The Philadelphia 76ers began a supposed new era against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 31. Sixers fans like myself were promised that things would be different from last season, and the previous 10 or so before that. However, the actual opening game looked a lot like most of the games from last year - although at least this was one that ended with a victory.
Most of the time last year, the Sixers won low-scoring games in rather ugly fashion, due to a stalwart defense, three-point shooting and big second half play. For the most part, that formula was followed to the letter against the Nuggets, and it worked well en route to an 84-75 win.
The three-point touch was crucial for the Sixers last season, and it stood to get even better with Jason Richardson joining the team. It certainly helped Philadelphia in the first half, as it got most of its first quarter points via three-pointers or three-point plays. Not only did Richardson get his first two threes as a Sixer, Spencer Hawes even found the touch with two threes of his own.
Although the Sixers lost their shooting touch everywhere for much of the second half, they used their defense to clamp down on the Nuggets - as it did on most everyone last year. Technically, Philadelphia shot even worse than Denver did, but it opened up a pretty big cushion in the second half anyway. Just as last season's Sixers did, this year's Sixers opened up a comfortable lead in the second half -- although they almost gave it up.
A 13-point lead was cut to one with under five minutes left, which meant the Sixers would have to make some shots again. One of their biggest problems in 2011-12 was their ability to survive close games -- but on this night, it wasn't a problem. Despite being ice cold for a good part of the second half, Philadelphia made the big shots it needed to put Denver away for good after all.
Defense, three-pointers, second half success and even more defense was a winning formula for the Sixers last season. Despite how the roster has changed, it appears their method of victory hasn't - although it might not always be the case all year. Will Andrew Bynum make things easier for Philadelphia when he finally takes the court, or will the Sixers' style be unable to match up with his own?
There are still a lot of unanswered questions that will be addressed over time. But for the moment, at least the Sixers still have their usual tried and true way to pull out games, even if it isn't pretty to watch. This may be a different team on paper, yet it was easy for us fans to think we were watching the Sixers of January and February 2012 last night, instead of the Sixers from October 2012. For now, that is still good enough in Philadelphia.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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