Because of the snow there were early deadlines for the newspaper so we wanted to be sure to provide some extra content here on the blog, especially conveying the vibe from post-game here in Denver.
Tonight, the 76ers defeated the Denver Nuggets, 95-89. These weren’t the regular Nuggets, although no one is really sure exactly how good the regular Nuggets will be because they’ve had plenty of distractions and injuries this season. The Nuggets were without Carmelo Anthony (death of his sister), playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and with only limited availability of forwards Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen.
Just like last week in Orlando, this looked like the perfect night for the Sixers to steal another victory from a team that, under normal circumstances, they would probably not beat. Also, on a road trip that has precious few winnable games, tonight's seemed like one the Sixers had better grab. The Sixers fly tonight to San Franciscio where they will play the Golden State Warriors tomorrow night on the second night of a back-to-back. Then it's on to Phoenix, followed by Los Angeles, followed by New Orleans.
The Sixers are now 12-18. Not bad for a team that started 3-13.
“You know what, these are the games we would have lost earlier in the year,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said after tonight's win.
He's right. It was an ugly game, with low shooting percentages and poor offensive execution. The Sixers trailed by 12 points at the end of the first quarter and by 12 points, 82-70, early in the fourth quarter. The game was tied with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining and was a one-possession game, 89-86, with 1:09 left. All in all, this one was looking very much like a lot of other losses we've seen this seen.
But then something different happened: the Sixers executed down the stretch. Here were the key plays: Jrue Holiday hits a little four-foot runner to give the Sixers a 87-84 lead. Elton Brand makes two free throws to boost the lead to 89-85. After the Nuggets closed to 89-86, Holiday finds Meeks for a three pointer that basically sealed the game with 47.1 seconds left. At no point did the Sixers run a clear out and try to shove the ball to one person.
One other thing: The Sixers aren't necessarily an unlucky team, but you could argue that bad things seem to happen to them a lot (although mostly the mistakes are their own creation). Tonight, the Sixers received a nice break with 3:05 left when the referees reviewed an end-of-shot-clock jumper by Arron Afflalo that had given the Nuggets an 86-85 lead. The review showed Afflalo released the ball just after the red light, negating the shot.
"We got a real break when they reviewed the shot and Afflalo’s shot was taken away because it was after the clock, which was a great lift," Collins said. "Our guys were excited about that in the huddle because we had the ball coming out of a timeout and the point was taken away so we all of a sudden had a 1-point lead."
Collins said Holiday was "tremendous" in the second half. And he was awfully good. He finished the game 8 for 12 with 22 points. Thaddeus Young jumpstarted the offense in the second quarter and finished 10 for 18 with 20 points. Elton Brand grabbed seven offensive rebounds and finished the game with 16 points and 17 rebonds.
This was easily a game the Sixers could have lost, but they didn't. And that's saying something. If you have time (and how could you not, you're snowbound!), check out the video below of Collins after tonight's game.
More tomorrow from Golden State.