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Philadelphia 76ers 123, Houston Rockets 117: Sixers win the Moreybowl, bowl many over with moneyball tactics

Jeremy Lin has improved his shot. His stroke looks smooth, his threes are on target, and he’s punishing teams for leaving him open. The Sixers became the latest victim of Lin this season, scorched by his 9 three pointers on 15 tries and 12 assists. Or rather, they would have been if they had lost. Instead, the Sixers held on to force overtime on an amazing shot from James Anderson then ground the Rockets down in the extra five minutes. It wasn’t the clang-fest of previous overtime game, which also happened to be the previous game. It was a contest of the NBA form of moneyball, with offenses comprised of three pointers, layups and free throws. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey faced off against his protege Sam Hinkie in the Moreybowl, and the Sixers took the inaugural crown.

The Rockets weren’t the most important part of that game, which is an odd thing to say on a site that covers the Rockets. The Sixers weren’t the most important aspect, either. It was something larger, and which has suffused Philadelphia’s season so far. The real star is the new trend in offense that Morey and Hinkie have not only embraced but downright proselytized. With an assault borne of threes and slashes, both teams racked up the points for five periods. The Rockets led by ten near the end of the game, but were unable to hold back the floodgates, just as the Sixers had been unable to hold back Lin and the Rockets. In the end, James Anderson’s game-tying three was more spectacular than Jeremy Lin’s last-ditch three in overtime. The Rockets lost, but something else won. The offense in the league is changing, and Houston is riding that wave.

So how, exactly, did a team as understaffed as the 76ers manage to pull off this win? Even without James Harden, the Rockets are a formidable foe, and the Sixers were built to fail. They were too big to fail, as the saying goes, and were simply able to corral 15 offensive rebounds, two more than Houston logged. They shot fearlessly, and were left open too many times on the perimeter. Even when contested, the Sixers were undeterred, and James Anderson had easily the best night of his career. In some brutal revenge against the team that cut him, Anderson notched a mind-blowing 36 points on 16 shots, including 6-8 shooting from downtown. This isn’t who Anderson is every day, but with the size and offense of the Sixers, it’s who he was tpday.

Jeremy Lin was also that guy. Lin’s been on fire from deep all season, shooting 45% from behind the arc going into this game. He only added to that number tonight, knocking gown 9 of his 15 tries, and at one point had hit 7 of 9. Lin clearly paid attention to what people said about him, because in improving his shooting, he’s shored up one of his biggest weaknesses. With his added versatility on offense, he’s able to either draw additional defenders and find the open man or capitalize on teams leaving him open on the perimeter. He may have had 8 turnovers to go with his 34 points and 12 assists, but that’s simply the price for membership on the Houston Rockets Turnover Squad. He also somehow had a -11, second only to Garcia’s -16 on the team.

Dwight Howard had 23 points on 20 shots and 15 rebounds. With the twin towers at least temporarily dismantled, Howard had more to do and a more critical role, and it worked well. This finally looked like the beginnings of the offense everyone dreamed of, though Garcia’s 04 three point shooting didn’t help matters. Parsons still can’t find his shot, but managed 22 points on 9-19 shooting as well as 6 rebounds and 7 assists. (He also paid 5 turnovers membership fees to the Turnover Squad. They have to get to 19 somehow.)

Patrick Beverley looked better but still only shot 1-5 from downtown. He hit his other 3 field goals, though. His 6 offensive boards (9 total rebounds) and 5 assists helped matters, and he looks solid next to Lin. Casspi was back and forth, also unable to hit threes (2-6) but able to sink other shots, mostly at the rim (7-13 overall). The less said about Ömer Aşık and the 4 minutes he played, the better. Perhaps head coach Kevin McHale was saving him for the Knicks game tomorrow.

The Rockets needed an easy blowout to rest starters for a nationally televised game against the New York Knicks the following day. Instead they got the second hotly-contested overtime game in a row. The Sixers have been shocking the world with their ability to pull out wins against good teams, but Houston should be used to it by now. After all, they used Morey’s assistant to install an offensive system Morey helped popularize. There had to be a winner to the Moreybowl. Today, it was the Sixers. Tomorrow will be different.

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