Mar 10, 2010, 11:33 AM EDT
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.
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