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No Bigs, No Problem: Sixers Blow Out Wiz at Home

Jan 23, 2012, 10:06 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers move to 12-5 after handily dispatching the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center.

Well, if we know no other thing definitively about the Philadelphia
76ers this season we do certainly know one thing: They are much, much
better than the Washington Wizards. We fretted in the pre-game about how
the Sixers’ lack of size could be a major problem against the Wiz, but
it couldn’t have been much less of an issue—the Wizards mostly stuck to
the perimeter, and their big men were all but invisible. (Starting
center JaVale McGee scored two points with two rebounds and two blocks
in 21 unremarkable minutes of game action). The Sixers ran off a 15-0
stretch in the first quarter and never looked back; by halftime the game
was over. The Wiz cut the lead a little in garbage time, but still lost
by 20, 103-83, in a game that was never really even that close. Philly is now 12-5 for the season, and have won their three games against Washington by a combined 64 points.

The player of the game—well, not really, but the guy that most people
are gonna be talking about—was rookie Lavoy Allen. The Temple grad got
17 minutes as the team’s backup center without Spencer or Nik in the
lineup, and he responded splendidly, scoring ten points (on perfect 5-5
shooting, including the fourth-quarter basket to put the Sixers into Big
Mac territory.) with six boards and an impressive high-low dime to
Thaddeus Young. We probably shouldn’t read too much into Allen’s fine
night—it was against the Wizards, with the likes of Andray Blatche and
Trevor Booker as his primary matchups—but for one game, at least, it was
a hell of a step-up job from the first-year player.

Lavoy’s fine night also illustrates a strength of this team, which the
coaching staff probably should get some credit for—all of their big men
know how to run the pick-and-pop, and all of them can hit an open
jumper. Andre Iguodala pick-and-popped the Wizards to death in the
first, dropping eight assists to the likes of Elton Brand (17 points on
8-14), Allen, and even once with Tony Battie, getting the Sixers off to
that early lead that they held the rest of the way. Our young bigs have
their deficiencies, especially on the defensive end, but as long as they
can nail those open jumpers, they’ll always be able to contribute to
this team while on the floor.

There’s not too much else to talk about with this one. Thad was a beast
finishing in the paint in the first half, Jrue Holday was hitting his
jumper all night, Evan Turner played brilliantly in the first half but
got sloppy in garbage time, Jodie appears to have found his stroke for
real this time (10-20 from deep over his last four games), and Andres
Nocioni was kept thankfully bench-ridden throughout. It was another good
team win in which all playing contributed, the kind we’ve been spoiled
with by the Sixers against subpar competition this year.

Grievances are a little petty with this one, but as long as I have the
floor, two things, only one of which is directed at the team itself. But
here it is: Free throws. The team isn’t getting enough of them, and
they’re not hitting enough of them when they get them. The former is
slightly more worrisome—as good a scoring game as Jrue had with his 17
points, he only got to the line for an and-one, which he missed. All
he’s getting these days are jumpers—he’s averaging less than a pair of
free-throw attempts a game this year, unacceptable for as good a
penetrator as The Damaja—and so his scoring is entirely reliant on
whether or not he’s hitting. He was tonight, but he won’t every night.
He wasn’t the sole guilty party this game, either—in a combined hour of
floor time, ‘Dre and Evan got to the line four times, and missed all
four FTs. (How Evan, a shooting guard, can still be shooting under 70%
from the line at this point in the season is utterly beyond me.)

My second admonishment goes to the fans, and perhaps just as
importantly, the Sixers owners, for this goddamn McDonald’s promotion.
It’s one thing to give out free Big Macs to a team whose fans should
need a little extra motivation, but given how good the Ballers have been
at home this year—they’re 8-1 ferchrissake, with all eight wins by
double digits—it’s embarrassing that the fans continue to fixate so much
on getting the free Big Macs that come with the team scoring 100. It’s
time to get rid of the whole thing, and have the biggest cheers of the
night come for the team that’s got a five-game lead in their division,
and not for a mediocre fast-food product about 1/100th as good as a
Baconator or Gold Rush sandwich. (And might I suggest that if the
prospect of a free hamburger is really swaying you to buy pro basketball
tickets, you might want to rethink your financial strategy some.)

Anyway, another solid clean-up win for the Sixers, and a hell of a way
to return to the WFC after a tough loss in Miami. New Jersey’s up next
on Wednesday, and should be moderately easy pickings for the Sixers, who
hopefully will have at least one of their top two big guys back by then
as well. And in case you still need the reminder of how much better the
Sixers are these year than last year—17 games into this season, they
have three times as many wins as they did at this point last year.
Pretty good, Jeff.