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3-2!! 3-2!! Sixers Go Over .500 With Win in New Orleans

Jan 4, 2012, 11:21 PM EDT

The Sixers secure their first winning record of the season with a convincing 101-93 victory.

Sooo much better than last year. Five games in last season, the
Philadelphia 76ers were just picking up their first win—a home victory
against the mediocre Pacers—on their way to starting the season 3-13, a
hole it took the whole season to crawl out of. Now, five games into the
’11-’12 season, we already have our third win—all won on the road, all
coming from behind, all with our young guys showing why they just might
be capable of leading this franchise back to something vaguely
resembling prominence. It’s a pretty nice thing.

Tonight was
looking dangerously like a repeat performance of the Sixers’
disappointing performance in Utah, as the Hornets jumped out to an early
double-digit lead and seemed to be keeping the Sixers at arms’ length
for much of the second half, showing impressive fight despite a somewhat
talent-depleted roster. But thanks to some awesome defensive tightening
in the fourth quarter, and some absolutely huge late-game shots from
Jrue Holiday, the Sixers were finally able to grab the lead and pull
away late, holding on for the 101-93 victory.

There were a number of players who stepped up for the Sixers, led
perhaps by Evan Turner of the bench. The Extraterrestrial started out
miserably, missing open looks and turning the ball over (echoing his season-worst
performance in NO last year), but found a groove late in second quarter
that continued into the second half and breathed life back into the
lethargic Sixers. Evan ended with 21 points on 8-12 shooting, with six
boards and four dimes, easily his best game of the season and probably
his second best as a Sixer. After two back-to-back bum games, it’s
exactly what he (and we) needed to reinforce that he is still ahead of
where he was last season.

And once again, Spencer F’ing Hawes. Spence saw his streak of
double-digit rebound games finally snapped, but he still grabbed seven,
scored 17 and even picked up a season-high four blocks. The Unibrow
entered this game as the league leader in FG% with his 67.6%, and though
it might drop a few tenths after going 8-12 tonight, we’re certainly
not complaining. The improvement is real—Hawes has become absolutely
automatic from 18 feet, to the point that even on the one such shot he
missed (with 90 seconds to go), Andre Iguodala was able to swoop in for
an offensive rebound because nobody bothered to box out. He might come
back to earth a little in future weeks as defenses start to adjust to
his newly proven skill set, but he’s proving why with certain
high-upside players, you have to hang on a little more than feels right,
just in case they suddenly start to figure it out.

Still, the game ball tonight has to go to one Jrue Holiday. Like Evan,
the Damaja started the night out slow, looking off on his jumper, but
boy did he ever end strong. Jrue hit a couple gigantic threes in the
fourth to give the Sixers the separation from the Hornets they’d been
scrapping for all game, and another with under a minute left that was
just barely ruled a two, ending with a season-high 24 points, along with
eight assists and zero turnovers. On a team that has so badly craved a
closer in recent years, Jrue is starting to present a pretty convincing
case that the guy’s been there all along, and if Coach Collins continues
to put the ball in Andre Iguodala’s hands in the final seconds, he’s
gonna have a lot of explaining to do in his post-game press-conferences.

It wasn’t all wine and roses for the Sixers—’Dre’s hot shooting start
came crashing down to the mean with his 2-10 night (0-4 from deep), and
Jodie Meeks’ shot continues to be totally M.I.A., as he went 1-5,
missing some open looks that really sapped the team’s momentum.
Meanwhile, Hornets lead scorer Eric Gordon shredded the team’s defense in the first quarter,
and finished with 22 points, though the Sixers’ tight wing D in the
second half at least dictated that he needed 22 shots to do so. But the
Sixers protected the ball (just eight TOs total), were able to get stops
late, and so thoroughly outplayed the Hornets’ bench (41 points to 26)
that they were able to overcome the strong performances from Gordon,
power forward Carl Landry (21 points, 8 boards) and point guard Jarret
Jack (19 points, 11 assists). As Zumoff said, it’ll be a recurring theme
this season.

Ultimately, the Sixers were the better team in four of their five road
games, and won three of them—pretty acceptable, all told. While 3-2
isn’t exactly winning a championship, it’s still a very good start for
the Liberty Ballers, who now get to play their first game in Philly this
year (against the Pistons on Friday, the latest first home game of any
team) as a winning ballclub. A small victory, and one we hope to add to
as the season progresses, and Holiday, Turner, Hawes and the rest of the
guys try to prove that they’re capable of growing into a legit Eastern
Conference power. We can’t wait to root ‘em on at the WFC this Friday.
Marreese Who?