Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

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Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

Nineteen and nine, said Thad Young when asked why Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday should be an all-star for the Eastern Conference this season.

Frankly, Youngs assessment of what the conference coaches will most prominently see when they submit their ballots on Wednesday for the All-Star reserves will speak the loudest. After all, with averages like 19.4 points and 9.0 assists per game, Holidays case should already be made.

His scoring average and assists are second among the point guards in the Eastern Conference with the leader in assists, Rajon Rondo, already voted in as a starter by the fans.

So that should do it, right?

Not so fast, says Holiday.

Even though being an all-star would be awesome, it would feel weird to me being an all-star and just losing, Holiday said. I think winning is way more important than all the accolades. Winning and being better as a team would be way better than individual accolades.

Holidays answer, of course, is the correct one. Even Sixers coach Doug Collins says Holiday will face a difficult task in securing an All-Star berth because the teams 17-23 record has it 3 games outside of the last playoff spot in the East (see story).

Besides, Collins said, there are plenty of other point guards just as deserving of the reserve spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

Really?

With Rondo already voted in and Derrick Rose still working toward a return from knee surgery, Holiday has a better than average chance to make the team. ...

Or at least he should have a strong case to earn the berth in comparison to the other point guards in the Eastern Conference.

Heres a look at Holidays competition amongst the guards in the Eastern Conference.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
23.1 ppg, 5.7 apg, 40 percent 3P

As one of the brightest young stars in the game, Irving kind of has to make it. After all, Irving is third overall in the Eastern Conference in scoring, and his player efficiency rating (PER), a per-minute rating of a player's performance, is third (21.81) amongst all guards in the East.

Where it works against Holiday: Aside from his superior scoring and PER numbers, Irving plays for a losing team. The Eastern Conference cant have a reserve backcourt with players from teams well below .500, can they?

Monta Ellis & Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
Ellis: 18.8 ppg, 5.4 apg; Jennings: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg
Its been a weird season for the Bucks. Even though they are just three games off the pace in the Central and are solidly in seventh place in the East, coach Scott Skiles resigned with not-so favorable reviews from a few of his ex-players. Meanwhile, Jennings is headed for an offseason where he can be a restricted free agent and Ellis can opt out of his contract.

And yet the Bucks are winning.

Credit the double point-guard offense and the emergence of Larry Sanders for that as the Bucks are seemingly taking one last run with this group.

Where it works for Holiday: The Bucks tandem in the backcourt is averaging more that 37 points and 11 assists per game, but which player is the most deserving of the All-Star selection? Moreover, which players stats is most hurt by the other player?

Deron Williams, Brooklyn
17.0 ppg, 7.7 apg

Williams has been in the past two Olympics for the U.S. and the last three All-Star games. And though the Nets (24-16) are winning, Williams numbers are down a bit as he has shared production in the backcourt with Joe Johnson.

Still, there are some players that end up on All-Star teams because of reputation and history and that could work in Williams favor when the Eastern Conference coaches submit their ballots this week.
Where it works for Holiday: Williams doesnt think he should be an All-Star this season. I just think there's people playing better than me, Williams told reporters. Plus, Williams has added to his reputation as a coach killer when Avery Johnson was fired in December after the point guard complained about the Nets offense.

Other candidates worthy of consideration
Kemba Walker, Charlotte; Jose Calderon, Toronto; Kyle Lowry, Toronto; Jameer Nelson, Orlando; George Hill, Indiana; Raymond Felton, New York.

Frankly, there has not been any other player in the Eastern Conference more important to his team than Holiday has been to the Sixers. With Andrew Bynum not yet ready to play, Holiday and Oklahoma Citys Russell Westbrook are the only players in the NBA averaging at least 18 points and eight assists a game.

In fact, without Holiday in four games this season, the Sixers went 0-4 and were outscored by 52 points. Indeed, the only reason the Sixers have had a chance this season has been because of Holiday.

He's been carrying us, Young said. We have to come up to help him out because the level that he's playing at is insane.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

HOUSTON -- James Harden had 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-92 on Wednesday night.

Harden drilled a straightaway 3-pointer with six minutes left to give Houston a 13-point lead and shimmied his shoulders down the court in a celebratory dance as the Bucks called timeout.

After losing three of four, the Rockets regained their form while improving to 17-4 at home this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks for Milwaukee (see full recap).

Rose powers slumping Knicks past Celtics 117-106
BOSTON -- Derrick Rose matched his season high with 30 points, and the slumping New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics 117-106 on Wednesday night.

New York played without injured starters Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah, but Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez each scored 17 points to help make up for their absence. It was just the third win in 14 games for the Knicks.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 39 points, his 13th time this season with 30 or more points. Jae Crowder added 21 for the Celtics, who lost for only the fourth time in 17 games.

