One down, seven to go. The Sixers took care of the intentionally depleted Orlando Magic on Saturday night in convincing style. Dwight Howard shockingly painless 20/20 game just wasn't enough to overcome the Sixers staunch defense. Quite a way to kick off the Ice Capades trip.
Since this win is being discounted by most due to Orlando's unavailable players/ex-players, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Elton Brand is your player of the game. EB had Dwight Howard guarding him most of the night, and he still dropped 20 points on 8/14 from the floor (4/5 from the line), grabbed 13 boards (10 defensive) and blocked 3 shots. Easily Brand's best game of the season in a terribly unfavorable matchup. Great work.
A close runner up for the POTG was Lou Williams, who truly was Good Lou in this game. He scored 24 points on only 9 shots (13/14 from the line), and stuffed the stat sheet. Lou carried the scoring load for the second unit, and was really the only guard to do much of anything positive. They need him in this one, and he came through.
Notably absent for more than half the game was Jrue Holiday, who turned in his second consecutive sub-par contest. His floor game wasn't bad, and I thought his defense was excellent, at times, but he shot only 2/7 from the floor and started off horribly. Collins sat him for over 13 minutes in the first half, then did the same in the second. He pretty much only got his runs with the starters in both quarters. This probably had more to do with Lou's great game than some kind of punishment by Collins, but it's also something to keep an eye on. If Collins starts to have a short leash with Jrue, it's going to stifle him, and probably cause him to try to force things when he is on the floor, to prove he belongs. This will probably lead to more turnovers. Jrue is at his best when he's relaxed and lets his instincts take over. Hopefully, this is just a bump in the road and Jrue will be back to his usual self come Tuesday.
I didn't think Turner played poorly in the first half. He was aggressively looking for his shot (though not particularly successful at hitting them), and crashed the boards very hard. I'm really not a fan of the sudden increase in minutes for Nocioni, who was pretty much a zero, again (he also played more minutes than Turner).
All told, the Sixers did play a depleted Orlando team, but they were well rested. The Sixers were on the back end of a back-to-back, and coming off a deflating loss to the Lakers at home. Orlando had five days off heading into this one. Credit Doug Collins for pushing the pace of the game, and credit the Sixers players for keeping the pressure on with tired legs, and never giving Orlando a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter. The Sixers can't control the circumstances, all they can do is go out there and play the games. No one says the losses don't count when the schedule stacks the odds against Philly. Well this win counts, too.
Player of The Game: Elton Brand
Team Record: 11-16
Up Next: @ Chicago, Tuesday night.
We've got an off day today. I'll be checking in throughout the day and I've got a couple ideas percolating for posts this afternoon. In the mean time, the Sixers are currently the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Do you think they can hold on to that? Maybe even improve upon it?