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The Philadelphia 76ers Won a Professional Basketball Game Last Night

Mar 3, 2013, 10:41 AM EDT

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We needed this one. Not in terms of the standings or the “playoff race”
that doesn’t really exist at this point, no matter how you try to
pretend in your post-game interview Molly Sullivan, but just in terms of
the Sixers fanbase needing to watch this Sixers team play 48 minutes of
basketball without wanting to go suck on an exhaust pipe. After seven
straight losses, after a Coach Collins meltdown, after the Funny-Looking
Kid With the Big Hair giving us yet another round of further
discouraging news, we needed a reason to continue to give a shit about
this team, for this season and the ones to follow. Tankfest ’13 could
hold for one game—we needed to see some good basketball, dammit.

Well,
last night against the Golden State Warriors, we finally got it. The
Warriors took a 16 point lead in the second quarter, and it looked like
it was gonna be another one of those games where a playoff team just
runs over the 76ers at home. But the Sixers actually managed to fight
back to make it a game at the half—thanks, unexpectedly, to some good
outside shooting, particularly from Dorell Wright and a red hot Royal
Ivey—and then Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday took over in the second half,
outplaying Golden State’s own star tandem of young perimeter players,
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, down the stretch. (Klay and Steph still
finished with a combined 59 points and ten made threes, but no matter.)

It was the type of game we haven’t seen from the Sixers in
forever—one where they win because their good young players all play
well. Jrue was extremely sloppy with the ball early, with five TOs in
the first half alone (eight on the game), but his shot was falling all
night, and he made some big buckets (a couple on strong drives to the
basket) in the final minutes to put the game out of reach for Golden
State. The Damaja’s shooting in general has just been incredible
lately—over his last five games, he’s averaging nearly 22 points on
about 53% shooting, 46% from deep, upping his season averages to 46% and
36%, respectively, excellent numbers for such a high-usage player as
Jrue.

The guy who won this game for us, though, was Evan Turner.
It’s been a while since Evan had one of those games that made you go
“As frustrating as he is, we just can’t give up on this guy yet,”
but he certainly had one last night, putting up 22 points (on 10-15
shooting!) to go with ten rebounds, nine assists and just two turnovers,
very possibly his best game of the season. He did everything, even
connecting on a pair of threes—his first made bombs since the month of
January, sadly—and coming one rolled-out Thad layup away from posting
the first triple-double of his career. In the third quarter, he
absolutely changed the game with his aggressiveness, and as is sometimes
the case with Evan, you could feel him getting stronger and more
confident with each made jumper, each inspired pass. (His alley-oop to
Arnett Moultrie in the third was a sight for sore eyes for any number of
reasons.)

It’s been a while since Jrue and Evan had games this
good simultaneously—the two haven’t scored 20 points in the same game
since January 26th against the Knicks, and have only done it four times
total all season. But getting games like this from the two guys that
were supposed to be the foundation of the team’s future—plus a very
strong 14-point, 16-rebounds game from Thaddeus Young, even if he did
blow the layup to give Turner the trip-dub—reminds us that amidst all
the tanking, there is still something worth saving within this team,
something vaguely resembling hope for the future. It’s enough to keep us
going, at least for a little while.

After the win, Dougie
embraced some of his players with such emotion and relief, you’d think
they just won a grueling seven-game playoff series together. Not quite,
but perhaps they themselves were reminded with the win tonight that
there was something worth fighting for with the Philadelphia 76ers. The
road up ahead is a long one–they play four of their next five on the
road, three against playoff teams—and they’re still probably better off
losing more of those games than they win. But without a game like last
night’s, they might not have even been able to play out the string in
the City of Brotherly Love without turning on each other, causing
irreparable damage to the team’s future.

It still might happen.
But at least last night, they put the bad vibes on hold for one game,
and reminded us that Philadelphia professional basketball isn’t totally
beyond redemption, Funny-Looking Kid or no. Thanks for that, dudes.