COMMENTARY | For at least one night, Spencer Hawes stood out. And it was for more than just his mullet he sported earlier in the season.
Hawes went toe-to-toe with former teammate and 2013 NBA Rising Star Nikola Vucevic and Hawes looked dominant.
The significance of this match-up is fairly simple. The 76ers have struggled in the post all season. The team ranks 22nd in the league in rebounds per game.
Hawes started 110 games out 118 in the previous two seasons. However this season, he has only started five times in 47 games (all the past five games), despite injuries to centers Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown.
He's third on the team in rebounds, behind two players listed as small forwards, despite being seven-feet-one-inch tall. He's also shooting a rather low .466 from the field and averaging 10.0 points per game this season.
Vucevic, who was traded away in the Bynum deal this summer, is having an impressive sophomore season. He's started every game he's played for Orlando this season, is shooting .524 from the field, and is averaging 12.1 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game (fourth in the NBA).
Philadelphia fans are very disappointed that a player that has blossomed so well and could help the team was moved for a player who hasn't played a game in a 76ers jersey and may never do so.
In the first matchup between these two players, however, the incumbent Sixer stole the show.
Sure, Orlando was undermanned and undersized. Vucevic didn't have much help. But Hawes took it to him.
Hawes scored 21 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and shot 9-17 from the field which included a three pointer, the 14th he's made this season.
Vucevic also grabbed 14 rebounds, but had only nine points and shot a measly 3-10 from the field. Hawes not only schooled the Orlando center on the offensive side of the court, but made life miserable for him defensively.
Hawes even had a fast break slam dunk in the second quarter that ignited the crowd.
Philadelphia could really use more of that from Hawes the rest of the way.
In the Magic game, rebounding leader Thaddeus Young injured his left hamstring and could be out for at least two weeks. Philadelphia is three games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, behind the Boston Celtics who just lost All-Star Rajon Rondo for the season and could be making several big trades before the deadline, vastly altering the chemistry of the team.
Should Hawes step his game up and become a double-double machine, he could be what Philadelphia has been missing thus far this season. He may not make them a bona fide NBA championship contender, but if he can play at a high level and match-up against other top centers Philadelphia can get into the playoffs, where anything can happen as proved by the 76ers last season.
For one night, Hawes outshined the man fans have been clamoring for all season. It could be the start of something good.
Phil Shore lives in New Jersey and is the creator and editor of Shore Thing Sports blog. He's been published in The Boston Globe, Philly.com, FoxSoccer.com, LaxMagazine.com and New England Lacrosse Journal.