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“Just One Of Those Games”: Sixers Upset Grizzlies in Memphis

Dec 26, 2012, 10:52 PM EDT

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“Just one of those games,” the Grizzlies announcing crew concluded about
2/3 of the way through this one. Hard to argue with that. The
Philadelphia 76ers have been on the losing end of Ones of Those Games a
couple times this year, against the likes of the inferior Pistons and
Cavaliers, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time that they’ve been
on the fun end. Few would argue based on tonight’s results or anything
else that the Sixers are in any way a superior team to the Grizzlies
right now, but somehow, they cruised to victory in this one, ending with
a 99-89 victory.

How’d they do it? Well, it’s certainly not
because their good players played well, tell you that much. Jrue Holiday
scored just 13 points on 5-16 shooting. Evan Turner was far worse,
suffering through probably his worst offensive game of the season, with
just a single point on 0-4 shooting. Even Thaddeus Young was fairly
underwhelming in this one, chipping in 13 points (most of which came in
the first half) and just two boards. No Jason Richardson, a typically
excellent performance from the Memphis frontcourt (combined 41 points,
17 rebounds and eight assists between Marc Gasol and Zach Randoph)…how
in blazes did the Sixers manage to win this one?

Well, it’s due
to two guys who have really been playing a lot better lately. Spencer
Hawes was mostly invisible in Brooklyn against the Nets, but had scored
in double figures seven straight games before that, and did so again
tonight, going off for a season-high 20 points on 9-15 shooting. What’s
more, though Spence has been oft-maligned for his soft defense (and
rightly so), he was all over the place in this one, ending with nine
boards, five blocks (tied for a career high he picked up in the team’s
season opener) and even three steals—impressive, considering Spence only
had six takeaways on the entire season to this point.

Better
still was Dorell Wright. Like Spence, Dorell had found his footing a
little during the Sixers’ recent overall cold stretch, scoring 20 points
in consecutive losses against the Mavericks and Rockets. He built on
that with easily his best game as a Sixer tonight, scoring an
unthinkably efficient 28 points on just 11 shots in his first game
starting for the Sixers since early November (filling in for an injured
J-Rich), hitting 5-8 from behind the arc and (perhaps more importantly
for the Sixers) going 7-8 from the free-throw stripe for the team-high
28. Throw in six boards, two a couple blocks, some solid perimeter
defense…it was a game to remember for Dorell.

And though they
had terrible games shooting and taking care of the ball (11 TOs
combined), we do have to give Jrue and Evan a little credit for setting
up their teammates. Both players ended with nine assists as they set up
their big-men shooters at the elbow and their three-point marksmen
behind the arc, getting a lot of the credit for the team’s 52% shooting
on the game (including 9-16 from beyond). A lot of ways to contribtue to
a basketball game, obviously, and even though scoring wasn’t one of
them tonight, the distributing, as well as 10 combined rebounds and some
sporadically inspired defense (Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley had
maybe the worst game of all, with ten points on 3-17 shooting), they
aren’t completely excused from the celebration of this one.

Was
it a particularly inspirational win? Nope. The Sixers could play the
Grizzlies ten times and be lucky to get a performance like this just
once more, and the fact that none of the Sixers core guys were
particularly instrumental in securing the W here makes it hard to read
too much into being a good sign for the team moving forward. Still,
we’re gonna need guys like Dorell and Spence to give us something—more
than they gave us in the season’s first month-and-a-half, certainly—to
have a chance of being competitive in the East down the stretch, so to
see some real signs of life from them is encouraging. Plus, with an
eight-game roadie trip this deadly, we’ll take all the wins we can get,
fluky or no.

Next up: The much-improved Golden State Warriors,
in Oakland this Friday. Dare we hope for Two of Those Games in a row?
Not exactly a sustainable recipe for success, but lord knows we’re still
owed one or two from the season’s beginning, so who knows.