The Philadelphia 76ers have had a hole in the paint all season. Without Andrew Bynum giving the Sixers an All-Star big man, the Sixers have had to rely on Spencer Hawes at center. It has been crippling for the Sixers on some night, yet it paid off big time in their 98-91 win over the Indiana Pacers on March 16.
Hawes was the star of the night in racking up 18 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocked shots. He wasn’t that far off from a unique quadruple-double, which Bynum probably wouldn’t have been able to do while healthy.
Just a few weeks ago, there was speculation that the Sixers would put Hawes on the trading block. He certainly didn’t make a good case to stay on Feb. 28, when Joakim Noah burned him for 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots in Chicago. Nevertheless, it was Hawes’ turn to be that dominant last night in Philadelphia.
Despite being paired against All-Star Roy Hibbert, Hawes schooled him and robbed the Pacers of a big advantage. Hibbert still got 25 points and 10 rebounds for himself, yet Hawes had the better all-around game to balance it out. Although Indiana has one of the best defenses in the NBA, Hawes was the biggest defender around on this night.
The rest of the Sixers followed Hawes’ lead and hung around until breaking the game open early in the fourth. Unlike in their upset bid against the Miami Heat on March 13, the Sixers wouldn’t run out of gas against this elite Eastern team.
If Hawes or even Bynum had more games like this when it counted, Philadelphia wouldn’t be reduced to playing spoiler right now. Instead, both Hawes and the Sixers are showing glimpses of what could have been, even if they waited too long to do it.