Only the officials could cool off Jodie Meeks' hot hand.
Prior to Friday's 93-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers' coach Doug Collins made yet another change to his starting lineup, replacing the struggling Evan Turner with Jodie Meeks.
Given Meeks' performance versus the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday night, it'll probably be quite some time before Turner finds himself back with the starting five.
Meeks, in just his second career start, scored 26 points -- including 20 in the first quarter -- to lead the Sixers to a 109-91 win over the Bobcats.
The Sixers led the contest wire-to-wire, playing one of their more complete games on both ends of the floor. But last night belonged to a certain second-year shooting guard out of the University of Kentucky.
There's "hot," and then there's Jodie Meeks in the first quarter of Saturday night's win over the Bobcats. He was on fire right from the jump, starting the game 6-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line.
"He was like a flamethrower out there," said Collins, who was effusive with his praise of his young scorer. "Jodie gives us an extra dimension... he's pretty explosive."
Only the referees' whistles could cool off Meeks, who was forced to the bench after picking up his second foul less than 12 minutes into the game.
Meeks is well-known for his scoring prowess, having set the University of Kentucky single-game scoring record with 54 points against Tennessee in 2009. Less than two weeks ago, he enjoyed a similar hot hand, scoring 21 points during the Sixers' 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat on November 26.
After a string of six DNP-CDs (Did Not Play - Coach's Decision) to start the season, Meeks is merely grateful for the opportunity to contribute.
"I just wanted to come in and be solid," said Meeks following the game. "Just take open shots and knock them down."
He and the rest of his teammates were more than solid Saturday night, beginning the game on a 32-11 run. On the defensive end, they forced the Bobcats to miss 13 of their first 17 shots, leading to a 16 point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Meeks wasn't the only one carrying the scoring load for the Sixers; four other players scored 15 points or more, led by Thaddeus Young who chipped in 20 points off the bench. And while Spencer Hawes didn't score in double figures, he enjoyed his best performance as a Sixer (6 points, 9 rebounds).
The enigma that is the Evan Turner situation took another interesting turn last evening. 24 hours after one of his more solid outings of the year (11 points, 4 rebounds), the rookie out of Ohio State logged just over 11 minutes against the Bobcats, with many of those minutes coming with the game well out of reach in the 4th quarter.
With the emergence of Meeks, Collins appears to have the luxury of allowing Turner to grow at his own pace. Still, one would think that the second pick in the draft should be able to earn meaningful minutes for a team that's a far cry from .500.
With the victory, the Sixers improved to 6-14, with wins in three of their past four games. It should also be noted that they've now won four straight games at the Wells Fargo Center -- last year's team never won more than two consecutive games at home all season.
Recent success aside, the Sixers are clearly getting better as the year is progressing. A number of young players (Jrue Holiday, Young and Hawes, among others) have showed marked improvement from the beginning of the season to now. If they continue to grow at this rate, the Sixers could find themselves in contention for a playoff spot once April rolls around.
"I know we’re a better team today than we were 30 days ago," Collins said following the Atlanta loss. "I know that. And so that’s the one thing I’m hanging my hat on."