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Sixers beat Pacers… can Philly win the Atlantic division?

Jan 10, 2012, 1:00 AM EDT

Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Jeff Foster, Lance Stephenson, Tyler Hansbrough AP

We’re only eight games into the season — about 12 percent of the way —so drawing broad conclusions is tough. But it was hard not to look at a couple games Monday night and not have one particular question pop up.

The game first was the 76ers taking on the Indiana Pacers, two of the rising teams in the East. Indiana was without Danny Granger and the entire game had the sloppy feel of so many early season contests this year, but the 76ers controlled most of the second half and won handily, 96-86. They looked pretty good doing it, with quality offensive looks and solid defense —they looked like a team that could be dangerous as the season wears on.

Next the New York Knicks needed a whole lot of Carmelo Anthony and a few breaks down the stretch to beat the struggling Charlotte Bobcats.

Taken together it was hard not to wonder — can Philadelphia win the Atlantic division over New York and Boston?

Maybe. Before the season that seemed a real long shot, but now… they look as good as anyone else. If not better. As of Tuesday Philadelphia at 6-2 is a game and a half ahead of 5-4 New York and two games ahead of 4-4 Boston.

More than that, Boston and New York have really struggled at moments this season. The Knicks look like mismatched pieces not fitting a system, the Celtics look old at times and not as deep a team as they were.

Philadelphia looks solid. Especially on defense. They came into the game allowing just 90.2 points per 100 possessions, best in the NBA. The Pacers scored at a 92.3 points per 100 pace in this game. They do it by not letting the other team shoot well or get into their offense and that happened to a Pacers team that has previously looked good this season. The Pacers shot just 36.6 percent, with David West going 6-for-14 and Darren Collison 2-of-11.

On offense, the 76ers are looking to get out and run a little more, which suits them. If they get some easy buckets to go with that defense, it works. Andre Iguodala is looking more to facilitate, driving to draw the defense then kicking out for assists when the defense collapsed. Iggy had 20 points and nine rebounds to go with five assists.

Philly also got good play from their role players. When Spencer Hawes got in foul trouble trying to deal with Roy Hibbert, rookie Nikola Vucevic came in with 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Pacers will have better nights. They had strength inside but when the Sixers defense collapsed the Pacers didn’t make them pay on the kickouts, shooting just 4-of-13 from three. Hibbert finished with 19 points on 12 shots.

The Pacers were more balanced, with Lou Williams having 13 off the bench and six players in double figures.

We will have to see if Philly can keep up this level of defense for an entire season, how they deal with adversity when it eventually arrives as it does for all teams. But right now, eight games in, they look as good or better than anyone in the Atlantic division.

  1. kandh2004 - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    Kurt me and you didn’t see eye to eye on anything during the lockout but I have to agree with everything your saying now. The biggest strength for the Sixers is youth and fresh legs they will need in the condensed season

    • liltmac2003 - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:43 AM

      Good point, but the biggest reason why Sixers are looking legit is because of their defense.

      When I say defense…I mean good defense. Like REALLY REALLY good defense.

      Historically speaking, the Sixers defense actually broke some records. The previous mark for total allowed points in the first three home games of a season belonged to the ’03 Spurs. They allowed a than-NBA record of 229 points combined to their opponents.

      The Sixers actually broke that record this season. Their first three home games, teams have scored a total of 221 points. Surprisingly, this would’ve been the NBA record…but another team also broke the same record this season.

      …the Chicago Bulls. Their first three home games, they’ve only allowed a super stingy 206 total points.

      Offense might win you games, but ultimately defense wins championships.

  2. stillbleedingblue - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    No Danny Granger or Hill, moron. Can you please, please proof read your post. Is it that difficult?

  3. cluelessdufus - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    no becuase you still have the celtics and the knicks mabey they not a team right now there an 8th seed team give them another year or so andre iguodala is 27 ans still has 5 or 6 seasons he will never be himself 2 years ago when he average 23.6 points and 8.9 rebounds and 4.2 assist and with 2 future points guards jrue holiday and lou williams and with 2 overall pick evan turner as a future shooting guard and spencer hawes has been great. With Elton brand career coming to an end here the points the 76ers are not a team that can contend but can hurt a team with there weapons

  4. therookie773 - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    That has got to be the funniest picture ever

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      Hilarious pic!

  5. willardj - Jan 10, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    Cohesiveness and chemistry are underrated in the NBA. Most teams are trading and picking up new free agents to try and get better, but the Sixers method of drafting and keeping the team together is paying dividends thus far.

    Even if they can’t be a contender for the NBA championship, this team is still very fun to watch.

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM

      I have to say they look very impressive. The Knicks should be worried..

  6. dbick - Jan 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    In the short season I think it sets up for the Sixers to have a better record than the older Celtics. The Knicks are scary simply because of Melo and Stoudemire, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Sixers could end up with a better record than them too.

  7. thenoblefacehumper - Jan 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    The only team the Sixers have beat this year who were over .500 last year are the Hornets. Kurt, we know you despise everything Knicks, but…just stop.

  8. andyreidisfat - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    This is all just proof the nba sucks. The sixers are building a team the right way, they play the game of basketball the way it was ment to be played. In a crappy nba where stars push teams into making bad trades because lebrons marketing company thinks they can be bigger stars in Brooklyn ( I’m still not clear how one player can be charge of players on other teams entire image, but that’s for another rant) you would think both the nba and the networks they are on would be pushing a team like this. But no, they don’t even give us highlights on sportscenter but maybe every 3 games or so.

    I know the nba made its name pushing stars to sell tickets, but those days are over. It’s time to start selling teams, especially teams with good tradition and history.

    I hope the sixers win the whole thing and not just as a fan of the team but as a fan of doing things the right way. Of course that is till they do stray winning alot and dwight Howard wants to come here then the team of course will ruin it all in the name of having a “star”.

    Oh and please trade iggy not even because he sucks but because turner is ready to e the guy and he should be getting that playing time. I would still love to see them trade him for a young physical power forward.

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:23 AM

      Did you just start watching? The NBA has always been star driven, always. The sixers are a great young team that has the potential to win it all, what more do you want? Media attention? Why?

      I’ve never understood that argument. Remember bigger market teams will always get the majority of the attention. Is it fair? No.. Is life fair? No.

    • willardj - Jan 10, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      nice screen name

  9. 00maltliquor - Jan 10, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Every team I have called out in the begining of the season has proven me right so far. I’m looking like the Nostradamus of the NBA right about now.

  10. sasquash20 - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    The Sixers have basically the same team they had last season. They made strides under coach Collins last season, and it seems to have carried over to this season. Coach Collins is the reason they are playing so good on both ends of the court. It helps that they learned how to play together last season. There young, in shape, and playing great team basketball. I’m not sure I believe they can win it all yet, but I would be happy with winning a playoff series this season.

  11. mojosmagic - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    The Sixers play hard, work on D, and are young and quick. They share the ball on offense and will make the extra pass a rare commodity in the Superstar driven NBA. All that can go a long way but they still need an inside presence to complete the picture. If they get that watch out.

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