Four games down, three wins, and only one loss; this last week has been one of solid success for the 76ers. Their scoring is way up, defense is looking slightly better, and the team overall seems to be gelling better. They’ve been recording games of over 100 points, are now 10-6, and managed to take the defending Western Conference Champions (the Oklahoma City Thunder) into overtime as the game was tied at 104. Although they ultimately lost, Thad Young put up 29 points and had a huge game, and the rest of the squad played just as hard. They managed to win three in a row thereafter, and have been putting up their best numbers to date. So let’s look at where the Sixers are shining, and where there is room for improvement.
1) Evan Turner has been showing up big lately, putting up great numbers and playing with a lot of heart. He’s been much more consistent in the last two weeks, and is proving himself as the game changer he has the capability to be. He is a huge asset to the team’s scoring average, putting up 26 points against OKC, 16 against the Suns, 22 against the Rockets, and 25 against the Bobcats. He is playing for an average of 36.5 minutes per game, and is proving to be very useful during those minutes. Hopefully he will continue the trend, as he and Holiday seem to have good chemistry with one another.
2) Jason Richardson has been ultimately the biggest clutch player on the team. In last night’s game against the Bobcats, he drilled four 3-pointers in the 4th quarter; in fact, 14 of his 22 points were scored in the 4th quarter alone. He was absolutely instrumental in that win last night, and is hugely important for those big 4th quarter surges. He hasn’t been playing for as many minutes as he has in years prior, but he’s filling his role as the “ace of spades” very well. (Doug Collins words in that quote, not mine).
3) Jrue Holiday has been pretty fantastic throughout the season, but has been especially great this past week. After the loss to OKC, where he recorded 12 assists, the young point guard scored 33 points in the 104-101 win against the Phoenix Suns. Although it’s still difficult for Jrue without an established big man at center, he’s handling his duties quite nicely. Without Bynum, Jrue is definitely the star of this team.
1) The defense has still got to improve for this team to go all the way. Although all four games this week saw the Sixers put up over 100 points (for the first time all season) they did not blow out their opponents, and the games were stuck pretty close. Evan Turner managed to get 10 rebounds last night against the Bobcats, but he hasn’t been as consistent in that respect. Thaddeus Young is holding steady, with 15 rebounds in his huge game against OKC, but he is only averaging about 7 per game. This is where a big center will really help, but since that is not an option right now with Bynum’s knee problems continuing, everyone else has got to pick up the slack. No one is doing well in the realm of blocked shots, and the opposing teams are still making these games very close. Since the Sixers’ shooting and scoring has improved, playing better defense is imperative in order for them to increase their winning berth.
2) Center. Center, center, center. It’s been rough without a big 7-footer under the net, and it will continue to be like that. Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, and Kwame Brown all need to do a better job at filling this roll. Perhaps Coach Collins needs to be a better decision maker and stop shuffling the lineup so much, which could potentially improve whoever is filling in at developing that type of play. But it is essential to the teams’ continued success. Jrue Holiday has to pick up a lot of slack that a point guard should not have to. It’s basically like having a team full of forwards with the current line up. I would suggest having Thad Young fill this role, because although he is only 6’8”, he is the most consistent of the bunch and plays hard and aggressively. He has been getting more playing minutes as of late, so this seems to be the direction we’re heading.
3) Consistency. The Sixers basically just need to keep this up. Winning three in a row is great, and it would be even better to continue this winning streak. The Knicks and Nets are tied at first, but their record is just barely better than the Sixers’. The Sixers played hard in that game against OKC, but couldn’t keep it together once they reached OT. It was partially defensive issues, but they did not put any points on the board either, ending the game in a 112-104 loss. However, although the Suns and the Bobcats aren’t as formidable, the Rockets are a good team this year especially with the addition of James Harden, and the Sixers managed to beat them. They need to keep it up, keep playing hard, and staying focused. This team could be the “hidden gem in the East” as one Sixers CEO put it, but they just have to stay consistent.
Tonight they will take on the 7-7 Chicago Bulls in a rematch of last seasons’ playoffs. The Sixers are the better team right now, but the Bulls should never be regarded as an easy win. Overall, things are looking very positive for the one Philadelphia team that has managed to NOT crash and burn this year. Let’s keep it that way, please, for all of our sanity.Tags: Doug Collins, Evan Turner, Jason Richardson, Jrue Holiday, Kwame Brown, Lavoy Allen, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young