Jrue Holiday Leads Sixers to Win Over Spurs

Written By Roy Burton On Saturday, February 12, 2011
To the average fan, it wasn't pretty.

But if you were to ask Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins, his team's 77-71 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Friday night was one of the most beautiful games he's seen in quite some time.

In a game that was destined to be physical from the opening tip, Sixers' forward Elton Brand battled his way to 8 points and 17 rebounds against a tough San Antonio front line.

But point guard Jrue Holiday was the man of the hour against the Spurs, finishing with 27 points and 5 rebounds in his team's biggest victory of the year.

"I think Jrue did a great job of leading us tonight," said Lou Williams after the game. "Tonight goes to him - I think he was tremendous for us tonight."

On paper, the matchup didn't look all that favorable for the 76ers. San Antonio came into the Wells Fargo Center with best record in the NBA at 44-8. For good measure, they also owned the best road mark in the league at 19-6.

Those impressive numbers didn't matter all that much when the game started - the Spurs came out flat early on, trailing the Sixers 27-22 after the first 12 minutes.

Holiday - who had been struggling since his triple-double against the New Jersey Nets on February 2 - was on fire early, shooting 6-for-8 from the field and leading all scorers with 13 points in the first quarter.

The Sixers lost a little steam in the second period, and the Spurs used their size to control the pace, eventually tying the game at 46 heading into intermission. San Antonio outrebounded the 76ers 27-20 in the first half and finally appeared to find their rhythm.

The second half was a different story for both teams. At the start of the third quarter, the two teams did their best to set the game of basketball back several years, combining to shoot 3-for-29 from the field. The Sixers and the Spurs scored a total of 26 points in the period - 12 minutes of action that will not show up on either team's yearly highlight DVD at the end of the season.

It didn't get a whole lot sexier in the 4th quarter, but the Sixers made stops when they needed to, holding the Spurs to a total of 25 points after halftime. Philadelphia finished the game on a 14-4 run, with Holiday scoring 7 of their final 9 points, including four clutch free throws with the game still in the balance.

Despite the win, there were some negatives to take out of the game for Doug Collins. The Sixers shot terribly from the field (29-for-82 for the game), they were outworked on the boards (the Spurs grabbed 11 more rebounds), and Andre Iguodala has his worst game since his transition to the "point forward" role (7 points, 6 assists on 2-for-15 shooting).

But the play of Holiday, Brand and Spencer Hawes (13 points, 7 rebounds) coupled with a win over one of the elite teams in the NBA will make even the toughest coaches happy, even if it's only for a little while.

"I've never been more proud," said Collins during his post-game press conference. "For us to be able to beat the best team in the league... our guys were very, very happy, as is their old coach."

Optimists will chalk it up to good defense. Pessimists? They'll call it bad shooting. Either way, the Sixers held San Antonio to 33.3 percent from the field on Friday night. The Spurs' starting backcourt of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili shot a combined 5-for-20 from the floor and finished with a total of 17 points, nearly 19 points off of their per game averages as a duo.

Tim Duncan notched a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but the night belonged to the 76ers, who have beaten the Spurs on each of their last four visits to Philadelphia.

For what it's worth, the Sixers - who have won 8 of their last 11 - are 22-15 since starting the season 3-13. Not bad for a team that won 27 games all of last season.

16 games into the year, many fans had visions of Harrison Barnes dancing in their heads. Now, it's not completely unreasonable to think that the 76ers could finish the season as the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.

The success has some of the players showing a little unbridled optimism for perhaps the first time all season. And with a win over the league-leading Spurs, they are fully entitled to do so.

"When you play against teams like that, teams like the Spurs, you kind of test to see where your team is at," said Holiday, following the game. "We're right there with the best of them."

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