Andre Iguodala is never going to be a super star in the NBA but he is one of the more well rounded and complete players in the league. You could say he doesn’t do anything spectacular but there are not many things the 6-6 swingman can’t do. The Sixers continued their impressive play with a 111-100 win tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The win puts the team over .500 for just the 2nd time all season. It was a big win for the young team after they made a lot of mental mistakes in the game against a very good Dallas Mavericks team. In the Dallas game they had a lot of unforced turnovers down the stretch in a game they could have won. Tonight Andre Iguodala continued his great overall play with his 2nd triple double of the season and 6th of his career. He ended the game with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assist. Despite a poor record, the T-Wolves have been playing better basketball as of late. They are a young team with a lot of young talent with All-Star Kevin Love, former number 2 overall pick Michael Beasley and Philadelphia Native Wayne Ellington.
Going into the game the 76ers knew they had to try to limit Love and keep the turnovers to a minimum. While they were able to accomplish one of those by only committing 9 turnovers, Love quietly had another great game; he finished the game with 21 points and 23 rebounds. Collins called Love a “special player” in his post game press conference. Love’s impressive effort is his 10th 20-20 game of the season and his 49th consecutive double double. It puts him just 2 shy of former Sixer Moses Malone’s record 51 straight double doubles.
In many ways it was a “must” win for the young team. It is a game against one of the worst teams in the NBA and a game that you need to win if you want to move up in the standings. The young team was again led by veterans Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala but received contributions from almost everyone who played. Minnesota got off to a hot start and led 31-22 after the 1st quarter. The lack of defense was a major reason for the deficit as Minnesota shot 53% from the field in the first. Just like Doug Collins did in the Cleveland game, he went to the best bench in the NBA for a spark. Collins once again showed his high basketball IQ as the Sixers turned it on in the 2nd quarter. They outscored the T-Wolves 34-18 in the 2nd quarter giving them a 7 point lead going into half time. They picked up their defensive intensity by forcing the T-Wolves to shoot 8-21 from the field and added 12 points off turnovers in the quarter.
In the 2nd half the 76ers controlled the pace of the play. They stretched their lead to as much as 14 at one point in the 2nd half. In addition to the strong play by Kevin Love, Minnesota fed the ball to their young center Nikola Pekovic. The 6-11 Yugoslavian gave the Sixers some matchup problems in the 3rd quarter but Collins countered the move by bringing Marreese Speights off the bench and seemed to put an end to his short run of dominance. Despite controlling the game, their lead was cut to 101-100 after 5 straight points by Wayne Ellington. The young team then showed their growth as a basketball team as they pulled the game out down the stretch. It was a game that the team would have lost last season and may have lost earlier in the season. After Ellington cut the lead to 1, the Sixers ended the game going on a 10-0 run. The Sixers went to their two veteran starters in Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala for the source of their offense down the stretch. Brand scored 4 straight points after Ellington cut the lead to 1. Jodie Meeks drained 4 late free throws to ice the game.
The bench continues to be a huge asset for the Sixers as Young, Williams and Turner all scored in double figures. 2nd overall pick Evan Turner continues to improve his play but he still seems hesitant to shoot at times. Despite Minnesota’s poor record, any win down the stretch is big while the team is jockeying for playoff position. The Sixers major weakness might turn into an advantage down the stretch. They lack a “go to” scorer to give the ball to in the key moments. But it makes the team harder to defend down the stretch because all 5 guys are able and willing to score. The opponent cannot focus on stopping just one player, they must play great team defense. During the last 45 games, the Sixers are 28-17, which is good for 7th best in the NBA over that span. They are still a team who is a long way away from competing for a championship, but they are now playing a game that can excite the fan base and give the fans a reason to believe.