Stat-Us Update: Jrue Holiday's Scoring Hot Streak

Stat-Us Update: Jrue Holiday's Scoring Hot Streak

The Sixers lost last night to a miserable Pacers team missing their leading scorer--let's just say that if it was still November, we might consider at least acting surprised. Truth told, I stopped rooting for the Sixers to win about halfway through the third quarter, and started to just pull for our 19-year-old rookie point guard Jrue Holiday to hit the 20-point mark in scoring--which he did, ending up with 21 for the night. This gives Jrue two 20-point games in a row (paired with the 21 he scored in Toronto), as well as three in his last five (including the 23 he put up against Orlando)--all this after not scoring more than 15 in any game before this March. Not bad.

It got me to thinking (and checking on Basketball-Reference.com) about who the last Sixer to post back-to-back 20-point games in his rookie season was. Specifically, I wondered if anyone had done it since Allen Iverson, who strung together consecutive 20-pointers 34 times in his astounding Rookie of the Year debut of '96-'97. Well, turns out that AI isn't the answer to this one (no pun intended), but I bet the guy who is wouldn't be your first guess. Or your second. Hell, it might not even make your top ten.

Indeed, to find the last Sixer newbie to post back-to-back 20-point games, you have to go back to 2001-02--bypassing the rookie years of Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Kyle Korver, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams and Willie Green--to the rookie season of one Craig "Speedy" Claxton. Speedy's debut year as a Sixer was hardly the stuff that dreams are made of, as he averaged just seven points and three assists a game for the season. But he was afforded an unusual opportunity at the beginning of the season as Iverson missed the first five games of the year with injury, and he was pressed into starting duty as AI's replacement. Claxton responded by scoring 20+ in three of his first four games, including in consecutive games against the Wizards and Pacers on November 3rd and 6th, respectively.

Iverson's return two weeks into the season (and not a moment too soon, as the Sixers started 0-5 in his absence) meant the return of Claxton to the bench, and though he did end up starting 12 more games for the Sixers over the course of that injury-plagued season, Speedy never hit the 20-point mark again in a Sixers uniform. Next season, Claxton was traded to the Spurs, where he provided insurance for a young Tony Parker at the point on the way to the Spurs winning their first of three titles in the 00s.

I think we're all hoping that Jrue's third 20-pointer as a Liberty Baller will be pretty far from his last, though. Indeed, with the young'n starting to come of age a little ahead of schedule, seeing The Damaja at work is probably the best reason to tune in to any Sixers game between now and the draft lottery. Even if he can't keep up the pace, he's given us a reason to give a crap about this team again. And I, for one, am grateful.

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

BOX SCORE

The New York Mets and a slew of their supportive fans took over Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon. The Mets posted a 5-3 win over the Phillies and streamed out of the dugout like school children at recess to celebrate clinching a National League wild-card playoff spot on the penultimate day of the season (see Instant Replay).

As the Mets players congratulated each other on the diamond, several thousand of their vocal fans cheered in the stands while Phillies fans headed to the exits longing for those days when their team used to have celebrations on the field.

There was a moment in the game, however, when it did feel like the good ol’ days at the ballpark, a moment when Ryan Howard owned the place like he used to and the Phillies fans drowned out the Mets fans with ease.

It came in the fifth inning when the Phillies were down by two runs and Howard came to the plate and turned on a pitch from Bartolo Colon and sent it into the right-field seats for a game-tying two-run home run. Phillies fans had seen Howard hit homers like this before because many of the 382 he has hit in his career have been clutch shots that have come in big moments, and though the Phillies have long been dead in the standings, this was an important game and thus a big moment because the Mets had a lot to play for and no competitor worth his salt would let another team walk on him.

The game didn’t stay tied long as reliever Patrick Schuster allowed a hit and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth before David Hernandez surrendered a two-run homer to James Loney as the Mets went up for good.

But at least Howard gave the Phillies fans in the house something to cheer about for a short while.

“It was cool,” Howard acknowledged after the game. “I was able to hit the home run, tying the game up. I tried to spoil it for them today a little bit, but they got us, and you’ve got to congratulate those guys because they scratched and clawed and did what they needed to do. That’s a good ball club.”

Howard’s home run, of course, was cool for another reason.

It might have been his last as a Phillie.

This is the veteran slugger’s final weekend with the team he helped win the 2008 World Series and a little love-in has developed between him and the fans. They gave him a standing ovation after the homer – his 25th of the season – and he responded with a curtain call.

“It was awesome,” he said. “To be able to hit the home run in the first place and then get the curtain call. To have the fans show that kind of appreciation is a great feeling.”

The Phillies will not pick up Howard’s contract option for 2017. On Sunday afternoon, he will play his final game for the Phillies. First pitch is at 3 p.m. The team will make an on-field presentation to Howard at 2:30.

Howard doesn’t know what the team has planned.

“I’m just going to show up and see what happens,” he said. “You know, I think it’ll be something cool. We’ll see what it is. Whatever it brings, I'll embrace it and take it and enjoy it."
 
Howard had spent the previous few days stiff-arming the attention that has come with his final days as a Phillie.

He put his guard down a little after Saturday’s game.

“I’m just taking the weekend as is,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, trying to embrace everything and take it as is. I’m not trying to look too much into anything. Actually, I’m just trying to go out there and win these ballgames. I mean, I’ve said it before, things will hit you when they hit you.”

The Phillies have not been to the playoffs since 2011, their last of five straight trips to the postseason. If anyone needed a reminder of what it used to look like around here, it was on the field after the game in the form of the Mets’ celebration.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did not watch the Mets celebrate. He’s waiting to experience a celebration of his own.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get back where we need to be and we’re going to be one of those teams, just like the Mets are now,” Mackanin said.

Howard will turn 37 in November. He is the elder statesman on this club and he’s embraced that role in his dealings with younger players.

He used the Mets’ celebration as an opportunity to pass on some advice to the men who are his teammates for one more day.

“You never want to see somebody else celebrate on your home field, but for these young guys it's something where once you’ve seen it, you want to be those guys," Howard said. "When you see the other team out there, you want to be that guy next year. You want to be out there celebrating on your home field or somebody else's field.

“It's tough, but you take that and find a way to use that as motivation.”

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

It appears that Carson Wentz' fanbase in North Dakota is still pretty strong. Before North Dakota State’s game against Illinois State Saturday afternoon, fans were seen walking around the parking lot in Carson Wentz Eagles’ jerseys. 

Wearing Eagles gear at the tailgate was not all, however. A large group of people begun chanting “Carson” over and over to show their love and support for the Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz, along with Eagles practice squad cornerback C.J. Smith, a fellow Bison alum, showed up to North Dakota State's homecoming Saturday.

This is not the first time we have seen North Dakota State fans showing how much they adore Carson Wentz. Going back to the NFL draft, fans were seen on the red carpet wearing North Dakota State Wentz jersey’s and waving flags.

On Sept. 19, when the Eagles played the Bears, North Dakotans traveled to see Wentz play in person.

Clearly, Wentz has a lot of love from his fans back at home, but it is safe to say that Eagles fans love him just as much after he has led them to a 3-0 start.  

It doesn't hurt that Wentz' cousin, Connor, plays for North Dakota State. Connor is a redshirt junior tight end.

John Clark with Connor Wentz

A photo posted by Rob Kuestner (@rkuestner23) on