Guess it's no hard feelings between Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers after the trade that sent him to New Orleans back in June--on our side, anyway. The Sixers did their old friend the favor of basically laying down for his squad tonight, not only letting Jrue get back on track, but giving the ailing 3-6 Pelicans by far their biggest win of the season, 135-98--also, by extension, the biggest loss of the Sixers' now 5-6 campaign.
In many ways, this was inevitable. The Sixers were on the wrong end of a back-to-back, undermanned with MCW missing his third straight game, and just generally due for a game where they got the crap kicked out of them. And this Pelicans team is just a bad matchup for Philly, with New Orleans exploiting the team's lack of consistent outside shooting by having their emerging superstar Anthony Davis swat just about anything the team tried around the basket. Davis had eight of the team's 14 blocks on the night, while the whole Sixers team ended with just two, both registered in garbage time.
After a pretty mediocre nine games to start the season, Jrue finally had it going on tonight. 14 points (on 6-9 shooting), 12 assists, hitting his jumper and making good decisions, and even playing a little defense on the other end on the likes of Tony Wroten and Evan Turner. And Ryan Anderson, who hadn't played all season (and whose absence probably hurt the Pelicans' offense a good deal), made a pretty dynamite return, scoring 26 on 10-16 shooting in just about 26 minutes. This was exactly the game the Pelicans needed to reverse their season's sagging momentum, and the Sixers were more than happy to serve it up to them.
On the flip side, after going nine games without a single really bad outing, Evan Turner was absolutely brutal tonight. You got the sense early he just didn't have the energy in this one--in the second quarter, he passed the ball right to Anthony Davis in the half-court, and not like Davis made a nice move to intercept it, just that Evan couldn't muster the force to send it past him--and a couple early blocks of his drives seemed to suck the life out of him. He finished with just four points on 2-11 shooting, though at least he only turned the ball over twice this time.
This ET game was bound to happen sooner or later--and given that this was his sixth game in nine nights, sooner was probably a good bet--and probably shouldn't be read into too deeply. Still, it did expose a real weakness in Evan's game, which is his badly flailing jumper from long distance. Evan has been good to focus his energy on getting to the basket this season, but with the Hornets denying any kind of access at the rim--even ex-Sixer Jason Smith had three blocks--and with Evan's tank sputtering a little, it would have been nice to see him getting his from the outside a little.
But outside shooting has really not been Evan's thing this year--his 0-2 from deep tonight makes him a miserable 4-28 for the season--and instead, he was just a total non-entity on offense tonight. In most games, he's been able to get to the basket and to his sweet spots frequently enough to still put up his points anyway, but he'll never be a complete offensive player until he can pull up from 16 feet or longer--or at the very least, connect on a catch-and-shoot--with some degree of regularity. You don't want to see him fall in love with the outside shot, but if he doesn't have it in his arsenal at all, that's a problem.
Turner's struggles were the most pronounced tonight, but nobody on the Sixers had a particularly good outing. Tony Wroten was solid again--19 points, including a couple made threes--and Darius Morris continues to give the team surprisingly solid minutes off the bench, but nobody on this team played defense, and Spencer Hawes particularly was repeatedly victimized by the speed and strength of the Pelicans. The Sixers are gonna give up points, but tonight wasn't a result of pace or style--it was just the Sixers being overpowered by what certainly looked like a much better team.
Oh well. It'll be interesting to see where both squads go from here--whether the loss puts the final nail in the coffin of the Sixers' improbably hot start, and whether the win can help the floundering Pelicans gain some momentum and finally get their head above water. But it's still just one game, and the Sixers will have a much more favorable matchup (though by no means easy) against the similarly up-and-down, defense-eschewing Dallas Mavericks, so hopefully a day's rest will do them some good and they'll at least come out swinging against Dirk and co. It's a long season, and the Sixers will lose a lot--lose big, lose small, lose creatively--before it's all said and done.
5-6 now, then, finally below .500 for the first time this season. If this really is it for the Sixers, and Tankadelphia is slowly creeping up to third gear (tanks probably have gears, right?), no regrets--it's been a great run, and more than enough to sustain us through a long season of losing. If it's almost time to shift our attention to The Other Sixers Season going on in the NCAA right now, so be it. Kentucky's on again tomorrow, FYI.