Best win of the season? No doubt about that.
On Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the 76ers defeated the Chicago Bulls, 105-99, only two weeks after getting beat by 45 points by the Bulls in Chicago. After that loss, Doug Collins and the team maintained that the loss was in no way indicative of the team's play, that it was a total anomaly, that sometimes it just happens. Hard to argue with that now, considering how the team played tonight.
If you watched the game, then you know there are plenty of topics to mention, but none more pressing than the play of shooting guard Jodie Meeks. Just when you're starting to consider whether or not this guy will stay in the starting lineup, a game like tonight happens. He scores 24 points, shoots 8 for 11 from the field and 4 for 7 from three (including a trio of three pointers that basically handed the Sixers the game in the third quarter), and commands defensive attention. Since we've all seen this before (he had similar games at the Miami Heat and at home against the Charlotte Bobcats), we know the most important thing will be watching how Meeks plays tomorrow night and one week from now. He doesn't need to score 24 points tomorrow night, or 24 points next week, he just can't be 1 for 7 for the next month. The team needs a little balance, a little more predictable contribution from that spot. But considering tonight's win, perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves in looking to a month from now. Tonight, Meeks was phenomenal. Without him, the Sixers don't win this game. It wasn't just his made shots, it was the team's possessions after his made shots. In the third quarter, on the possession following the third of Meeks' three threes in the quarter (tough sentence right there), the Sixers gave the ball to Elton Brand and put him on the same side of the floor as Meeks. Not surprisingly, Meeks' defender didn't move more than two inches away from Meeks, staring at him the entire time, and Brand was allowed to work without interruption. He scored on the play.
There are other topics, too, like the recent play of Jrue Holiday and the recent play of Lou Williams and the crucial rebounds tonight from Andres Nocioni. Nocioni fractured and disclocated his right middle finger during the first quarter tonight. Collins said he wasn't going to put him back in the game, but Nocioni basically said, 'Coach, watch this,' launched a three pointer from the corner (this is during halftime warmups) and Collins checked him into the lineup to start the third quarter. Nocioni is officially listed as probable for tomorrow night's game at the Detroit Pistons.
Holiday is legitimate right now. He seems confident that this is his team to run, he's making plays going to the rim, and he's not afraid with the ball. Aside from a few poor decisions (i.e. he can't take such quick shots with 6 minutes left, it just leaves the door open for the Bulls), he's playing like the point guard for a winning basketball team.
And here's this stat on Williams: in the last two games, Williams has 46 points and all of the reserves for the other two teams, combined, have scored 38. That's a pretty helpful weapon off the bench.
"When Lou is playing well, it makes us a totally different team," Collins said. "Because Lou can be on the floor and help finish the game for us and it really takes a lot of pressure off of Jrue."
The Sixers are 15-21 and their next four games are at the Pistons and then at home against the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Charlotte Bobcats. A record of 19-21 isn't a ridiculous thought.
Last thought: considering that swingman Andre Iguodala has missed the last 10 days and is out until Jan. 10, the question was asked tonight as to whether the Sixers are a better offensive team without Iguodala. Here's how Collins answered that: "Maybe we might be a little bit better shooting team, but we don’t get as much fast break, we don’t get as much off of turnovers. We have to shoot well because we don’t get the easier scores." And you can check out Holiday's response to that question in the video embedded below.
More tomorrow from Detroit.
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