Hawes' double-double lifts 76ers past Denver 84-75

Associated Press Modified: November 1, 2012 at 12:01 am •  Published: October 31, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Even in absentia from the opening night roster, Andrew Bynum heard a roaring ovation when he was introduced.

By the end, the loudest cheers were reserved for the active big man in the middle: "Spen-cer Hawes!"

Hawes had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to an 84-75 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

Hawes was set to start at power forward alongside Bynum until the All-Star center's knee injury forced third-year coach Doug Collins to shuffle his lineup. Hawes accepted the shift to sixth man without complaint and proved how valuable he'll be around the basket with Bynum absent.

On opening night, Hawes even heard chants of "MVP!" from a rowdy crowd of nearly 20,000 fans holding lofty expectations for the Sixers.

"We want to be the kind of team they can embrace," Hawes said. "We have big expectations this year. We know we have to contribute whatever way we're asked."

Hawes and Jrue Holiday turned away a Nuggets team late in the fourth that whittled a 13-point deficit down to one off a Ty Lawson jumper.

Holiday was fouled on a fallaway jumper and made the free throw for a 74-70 lead. Hawes then stuffed a driving Lawson, was fouled, and made two free throws to stretch it back to six in a matter of seconds.

Hawes buried a jumper to make it 78-70 and the crowd went wild with "MVP" chants for the 7-foot-1 center. Oh, Hawes had one more block for good measure to seal the win.

Holiday had 14 and 11 assists, and Dorell Wright scored 14 points for the revamped Sixers.

After the game the team announced they signed Holiday to an extension.

"I'm ecstatic to continue playing in Philadelphia," Holiday said. "I'm going to keep putting in the work and pushing myself every day in order to bring a championship to the city and our fans."

A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that it was for four years and worth at least $41 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because it is team policy not to disclose contract terms. The Sixers had until midnight to strike a deal or risk Holiday becoming a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Lawson led Denver with 16 points in his first game since signing a $48 million, four-year extension. Andre Iguodala scored 11 points in his first game since the Sixers traded him to Denver in the four-team deal that netted them Bynum.

The Sixers underwent a massive overhaul that saw them dump pricey veterans Iguodala, Elton Brand and Lou Williams. They brought in Bynum, Wright, Jason Richardson and a cast of reserves expected to build off last season's surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Iguodala returned after an eight-year career with the 76ers where he became an All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist. He heard loud, intense boos during pregrame introductions and was booed about every time he touched the ball. The Sixers did air a video tribute at the first timeout of his finest moment as a Sixer, when he sank the winning free throws with 2.2 seconds left in a 79-78 victory over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in Game 6, helping them advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2003. Fans stood and cheered him for the first and only time of the game.

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