It seems as though Christmas may have come early for the Philadelphia 76ers with the return of starting point guard Jrue Holiday and starting forward Evan Turner. It appears as if the injuries couldn't hold back the Sixers as they cruised to a victory Friday night over the Atlanta Hawks, 99-80, behind a strong performance from the Sixers' starters.
The boys in blue and white defeated one of the better road teams in the Eastern Conference Friday night behind an onslaught of scoring coming from a combination of strong bench play and useful minutes from the starters. The return of Lou Williams to his old team wasn't as pleasant as he would have liked as he played under the clamoring crowd of the Wells Fargo beside some of the best fans in basketball.
While keeping Williams in check, the Sixers shot 51.2 percent overall on the night. Evan Turner, Jason Richardson and Thaddeus Young all combined for 56 of the 76ers 99 points and shot 26-for-45 from the field collectively. Turner had a team-high 21 points while Thad pulled in 11 rebounds of his own.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) December 22, 2012
The Sixers left the game with a season-high tying 31 assists on 44 field goals made. Seven different Philadelphia players had at least two assists which helped lead to the victory. The Sixers also led in every major statistical category as a team except free throw percentage (FG%, 3P%, rebounding, assists, turnovers, steals, blocks and fast break points), which also helped add to their margin against the Hawks.
Aside from the overall performance of the 76ers, the team only accomplished the win for one simple reason, the play of Jrue Holiday. Holiday returned from a four-game disappearance act when he was sidelined with a foot sprain that kept him from play. In his return Holiday had 11 points along with seven assists to lead the Sixers to their win.
"We can score when we need to," Holiday said. "But it's just locking up our defense. We tried to take guys out of the game and we succeeded. (Associated Press & ESPN)
Regardless of how many points Holiday scored or assists he strung together, Holiday's presence is what was missed most from the 76ers rotation. Without his use on the floor, the Sixers lost every game without him so far this season. With Holiday, their record stands at 13-10 overall, without 13-14.
An early candidate for the "Most Improved Player of the Year" award, Holiday is having his best season to date in the NBA. Averaging 18.4 ppg, 8.9 apg, 1.5 spg, and grabbing 3.9 rpg, Holiday has shown that he knows how to run a premiere offense in the Eastern Conference. And his teammates and coaching staff couldn't be any happier.
"I think you can see the difference that Jrue makes in our team," coach Doug Collins said. "He just gives us a settling presence. Offensively, things are smoother." (Associated Press & ESPN)
With the progression of Holiday, as well as the spark of offensive coming from a bevy of players including; Turner, Richardson, and both Thad & Nick Young, the Sixers have plenty of pieces to make a championship run. Additionally, with the recent news that Andrew Bynum is closer to dawning a Sixers' jersey sooner rather than later, the Sixers could be a threat in the Eastern Conference come early March. Team morale is at an all-time high.
Looks like the "Jrue Holiday Season" came earlier than expected.