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Garbage Time For All, Big Macs for No One: Sixers Beat Raps 97-62

Jan 7, 2012, 11:00 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers blow out the Toronto Raptors on the way to their best start to a season since 2000-01.

Well, this one isn’t going to hurt our score differential any. On a line
graph, the Sixers’ performance against the Raptors tonight would look
remarkably similar to last night against the Pistons—steadily climbing
for two quarters, then suddenly shooting almost straight up towards the
end of the third quarter into the fourth. Again, the Sixers thoroughly
outplayed the Raps in the first half, but missed open jumpers (Jodie,
oh, Jodie), failed to convert fast breaks, and let rebounds and passes
slip through their fingers, resulting in Toronto staying nearly level
with Philly throughout. Then in the third, a couple of shots started to
fall, the fast breaks got a little smoother, and before you knew it, the
Sixers were up 20, never to look back. The Sixers made Garbage Time out
of the entire 4th quarter, and ended up winning 97-62.

The key to the team’s win tonight, as that number “62″ would suggest,
was the defense. The Sixers, especially in the backcourt, had the
Raptors smothered, had them covered like my Waffle House hash browns,
cutting off driving lanes and getting their hands on the ball in what
felt like every possession, getting those deflections that Coach Collins
has preached about all season, causing turnovers and suffocating
possessions. They switched well on pick-and-rolls, they helped well on
layup drives, they got out to shooters and they played tough D in
general without fouling. (In fact, you’d have to say they got more than a
little help from the referees tonight, considering the Sixers only got
whistled for three fouls in the entire first half—their defense was
good, but no one’s D is that good.)

Their stellar defensive effort—and it was not only the fewest points the
Raptors had scored since 2003, it was the lowest amount of points ever
scored by an opponent at the [Rotating Bank Name] Center—kept the
Sixers in the driver’s seat, despite a lackluster first half on the
other end. Whatever juju was working for Jodie Meeks in the fourth
quarter last night did not carry over to this one, as he went a
miserable 2-11 (1-6 from deep) despite a whole host of clean, open
looks. Andre Iguodala wasn’t much better, shooting 3-12 for the evening
and hearing a smattering of boos for an opening-drive airball. In fact,
no Sixer scored more than 14 points on the night, usually a sure recipe
for offensive disaster.

But that’s sort of how this team works now, isn’t it? ‘Dre and Jodie
can’t buy a bucket, Spencer Hawes (who has somehow become this team’s
most potent offensive threat, and I don’t even mean that in an
eye-rolling way) misses almost the entire second half with a tight back,
nobody gets particularly hot from the field—and we still string
together a 97-point performance and a 35-point win. It’s sharing the
ball, it’s taking care of the ball, and it’s going nine deep—the ninth
tonight being Nik Vucevic, who had a very nice night scoring, passing
and rebounding the ball, nearly coming up with his first career
double-double (9 and 10), though he did get burned on defense by Andrea
Bargnani a couple times. It’s not gonna get the team many nationally
televised games, but it is fun to watch, and so far this season, it’s
getting them wins—decisive ones, at that.

5-2 for the Liberty Ballers now, their best start to the season since
they went 10-0 in ’00-’01, Iverson’s MVP season where the team went to
the finals. Of course, neither the blowout win or the best start in a
decade meant much to those in attendance at the WFC tonight, most of
whom left cruelly disappointed that Evan Turner would not shoot a three
in the team’s final clock-dwindling possession, up 35, to try to get the
crowd the free Big Macs that come with a 100-point performance. Well,
the Lakers have had to put up with similar “WE WANT TA-COS!” chants for
as long as I can remember, even in the midst of three straight trips to
the finals and two championships, so hopefully the Sixers aren’t taking
it as too much of a slight.

Next up: The 6-2 Pacers at home on Monday night, the first of three
games in three nights for the Sixers, and a game that should represent
the Sixers’ first real challenge since returning East. Bring ‘em on, I
say. We might not beat ‘em by 35, but I like the chances of our nine
guys outplaying their nine guys just the same. TURNER AND VOOCH 4 LIFE.