Although Brand has been slightly slacking, fellow frontcourt-mate Spencer Hawes continues to infuriate opponents with his ability to hit deep two-pointers. The seven-footer is coming into his own posting double-digit scoring figures in his last five games. Against visiting Houston, Hawes scored 12 points as the Sixers improved to 14-5 when he tallies at least 10 points. Hawes is hitting stride just as the season comes to a close.
The next game comes against an inferior New Jersey Nets team lead by head coach Avery Johnson. Succeeding that home stint will be two challenging road games against Milwaukee and Boston. We’ll look to avenge an embarrassing 28 point defeat the last time we traveled to Milwaukee and overcome an experienced Celtics team for the second straight meeting. Those two showdowns will be a testament to how prepared this team is for the unexpected NBA Playoffs.
- The Sixers shot 54 percent from the field. Why is that significant? Well, according to NBA.com, the Sixers are 17-4 when shooting 50 percent or better this season.
- The Sixers scored more points in the paint then Houston (40 to 36) but got less fast break points (14 to 20).
- The Sixers won despite the fact that the Rockets shot 41% from the field, 44% from three and 95% from the FT line. How the do it? Well, in the 4th Q the Rockets scored only 15 points on 6-20 shooting. The Sixers held the Rockets without a field goal for more than five minutes during the 4th. Take a look at the Rockets 4th Q shot chart and you’ll see it wasn’t pretty.
- With the win, the Sixers cut their magic number to one in their quest for a playoff spot.
- Of course NBA.com has highlights of the Sixers W over Houston.