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Saturday, January 12, 7:30 PM (EST) at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA


21-16 (3rd Southwest, 7th West)

VS


15-22 (4th Atlantic, 9th East)

TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic FM | Live Stats

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THE ENEMY: J. LIN | J. HARDEN | C. PARSONS | M. MORRIS | O. ASIK

MATCHUP TO WATCH

G James Harden vs. G Jrue Holiday

Updated: 11:41 AM, January 12, 2013

Prior to this season, many questioned whether or not 2011-12 Sixth Man of the Year James Harden could handle the pressure of being a number-one option at the professional level.

After spending his first three NBA seasons in the shadows of perennial All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, the 6-5 combo guard was sent to the Rockets in the blockbuster deal on the eve of the season. 

In his first two games in Houston, Harden averaged an incredible 41.0 points (63.6 FG%), 7.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. Playing with a noticeable chip on his shoulder, Harden has been spectacular ever since.

The Arizona State alum had notched at least 25 points in 14 straight games heading into a meeting with the Celtics last night, breaking Moses Malone’s franchise record 13 straight games scoring 25-plus. During that streak, he averaged 29.1 points (49.0 FG%), 5.2 assists. 3.9 assists, and 2.0 steals. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, he fell one point shy of making it 15-straight at TD Garden Friday night – he scored 24 points in a 91-103 loss to Boston. Harden has scored at least 25 on 23 occasions this season; the Rockets are 16-7 in such games.

If Harden’s current scoring average (26.4 PPG) holds up, he’d become just the 11th player since the beginning of the three-point era (1979-80) to average over 26.0 points per game before turning 24.

For the Sixers, Jrue Holiday's story is not all that dissimilar. An outstanding high school prospect, Holiday, who attended Campbell Hall High School (Los Angeles), was offered a scholarship to attend UCLA early in his senior year. He happily accepted. The 6-3 guard hit a snag, though, when junior point guard Darren Collison (now with the Dallas Mavericks) decided to return to play out his senior season with the Bruins.

Holiday was forced to slide over to shooting guard, a position with which he was not quite as comfortable. As a freshman, he showed flashes of brilliance, but wasn't the consistent playmaker that UCLA expected him to be – he averaged 8.5 points (45.0 FG%), 3.8 rebounds, and 3.7 steals in 27.1 minutes per game. Nevertheless, the then 18-year-old decided to declare for the 2009 NBA Draft and was selected 17th overall by the Sixers.

In his first three seasons in Philly, Holiday was forced to play a good amount of his game off the ball, as well. The young point guard found ways to work with veterans Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, each of whom commanded much of the Sixers' ballhandling duties, but it became clear that he could not fully actualize his potential in such a role. Like Harden, drafted third overall the same year as Holiday, it was only when he was given the keys to his team's offense that he was able to take his game to the next level.

Now 22 years old, Holiday is averaging 18.3 points (45.2 FG%), 8.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game. He, along All-Star Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, is one of just two players averaging over 18.0 points and 8.0 assists on the season.

Holiday is second in the Eastern Conference in assists per game behind Boston's Rajon Rondo (11.2) and 6-3 has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, the team's first meeting with the Thunder (Nov. 24), in which he notched just six points, but dished out 13 assists. Prior to Wednesday's loss to Toronto, in which he notched just four assists, Holiday had strung together a streak of 20 straight games with at least seven assists. 

The Key

The Sixers are losers of their last five, struggling offensively in all five after scoring 103 points in a win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day. Since then, Philly has averaged just 84.2 points a night, while allowing a healthy 102.4.

Part of the reason for the team’s recent offensive stall: turnovers.

After averaging 12.4 turnovers per game through the first 28 games of this season (second in the NBA), the Sixers have allowed 15.2 a night over their last five (24th). Jrue Holiday has turned the ball over 4.4 times per game during that span, good for third-most in the league. 

An interesting wrinkle, though, is that number one and number two on that list are Houston guards James Harden (4.8) and Jeremy Lin (4.4). As a team, Houston has committed more turnovers over their last five games (18.0 TO/G) and on the season (16.1 TO/G) than any team in the NBA. When the Sixers turn the ball over more than do their opponent, they are 5-11. 

Taking care of the basketball and limiting live-ball turnover opportunities for the up-tempo Rockets will be key, as will be forcing Houston's dynamic backcourt to commit such turnovers on the other end.

 

LAST TIME THEY MET

Sixers 103, Rockets 125 – December 19, 2012

James Harden led all scorers with 33 points on just 12 shot attempts. He was sent to the line 18 times and converted on all but one. He was one of six Rockets to score at least 13 points in the shootout. The Sixers, too, had six players score in double figures. Playing without point guard Jrue Holiday (foot) and losing Evan Turner (ankle) early in the second half, the team was led by a stellar bench effort. The Sixers' reserves scored 65 points, led by 21 from Nick Young and 20 from Dorell Wright. 

Offensively, the Sixers had a fine night, scoring 103 on 44.9% shooting. They even got to the line 24 times. But the Rockets' attack was too great. Houston scored 125 on an outrageous 56.0% from the floor and were sent to the line 36 times.