There were two things you were certain not to hear at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night when the Philadelphia 76ers opened up their 2012-13 season against the Denver Nuggets and former Sixer Andre Iguodala. First, although the booing every time he touched the ball was a little ridiculous, it was a safe bet to say that you wouldn't hear a standing ovation during pregame intros when Iggy was announced. Second, you could have gambled a limb that you wouldn't hear chants of, "MVP! MVP!" while Spencer Hawes was shooting fouls in the second half.
You're safe bet was right on, as Iguodala was greeted with scorn (to be fair he received a standing ovation when the Sixers showed a 40 second video of his highlights over eight years in Philly after the first time out). But if you bet that the raucous crowd at the Sixers' home opener wouldn't serenade Hawes in comparison to LeBron James' current title, you would have lost that limb.
The Sixers and their new cast of characters topped Denver, 84-75, in a defensive struggle that will never be called pretty, just gritty. Just like head coach Doug Collins likes it. Here are five points that stood out.
Holiday Strong on a Halloween
In the long run, injured and newly acquired big man Andrew Bynum may be the key to how far this team goes in the playoffs. Jrue Holiday is the key to the seed they have when they get there. He's proven that skill-wise, he may be the team's most talented player, and as the court general playing the point, it's a natural fit for him to fill that role in the locker room as well.
Holiday didn't have one of his best shooting nights, going 5-16 from the floor in dropping 14. It was how Holiday ran the show for the Sixers that made the difference. When you play the Nuggets, you're in for sporadic basketball at its best. They are long and athletic and love to run and never met a turnover they didn't like.
Holiday slowed the game down enough to keep a Sixer team that seemed like they wanted to play the Nuggets' style at times in check. In doing so, he dished out 11 assists.
With a 14-point lead diminished to one in the fourth quarter, Holiday calmly gave the ball to Hawes at the top of the key, got it back, then split two defenders and went high off the glass to get the hoop and the harm when the Sixers desperately needed a bucket. We haven't had a guy we trust with the ball in his hands when we really need a basket. Holiday is becoming that guy.
Different Team, Same Defense
The Nuggets are a sexy pick to contend in the Western Conference. That may or may not be true, but they certainly are athletic, and they are ferocious on the glass. But with all that athleticism, and all that running, they still left Philly dropping just three quarters on the scoreboard.
The Sixers held the Nuggets to just 37.5% shooting while forcing 20 turnovers. Newcomers Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Dorrell Wright went after loose balls and came up with steals as if they had been playing in Collins' system for years. It's just one game, but it was a great sign.
New Team, Same Iggy
Per usual, Andre Iguodala made a few plays that would electrify any crowd, including a steal and thunderous coast to coast dunk. But Iggy did many of the same things for Denver that drove the fans in Philly nuts. He launched threes. He missed them. He shot free throws. He missed them. He forced plays. There were turnovers.
Maybe Iggy tried to do too much in his first game on a new squad. Maybe he tried to stick it to the team that traded him and it just didn't work out. Maybe he needed Denver's best player, Danilo Gallinari, who sat out the opener with an injury, to help open things up for him. Iggy will do good things in Denver, but it was an inauspicious beginning.
The Biggest Difference Half to Half
When discussing rebounding and the 76ers there needs to be the caveat that things could change drastically, and should change drastically, in this department once Bynum's knee heals. That being said, they were pulverized on the defensive glass in the first half. Denver ripped 13 first half offensive rebounds. They pulled just three in the second half.
If the Sixers didn't improve in that category, Denver leaves a winner Halloween night. It's something they are going to have to be cognizant of while Bynum labors. On a positive note, the Sixers did nab 14 offensive rebounds of their own, but that becomes easier when you hoist up 25 threes and only seven find their target. Long rebounds become offensive rebounds.
Yup, He's Hawesome
When the Sixers got off to a 12-2 start last season, Collins was constantly praising Spencer Hawes for his ability to play away from the basket and allow the offense to run through him. When he went down with an Achilles injury, the Sixers began to slide. He never came back to full strength.
He got off to the same type of start Wednesday night. Hawes did it all; including knocking down a pair of three-pointers (he had three all of last season). All told, Hawes dropped a team-high 16 points, ripped a game-high 12 boards, chipped in with two steals and two assists and swatted five shots viciously from the Denver rim. The guy was everywhere, and it was fun to watch. He did all this off the Sixer bench, which also saw Wright have a solid debut.
And hence your MVP chants for Big Spence. If the Sixers can get half of what he gave them in the opener on a night-to-night basis, Collins will be thrilled, and the bench will again be a force to reckon with.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
- Sports & Recreation
- Spencer Hawes
- Jrue Holiday
- Denver Nuggets
- Andre Iguodala