The NBA: Sizzlin’ Sixers

Jrue Holiday and the 76ers are riding high on a 5-game
winning spurt that has driven them atop the Atlantic.

*Unless otherwise specified, all images are by the Associated Press. 

The Philadelphia 76ers the East’s version of the Portland Trailblazers. Without much fanfare, the Sixers have built some momentum, especially after their 4-game tour out West, where they went a very respectable 2-2. Those are their only 2 losses so far. At 6-2, Philly sits atop the Atlantic ahead of more fancied teams like the Celtics and Knicks. They’re just a game behind the Bulls and are tied (percentage-wise) with the Hawks. In other words, they’re in pretty good shape. And can you really say you expected this? What with no real bona fide superstar in this team? And, NO, Andre Iguodala isn’t a bona fide superstar, or at least not at the level many expected him to be years ago. Take a look at these numbers: the Sixers’ leading scorer is Lou Williams at just 16.6ppg, and he plays under 27 minutes a game. Nobody, in fact, plays more than 35 minutes (Jrue Holiday is right at the top with 34:55 minutes per game). Elton Brand is nowhere near the form he displayed last year, and AI isn’t the stat-demon that, on paper, he should be. But still the Sixers are winning.

Yes, it might be because of their relatively light schedule (they’ll face Washington twice this week), but they’ve been churning out nice stats as a team, too. They’re Top10 in FG%, 3pt%, assists and steals. They’re also Top 5 in total rebounds and blocks. For me, right now, the biggest reason for their success? Spencer Hawes. The big guy from Seattle had his best season as a King in 08-09, but he’s playing even better now, averaging better than 12 points and better than 10 boards per game. Those numbers won’t jump at you, but coupled with just under 2 rejections per outing and a blistering 62.7 FG%, he might just be the difference the Sixers are looking for to break out this season.

After the JUMP, key stat-stuffers for today’s games:

TOR  over MIN, 97-87 – Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson combined for an imposing frontline pair that negated Kevin Love’s nightly double-double.
PHI over IND, 96-86 – The Sixers got the better end of this match-up between two surprising East leaders. Philly now on a 5-game high.
NYK over CHA, 91-87 – Knicks got back at the Cats and are now in the midst of a 3-game winning run.
ATL over NJN, 106-101 – For a while there, the Nets looked legit, but Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague were too much to handle.
CHI over DET, 92-68 – Nice bounce-back win for the Bulls after losing big to the Hawks 2 nights ago. Bulls are just half a game behind the Heat.
NOH over DEN, 94-81 – Easily the upset of the day as the Hornets nail just their third win, and against the Nuggets at that – in Denver! Nuggets now on a 2-game slide.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Andrea Bargnani (TOR) – 31
Josh Smith (ATL) – 26
Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) – 25

Andre Bargnani could be the Raps' version of
the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki.
Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Kevin Love (MIN) – 14
Tyson Chandler (NYK) – 13
Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 12

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Deron Williams (NJN) – 14
Jarrett Jack (NOH) – 9
Derrick Rose (CHI) – 8

Deron Williams (L) is still an all-world PG, but he and
Kris Humphries (R) don't look to happy with the Nets' play.
Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Tyson Chandler (NYK), Josh Smith (ATL), Iman Shumpert (NYK), Ricky Rubio (MIN) & Jrue Holiday (PHI) – 3

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
James Johnson (TOR) – 4
Tyson Chandler (NYK) – 3
A LOT with 2

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Anthony Morrow (NJN) & Vladimir Radmanovic (ATL) – 4
A LOT with 3

Jan. 9, 2012 First Five
C – Tyson Chandler (NYK) – 20pts, 13rebs, 3stls, 3blks, 1ast
F – Boris Diaw (CHA) – 19pts, 10rebs, 7asts, 3 triples, 1stl
F – Josh Smith (ATL) – 26pts, 6rebs, 4asts, 3stls
G – Joe Johnson (ATL) – 22pts, 6asts, 3rebs
G – Jeff Teague (ATL) – 20pts, 4asts, 3rebs, 3 triples, 2stls, 1blk

Tyson Chandler seems to have finally gotten into
a groove, helping NYK to a 3-game winning run.
(image by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Honorable Mention:
Amir Johnson (TOR) – 19pts, 11rebs, 3asts, 1stl, 1blk
Andrea Bargnani (TOR) – 31pts, 9rebs, 1blk
Carlos Boozer (CHI) – 23pts, 8rebs, 2asts, 1blk

For a full summary of the day, here’s today’s NBA Daily Zap:

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