10/31/12 – Wednesday night's season opener was a welcoming sight to a city that is desperate for a winner. With things as they currently are in the Philadelphia sports world, the aura surrounding the new-look Sixers has been the fans saving grace. Tonight was the first opportunity to check out the team in regular season action, and even though the uncertainty of Bynum's return has been well publicized, all were excited nonetheless.
A packed Wells Fargo Center was the stage as the Philadelphia 76ers family welcomed back one of the most enigmatic figures in recent Philly sports memory, Andre Iguodala. The fans let him know their disdain for him during the pre-game introductions as the 'boos' rained down, but later showed their gratitude during a brief video tribute to Iggy. His 8 year career as a Sixer looks pretty good statistically but it was his outrageous contract, terrible shot selection, inability to relate to the fan base, and apathetic attitude towards winning that made him so frustrating to watch. However he's someone else's problem now. Hallelujah.
Tonight's Halloween matchup was between two teams that have lofty expectations for this season. Both teams are built to play up tempo defense and push the rock. In the first game of the season this style of play would make for a pretty sloppy affair. The 1st was competitive as Iggy came out flying from the jump with 6 points in the quarter. The Sixers responded by knocking down 4 threes and held on to a lead 25-22 at the end of 1. In the 2nd quarter the 76ers cooled down a bit, but the Nuggets couldn't buy a bucket. Denver crawled their way back by vigorously hitting the offensive glass, they had 13 o rebs in the first half resulting in a ton of second chance buckets in the paint. But the Sixers remained active defensively and forced 13 Nuggets turnovers by the closing moments of the 2nd. A late 8-0 run gave them a 46-38 lead going into the half. In the 3rd quarter the sloppy play continued for both teams. The Nuggets kept it close but the Sixers hustle helped them to pull away. They were very active defensively and extended the Denver turnover margin. At the end of 3 Philly still led 65-52. After leading since early in the first quarter, the Sixers began to take their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter. They allowed the Nuggets to get back in the game when they became content with simply shooting 3's. Poor and rushed shot selection led to a 7-0 run and then another 9-0 run by the Nuggets in the 4th to cut the lead to only 1. However, the Sixers were able to compose themselves in time to put the game away. An 11-3 run led by Hawes and Jrue Holiday was the dagger. Final score: PHI 84 DEN 75.
1. Jrue – 41:24 mins., 14 pts., 6 rebs., 11 asts., 2 stls., 3 TOs
2. Hawes – 31:02 mins., 16 pts., 12 rebs., 2 asts., 2 stls., 5 blks., 3 TOs *** Player of the Game
3. Dorrell Wright – 27:38 mins., 14 pts., 7 rebs., 2 stls., 1 blk., 2 TOs
4. Thad – 36:27 mins., 13 pts., 5 rebs., 1 ast., 2 stls., 1 blk., 1 TO
5. J-Rich – 36:31 mins., 10 pts., 4 rebs., 2 asts., 4 stls., 3 blks.
6. Nick Young – 18:41 mins., 9 pts., 3 rebs., 1 stl., 1 TO
7. Turner – 28:28 mins., 5 pts., 6 rebs., 2 asts., 3 TOs
8. Lavoy - 16:58 mins., 3 pts., 4 rebs., 1 blk., 1 TO
9. Maalik Wayns – 2:31 mins., 1 TO
Ty Lawson – 16 pts., 5 rebs., 7 asts., 2 stls. 3 TOs
Iggy – 11 pts., 4 rebs., 4 asts., 2 stls., 1 blk., 4 TOs
Andre Miller – 10 pts., 7 rebs., 5 asts., 2 stls., 3 TOs
After the game coach Doug Collins called it a 'grind it out' win. The Sixers were pretty much in control most of the game, but got content with chucking up 3's. The game as a whole was incredibly sloppy, which is fitting for the first game of the season. The Sixers were out-rebounded 54-47 and out-shot in FG percentage 38%-35%. But they did win the turnover battle 22-16 and their depth gave them a huge lift, with 5 players in double-figures. Despite their rebounding woes they were able to pull it out with a gritty effort in crunch time.
Hawes was the player of the game. Dude was all over the place, may have been one of the best games I've seen him play. His 5 blocks were HUGE in the scheme of the game, but also were a testament to the work that he's put in to get himself into better shape. Over the past 2 years I've criticized the hell out of him, but he looks like a physically different player through the preseason and now through game 1. With his stash and goofy mullet, he's become a fan favorite at Wells Fargo.
For all the offseason hype the Nuggets got this year they didn't look too special. And the national media sweetheart Iguodala didn't standout at all. He was 0-4 from 3, 5-13 from the field, and 1-3 from the line to go along with 4 turnovers. And had by far the worst +/- of any player in the game with -19. Hopefully now that he's gone from Philly everyone will realize that he's a glorified specialist, not a star.
Next game: Sunday Nov. 4th 12 p.m. @ Madison Square Garden v. the Knicks. More to come…
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