Weird But We'll Take It: Sixers Win Ugly Season Opener Against Nuggets

Weird But We'll Take It: Sixers Win Ugly Season Opener Against Nuggets
October 31, 2012, 6:31 pm
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How many times are you gonna win a game when every non-frontcourt player
you have shoots a combined 17-57? Well, the answer is at least "once,"
as that's exactly what the Philadelphia 76ers did tonight in their
season opener hosting the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers shot a teamwide
35%, but forced 22 turnovers, blocked 11 shots, and held the much-hyped
Nuggets to a resounding 37.5% from the field themselves, leading for the
great majority of the game and fending off a fourth-quarter surge to
ruin Andre Iguodala's already-mixed homecoming at the WFC. No Big Macs,
but Sixers fans will have to do with an 84-75 victory.

The game
MVP—and the league MVP, if you believe the chants reigning down from the
Wells Fargo Center—was Spencer Hawes. The Big GOPper put up 16 and 12,
with two dimes, two steals and two threes (!!), eliciting cheers like
you wouldn't believe from the Sixer faithful. The most impressive stat
on the night for Spence, though, has to be his five blocks—legit blocks,
too, and in big spots—tying his all-time high for the Sixers. Hawes'
post defense tonight was certainly as good as I've ever seen
it—admittedly not saying much, but still. It appears that if last
season's early dominance was a fluke for Spencer, then it's going to be a
yearly fluke, since he was great all pre-season and looked like a
friggin' all-star out there tonight. (And by my count, this is his second-straight home opener where he's gotten his name chanted—one more and he must have the all-time Sixer record.)

The
second star for the Sixers tonight—relatively speaking, anyway—was Jrue
Holiday. Jrue had a rough night from the field, starting off with a
couple three-point plays but then drying up for the majority of the
second and third quarters. But even if he took his time rising to the
moment, he certainly did in the end, as a third three-point play, a dish
to Spencer and another timely hoop in consecutive possessions helped
ice the game for the Sixers as the Nuggets cut Philly's lead down to
one. Holiday also distributed excellently as a drive-and-kick offense
intiator, ending with 11 dimes and just three turnovers. (Coach Collins
suggested Holiday might finish the season top five in the league in
assists, and...well, it's not impossible. We'll see after more than one
game.)

Aside from those two, it was a lot of Yes, But and No,
But with our guys. Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright drained some
threes early but went Kanye West-cold for the game's remainder, ending a
combined 4-15 from deep. Nick Young was typically sloppy early but
redeemed himself with some timely fourth-quarter hoops. Evan Turner
was...Evan Turner, ending with five points, six rebounds, two assists,
three turnovers and four fouls. It wasn't exactly a championship
performance from our guys tonight.

Still, the defense was there,
and even if the offense didn't always work, at least it appears to be
coherent. Jrue Holiday has the keys to the offense, and makes most of
his plays penetrating and kicking to his bigs spotting up on the wings
and elbows, or kicking out to his shooters behind the arc, with the
pick-and-pop with Spencer and Lavoy as a back-up plan and Turner and
Nick Young as last-resort options if the play breaks down. You'd like to
see it run a little smoother than it was tonight—like it was in the
pre-season for instance—but as Collins himself said, credit is due to
the Denver defense, and even though they were without offensive dynamo
Danilo Gallinari, this is a good team the Sixers beat tonight. Let's not
ask for too much out of Game One.

Anyway, obviously a lot to
work on, but a win is a win, and it's the first one they've had on
opening night since 2006, when they beat the Hawks 88-75 behind 32
points from Allen Iverson. Next up is a home-and-home with the New York
Knicks over Sunday and Monday, with hopefully more of a chance (against a
division rival) to see exactly what's going on from this team. I
wouldn't read a ton into anything that happened tonight—minus that
Spence might really be due for another early-season kick—but again, 1-0
is pretty damn nice.

Oh, and about Andre Iguodala—I hope it
wasn't any of you at the game booing him. I'm not gonna launch into a
defense of his eight years spent with the Philadelphia 76ers—if you
don't get it by now, you probably never will—but he served this team
ably through eight years, a lot of then more thin than thick, and I
don't understand how right-thinking Sixer fans could have anything but
love for the guy. There were at least two nice moments for Dre amidst
the booing: Video played of his Game Six heroics versus the Bulls, which
got even some of the haters clapping, and a post-game embrace with Jrue
Holiday, later revealed by Holiday to be 'Dre saying the two were
"family for life." Damn straight.)

Photo From Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

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