When last we met the Philadelphia 76ers, back in Philly on February 9, the Sixers' young and relatively rested legs made quick work of the punchy Phoenix Suns, who were coming off a tough win the previous night in Detroit and looked like they could've used some more quality sack time.
As noted then, this year's Suns have made a specialty of transforming lumps of NBA coal into diamonds, and the mediocre 76ers proved no exception, though there was a rub. We figured that Andre Iguodala -- Philly's best player in lieu of the injured Elton Brand -- would have himself a field day. While Iguodala played well in the 108-91 Philadelphia win, the rubbery-legged Suns were mugged by a couple of wild-card studs named Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights.
True to form, Phoenix's liquid D transformed NBA soph Young and rookie reserve Speights into one-night megastars. Young torched Planet Orange for 25 points, topping his season average by 11. Speights -- Philly's first-round pick out of Florida -- tripled his average in points (24 vs. 8) and nearly doubled it on the boards (7 vs. 4). More impressive, Speights snagged his 24/7 in only 24 minutes, in a display that included both board-shaking dunks and sweet swishes from the perimeter.
So much for respecting your elders.
The old folks certainly didn't earn it. Phoenix's two former MVPs, Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal, mustered a grand total of 9 points against the younger, hungrier Sixers. We'll see if our vets can put the pups back in their place tonight, when Philly visits US Airways Center. Not only is it a road back-to-back for Philadelphia, which battled the L.A. Lakers in a 94-93 win at Staples Center on Tuesday night, but the current sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race would seem to need a W far less than our fogies, as the Sixers are a virtual lock for the playoffs. (On the other hand, Philly does have some positioning incentive. If the team could make a run for the fifth seed, currently held by Miami, it'd draw Atlanta in the first round as opposed to -- ouch -- Dwight Howard and Orlando.)
We won't even mention the "p" word in relation to the Suns, but it would be nice to see a rested Phoenix squad that's playing at home avoid a season sweep by yet another cut-rate Eastern Conference team (think Chicago Bulls).
Is that too much to ask from a team that was talking NBA Finals last fall?
C'mon, old dudes, throw us a bone.
Tip's at 7 p.m. TV: FSN AZ. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. Info: www.nba.com/suns.
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