Andrew Toney’s long, painful journey back to the city that adored him ended last night as he returned along with Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Bobby Jones and Earl Cureton. It was a huge surprise to the sellout crowd and a wonderful gift from the new Sixers ownership.
In the midst of the hoopla, there was a basketball game as the Sixers blew past the Detroit Pistons 96-73 powered by a 4th quarter shooting display by Jodie Meeks that I’m sure gave the Boston Strangler chills.
The Sixers were the last team in the NBA to play a home game last night and in the midst of what was an emotional evening, coach Doug Collins sensed that his team was pushing things just a little. “I think we were jittery, Michael Curry made a point to our guys that they were grinding down the clock and we were in such a hurry that we were out of sync.”
Sixers starting swingman Jodie Meeks who has struggled in the early portion of this season was able to get back in sync with his outside touch. Meeks for the season was shooting 33 percent from the floor and 21 percent from beyond the arc where he is most needed. In the fourth quarter Meeks erupted for 17 points (including 4 of 5 three pointers) and was a key component in pushing the Sixers lead from 8 points to as high as 23 as the team shot 68 percent from the floor. The 19,408 in attendance at the Wells Fargo center erupted with each three by Meeks. Center Spencer Hawes asserted himself in the paint early on with 6 of his game high 14 rebounds in the first quarter, he would add six more in the third to finish with 14 boards along with 16 points and 2 blocked shots. Point guard Jrue Holiday was able to offset a poor shooting night with nine assists and only two turnovers.
Forwards Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala were a combined 3 for 13 from the floor but were contributors in other areas, Iguodala would finish with four assists and four steals while Brand had a steal and two blocked shots. You got the sense that the two veterans aced themselves according to the rhythm and flow of the game.
The Sixers bench churned out 45 points and brough the crowd to its feet throughout with a few run out dunks and hustle plays. Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young led the scoring with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Five of Young’s seven rebounds came on the offensive glass. Evan Turner continues to contribute in any way that he can, the second year guard contributed eight points and continues to hit the boards, pulling down eight. New crowd favorite has to be rookie Nikola Vucevic, who in about three minutes of action posted six points and two rebounds.
Things were tough for the visiting Pistons who were without guards Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon. The Pistons hung around for a half but their poor shooting coupled with the Sixers energy wore them down in the final stanza. The Pistons shot no better than 37 percent after the first quarter. The visitors failed to post a double-digit rebounder and nearly doubled the Sixers in personal fouls, 17 to 9. Encouraging was the play of second year center Greg Monroe who scored 22 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 35 minutes of play. Rookie point guard Brandon Knight was 5 for 15 from the floor but led the team in rebounds with nine. Jason Maxiell and Will Bynum scored 10 points each off of the bench.
At halftime, I was able to get some time in with Moses Malone, what made Andrew Toney finally come back, Malone, who still lives in Houston responded, “He felt it was time, none of us really pushed him to do it over the years, he just felt like now was the time.”