Al Horford, Boston's big free-agent acquisition during the summer, had five points on 2-of-14 shooting. He was 1 for 8 on 3-point attempts.

Boston closed to 97-96 on Jaylen Brown's two free throws with just under eight minutes to play, but Justin Holiday and Courtney Lee nailed 3-pointers 29 seconds apart, pushing New York's lead back to seven. Rose then capped an 8-0 spree by putting in his own miss after Thomas missed a jumper -- his seventh straight shot that was off (see full recap).

Home cooking: Wiz top Grizz 104-101, 13th win in row in DC
WASHINGTON -- A vastly different team at home, the Wizards won their 13th consecutive game in Washington by edging the Memphis Grizzlies 104-101 Wednesday night behind two late layups from John Wall, who finished with 25 points and 13 assists.

James Ennis III missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer for Memphis.

The Wizards are just 4-13 on the road but now 18-6 at home, where they've compiled their longest winning streak since a 15-game run in the 1988-89 season.

Washington never trailed and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, then held on after a 10-0 run by Memphis made it a two-point game with 2 1/2 minutes left. That's when Wall took over, scoring on consecutive drives (see full recap).

Walker, Hibbert lead Hornets past Blazers 107-85
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 23 points, Roy Hibbert provided a huge boost off the bench, and the Charlotte Hornets stopped a five-game slide with a 107-85 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

Nicolas Batum added 17 points for the Hornets, who limited the Trail Blazers to 35 percent shooting and snapped an eight-game streak of allowing at least 100 points. But it was the 7-foot-2 Hibbert who stole the show.

Hibbert, who came in averaging 5.2 points per game, had a season-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Damian Lillard scored 21 points and C.J. McCollum had 18 for Portland, which has lost three straight and 16 of 22 since Dec. 5 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Sixers 94, Raptors 89

Instant Replay: Sixers 94, Raptors 89

BOX SCORE

The Sixers proved their recent success is for real with a grind-it-out 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Facing the Eastern Conference’s second-best team, the Sixers beat the 28-win Raptors in what they had identified as their most challenging matchup during this stretch of success. They now have won seven of their last nine games.

The Sixers closed out this victory with late-game execution and fended off a Raptors comeback attempt. DeMar DeRozan gave Toronto a one-point lead, 86-85, with just under two minutes to play. The team that had struggled greatly with fourth quarters showed poise and composure down the stretch against a veteran playoff contender, as the Sixers sealed a win that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago.

Embiid knotted the score with a free throw and grabbed a key defensive rebound before T.J. McConnell converted a layup and two free throws on back-to-back possessions, handing the Sixers a 90-86 lead. On the ensuing trip down the other end, Robert Covington and Embiid delivered blocks on Kyle Lowry, all but putting Toronto away for good with 20 seconds left.

The Sixers improved to 14-26 and the Raptors dropped to 28-14. 

Inside the stats
• Embiid recorded his 10th straight game of 20-plus points, scoring 26 and grabbing nine rebounds for a plus-20 rating.

• Ersan Illyasova put up 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting.

• DeRozan scored 25 points, while Lowry poured in 24.

• The Sixers snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Raptors.

• The Sixers posted seven blocks as Embiid, Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas all had two apiece.

• Saric finished with eight points and nine rebounds off the bench.

• The Sixers turned the ball over 22 times. Every player other than Illyasova had at least one turnover.

Super Dario
Saric blocked Jared Sullinger at the basket during the fourth quarter, sending the Sixers into a frenzy (see video). He followed that play up with getting tied up for a jump ball and minutes later knocking down a three. These aggressive plays were signs of growth for the rookie, who is visibly getting more comfortable as the season progresses and playing more aggressively with each game. 

Embiid snapshot
Embiid went through a 44-second span that encapsulated the versatility of his game. Check out these key plays in the fourth quarter, listed in order of time remaining: 

• 10:32: Dunk

• 10:03: Three-point shot

• 9:48: Draws offensive foul against Lowry

Injury scare
DeMarre Carroll hit the ground halfway through the third after his head collided with teammate Pascal Siakam’s knee during a tie-up at the Sixers' basket. He lay on the floor while members of both medical staffs tended to him. Carroll walked very carefully off the court on his own while being held on to by Raptors personnel (see video). The Raptors conducted tests during the game, which came back clear. Carroll was diagnosed with a sore neck and was unavailable to return.

Up next
The Sixers host the Trail Blazers (18-25) on Friday for their first meeting of the season. Then they travel to Atlanta for a back-to-back against the Hawks (24-17).