PHOENIX - Steve Nash might be one of the most entertaining players to watch in the NBA - or used to be - but last night, it was the 76ers who provided all the entertainment as they thoroughly outplayed the aging Suns and posted their first win of the season with a 103-83 victory at U.S. Airways Center.
After an Opening Night loss in Portland on Monday, coach Doug Collins and many of his players talked of correctible mistakes, the biggest area of concern being turnovers, after 20 of them against the Trail Blazers led to 28 points.
If erasing errors is going to be this easy for Collins and his team this season, there might be a whole lot more games like last night's.
First, Collins' club had only three giveaways in the first half, none leading to Phoenix points, in building a 14-point Sixers lead. Then they stepped on the Suns' throats in the third quarter, starting it with a 17-0 run to cruise to the win.
"We played in a much better rhythm," Collins said. "Our defense was superb. Our defense is what created all of our offense, got us in the open court. I think we had 19 deflections at halftime. And then we had that 6-minute burst in the third quarter where our defense was as good as it could be. We had 19 points off turnovers and 11 steals. Everybody was great tonight."
After three quarters, when the Sixers burst to a commanding, 80-54 lead, they had given the ball up only seven times and the Suns converted only four points off those mistakes.
Andre Iguodala was superb, accumulating 15 points, six assists and four each of steals and rebounds. Spencer Hawes (11) and Elton Brand (nine) dominated the boards, and the second unit expanded a slim lead when it entered in the first quarter. After a slow start, Jrue Holiday finished with 15 points, as did Thaddeus Young. Lou Williams collected 13, while Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner added 12 each.
"Tonight, it was a concerted effort. The team did great," Brand said. "We kept down on the turnovers , played great defense, and that third-quarter run really opened it up for us. That's what you want to do. We executed well, and that's what we've been working on the past few days.
"We lead with our defense, and we had a lot of guys contribute, and our defense was amazing. We were all over the place."
For the second straight game, the Sixers held the opponent to about 41 percent shooting. But this time they didn't get beaten up on the boards, as Phoenix had only eight offensive rebounds.
It was the Suns' second straight home loss to begin the season. Their once-potent offense seems to have lost a lot of life. In fact, they didn't score their first points of the second half until 6 minutes, 12 seconds had expired in the third quarter. By that time, the Sixers had already gotten out to a 33-point lead.
The Sixers broke the game open in that stanza, outscoring the Suns, 32-20, hitting on 12 of 19 shots from the floor. From there on out, it was just a matter of how wide the final margin would be.
"Tonight, it really worked out for us, strength in numbers," said Iguodala, who shot 5-for-7 from the floor, including making all three three-pointers. "We felt like we could get stops, and offensively, I saw a mismatch, and we called a play that worked for us. We exploited it a couple of times. From there, everybody kept getting open shots, and it worked."
With back-to-back games scheduled for tomorrow (Utah) and Saturday (Golden State), the easy win gave Collins a chance to limit the minutes of his regulars. Rookie Nikola Vucevic played 20 minutes, most after the game had been decided. But in his 8 minutes in the first half, he was impressive, with four points, three rebounds and a steal.
"I get kind of bored sitting on the bench," joked Iguodala, who played 26:32. "It was good to get a win, and good for Nik to get some heavy minutes."
The Sixers will stay in Phoenix today and practice at Arizona State University before heading to Utah for tomorrow's game, because of what Doug Collins described as a lack of available charter planes. Teams usually fly to the next city immediately following games . . . Steve Nash played only 17 minutes for the Suns, posting six turnovers and four points on 2-for-11 shooting . . . With 3:06 left in the game and the Sixers up 23, Jrue Holiday banged his right knee on the floor. He said he was OK, but came out of the game. Afterward, he confirmed he was fine. Said Collins: "I'm shooting myself. Why was he out there? I was just trying to give Lou [Williams] a little bit of a break. But he's lying out there, and I'm ready to shoot myself. He's OK."
Sixers blog, Sixerville, at www.philly.com/Sixerville.
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