Sometimes there are games during the course of an NBA season that you have to sit back and enjoy. This was the case for Wednesday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets in Philadelphia. The Sixers were a team at 10-3 who were riding the momentum of a three game win streak, the Nuggets a team at 9-5 who had just dismantled Lebron James and the Heat just nights ago. To add to the storyline of this game was the Sixers home record. The Sixers entered the game with a perfect 6-0 record at home which was second in the NBA behind the Spurs who were 9-0. Each team was also nearly identical when it comes to scoring as well, the Nuggets entered the game second in the NBA in scoring with 104.1 points per game, while the Sixers were third at 102.5 points per game.
Each team has been so successful this season because of the play they have gotten out of their benches. For the Sixers Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner have shown all season great production when their names have been called to help out the 7-6, for the Nuggets there is Al Harrington, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, and Chris Anderson who have played their part in the Nuggets success.
On this night there was one bench player which out-shined them all, and one who is very familiar with the Sixers. Andre Miller who served as a nightly stat-machine in his playing days with the Sixers, showed why at the age of 35 that he’s still got it. The classy veteran had 28 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals in nearly 39 minutes of work to lead the Nuggets to a 108-104 overtime victory.
Being just two rebounds shy of a triple-double is incredible for a player of Millers size and he clearly willed the Nuggets to a victory in this one. Towards the end of the game, Miller drilled one clutch shot after another and it was one he hit with 42 seconds left in overtime which gave the Nuggets the victory.
The Sixers on the other hand played fantastic basketball and showed tremendous heart and hustle throughout this contest which shouldn’t go unnoticed. The Sixers had a chance to win this one at the end of regulation. Andre Iguodala was at the line with 4 seconds left and a chance to put the Sixers up by one. Once again Iggy came up short and only knocked down one of two and the rest is history. Although he missed a huge free-throw, Iggy played a great game. He was one assist shy of a triple-double scoring 11 points to go with 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
In overtime the Sixers held a 104-102 lead with just under two minutes left after a Thaddeus Young jump shot, but Andre Miller and Aaron Afflalo proved to be two much as they scored the final six points of the game giving the Nuggets the win. The Nuggets improved to 10-5 on the year as the Sixers dropped to 10-4.
The Sixers led by as many as 14 points early in the second quarter in this one while playing without their starting center Spencer Hawes. It was the play of Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young in this one that was the story lines for the Sixers. This was Evan Turners best game ever in the NBA. Turner scored 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Young had his best game of the season scoring 22 points while grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists. These two guys played with intensity all game and are the reason why the Sixers had any chance of winning this game.
It was the play of Miller and big man Nene which set a fire in the Nuggets in this one. Nene was trouble for Sixer bigs all night as he scored 20 points to go along with 14 rebounds. He was a big factor in the Nuggets comeback to take the lead by the end of the second quarter and he continued that play throughout the game.
I’m a little confused at Doug Collins coaching in this one however. Before the Nuggets led their comeback charge in the second, the Sixers had gotten decent play out of rookie Nikola Vucevic in the lane and outside of picking up four personal fouls in this contest, I think his play defensively to start the game is what helped the Sixers to their 14 point lead. Instead, Collins went small after Vuc started picking up fouls and he ultimately never saw the floor again. It’s not really a question of coaching, but rather a scenario. What if Vuc had played more minutes? Obviously this is all null and void, because the real problem for the Sixers was not having Spencer Hawes in this game. In two big losses for the Sixers in this game and in their recent loss to the Knicks, the Sixers have dearly missed Spencer Hawes on the court.
Can you judge how good a team is when they do play without one of their best players? Unfortunately for the Sixers, critics will look at these two losses against the Knicks and Nuggets and say that this team isn’t for real until they can beat top competition. It’s an unfair judgement though, because if Hawes was on the court things could’ve been a different story. The Sixers biggest win so far this season was against the Danny Granger-less Pacers, and until this team can rack up wins against higher competition then their record will always be questioned. With or without Spencer Hawes.
The Sixers as a team however will get a lot out of this loss. They nearly beat one of the best teams in the League, while playing without one of their best players. If Evan Turner can continue to play like he did last night then the Sixers are going to be extremely dangerous the rest of the season. It says a lot about a teams character when they can battle the way they did and never back down. The team could’ve very well thrown in the towel after the Nuggets went on a 26-6 run late in the game, however like this team has shown all year they are fighters and they fought back to make this quite a contest. Every player on this team had their moments. Jrue’s big crossover for a big two in the fourth, Brands big steal and bucket down the other end, Turners big baseline drive, Iggys foul shot, and Thads bucket to take the lead in overtime were all huge plays in the game. It was just Andre Millers night and he wasn’t going to lose. If Miller was Michael Jordan, the WFC would be his MSG. Since leaving the Sixers, he has been a Sixer killer when he comes to town and at the age of 35 he deserves a big hand for the gutty performance he had last night.
He definitely gave Sixers fans plenty to cheer about in the past: