Holiday leads 76ers past Knicks
By John N. Mitchell, The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA -- The 76ers rolled out Jrue Holiday on Saturday night as a newly minted All-Star and he delivered, notching a career-high 35 points, six assists, five rebounds and one turnover as the Sixers destroyed the New York Knicks, 97-80, in front of a sold-out (20,540) Wells Fargo Center.
But as devastating a performance as it was by Holiday, selected by coaches on Thursday to be one of seven reserves in the game next month in Houston, it may have been the pep talk delivered in the bowels of Wells Fargo Center to the starters that helped the Sixers (18-25) earn an impressive win over the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks (26-15).
Thad Young, who night in and night out has had to body up against bigger and stronger players, gathered the starters -- a group that included Spencer Hawes for the first time this season in place of Lavoy Allen, and Nick Young (20 points) in place of injured Jason Richardson (knee) -- and said that earning an unexpected win such as this one would require an all-out effort at the start, something not seen lately from the Sixers.
"I told them that we haven't started games well at all," said Young, who contributed 10 points but was part of a wave of players who forced New York MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony into a 9-for-28 shooting performance. "All the stuff that coach is saying and all the other stuff that other people are saying, it doesn't matter because it's all on us.
"We have to go out there and be that energy group, start the game and make it so the second unit can come in there and be effective. And I think we did a pretty good job of doing that and making it work."
The Sixers led a game after the first quarter (24-19) for just the third time in their last 12 games. They pushed the lead to 53-41 at halftime, then blew the Knicks (26-15) and their boisterous fans who made the trip with them down 95 South out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 31-17 third quarter.
The Sixers led by 29 points late in the third and the Knicks never threatened in the fourth quarter, the final margin being the closest they got in the fourth.
Evan Turner, who added 20 points, said that the Sixers fed off of Holiday's strong performance.
"We tried to come out and be aggressive," Turner said. "Jrue started off and we just followed his lead. And then one quarter just carried over to another.
The Sixers shot 50.7 percent from the field. Meanwhile, they limited the Knicks to just 34.6 percent shooting.
And Holiday was spectacular, embarrassing each of the at least five different defenders the Knicks sent at him.
"The good start for us was the key," Holiday said. "I don't think coach is lying when he says most games we try to fight back in, we lose. Getting a good start and a good lead in that first quarter gives us a better chance to win.
Notes: Sixers coach Doug Collins left the game in the third quarter to be treated for a nasal condition (antibiotics) and did not return to the bench.
The Sixers said he is OK.n