Last year players, coaches, and the media jeered at the Sixers for being a bunch of decent guys that did not make a good team.
This year, they're pretty much that same group of guys, but with a terrific coach in Doug Collins, they have become a good team, one that the upper echelon teams in the East do not want to face in the playoffs.
Tonight against the team one seed above them in the standings, the Sixers played as a team, having seven players score in double figures and pull away late for a win. The offense came to play in the first and fourth quarters, after middling in the second and third, to beat the Hawks 105-100 to narrow the gap to just 2.5 games between them. The playoff magic number is now 4, and it could shrink to 3 if Milwaukee loses to Sacramento tonight.
Among the players who scored in double figures were all five starters, led by 15 points by Jodie Meeks -- all of which were from downtown. He's the primary reason for the 56% shooting from beyond the arc tonight. Jodie has been nothing but stellar in the past month and is making a strong bid to remain with the team beyond this season. He hit big shots all night and kept the Sixers close when the Hawks tried to pull away. Elton Brand notched another double-double, although his offensive efficiency slipped a bit due to his fighting with Al Horford in the low block all night on the other end. He did a terrific job on the former Gator, holding him to 8 points on 12 shots.
Andre Iguodala, despite a bum leg that was hindering him at times this game, turned in another Andre game: 36 minutes, 16 points on 11 shots, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists to just one turnover. Add Joe Johnson to the list of guys who Andre has bothered this season. JJ managed just 13 points on 14 shots. The big gun for the hawks tonight was Josh Smith, who went off for a game high 33 points and 12 boards. Uncharacteristic of the versatile forward, he played under control, hit his jump shots, and did not turn the ball over. He carried Atlanta on his back for much of the game.
Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams, and Spencer Hawes were the other double-figure scorers for the Sixers, who shot just under 49% for the night. When they're shooting effectively and limiting turnovers (6), even a night off from the normally solid defense (thanks J-Smoove) can't keep them from another W. One negative on the night was that Evan Turner played just 4 minutes. His role is diminishing by the second -- something that doesn't bode well for those like me who think young player development is still rather important.
They pull to 3 games over .500 once again, and travel to South Beach to take on what could be their first round opponent in the Miami Heat on Friday.
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