The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a pretty successful season, making a second consecutive trip to the NBA playoffs under head coach Doug Collins. The Sixers had a strong run in the postseason defeating the Chicago Bulls in the first round before losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals in seven games.
The offseason is here. The Sixers have made some strides over the last few seasons, but they need to make some additional improvements in order to get to the next level. That could be a better position in the conference standings, which could help them get to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Sixers will be working out a number of NBA prospects in the coming weeks. The NBA draft will take place on June 28. The team will take a good look at the list of free agents. Of course, they have their own free agents who require some attention such as Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Jodie Meeks. Guard Lou Williams has an early termination option in his contract and could opt out if he chooses to exercise that right.
There are some interesting names on the NBA free agent list. The Sixers could definitely use some help in the frontcourt. Three names that stick out right away are restricted free agents JaVale McGee (Denver Nuggets), Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers) and Jason Thompson (Sacramento Kings).
McGee, a 7-foot, 252-pounder, was a first round pick of the Washington Wizards four years ago. The Wizards traded him to the Denver Nuggets in March. McGee helped the Nuggets land a spot in the playoffs. In fact, he played extremely well against the Los Angeles Lakers in the postseason. The Nuggets took the Lakers to seven games, losing in the final game. McGee averaged 8.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks a game. He was a big factor around the basket. He ran the floor and caught a number of alley-oop passes from playmaker Andre Miller.
Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 260-pounder, was a real force around the basket. He had a big year for the Pacers. He made the all-star team this season and carried the Pacers to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat where they lost in six games. He averaged 11.7 points and 11.2 rebounds a game in the playoffs. He can score from the outside. He can rebound, defend and score around the basketball.
Thompson, a former Rider College and South Jersey basketball star, can play in the post. The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder, averaged 9.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.
For restricted free agents, teams can match any offer that’s made from other teams.
Kris Humphries is an unrestricted free agent from the Brooklyn Nets. Humphries would be a great addition to the Sixers. He can run the floor, score inside, rebound and play good defense. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder, averaged 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds a game.
In the backcourt, the Sixers may want to grab a point guard to help the run offense. They could sign a good playmaker that would help their young tandem of Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday like Jeremy Lin (New York Knicks) and Raymond Felton (Portland Trail Blazers).
Lin is a restricted free agent. He exploded onto the NBA scene with his spectacular play this season. Lin came out of nowhere to make a name for himself on the NBA’s biggest stage. He was quite a fan favorite in New York City. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds a game. He missed the playoffs with knee surgery. He could have been a big help to the Knicks in the postseason.
Felton, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, is an unrestricted free agent. He averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 assists a game. Felton would be a solid lead guard.
These are just a few names on the free agent list that should get a lot of attention in the coming months.
For the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s been a busy summer with all the personnel moves. Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, had a chance to talk about all the trades and free agent signings the team made in the last three weeks.
Of course, the most discussed acquisition was Kwame Brown, the No. 1 pick overall in the NBA draft coming out of high school in 2001 with the Washington Wizards. Brown, 30, signed a reported two-year deal with the Sixers for $6 million. Collins was Brown’s first coach with the Wizards.
A year ago, Brown played for the Golden State Warriors. But he only played in nine games prior to a season-ending pectoral injury. He tallied 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game before the injury. Brown has averaged 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds a game during his 11 years in the NBA. Collins believes the 6-foot-11, 270-pounder, can make a solid contribution.
“Well, I wanted him last year,” Collins said. “I think people when they view Kwame Brown they look at a guy who was a bust as the No. 1 draft pick in the NBA. And that’s not what we’re signing for. I had him at that period of time when he was 18 years old. I understand the pressure that young guy was under.
“I wish I could go back and be a better coach and a better mentor for him at that time. We feel very strongly that what we needed to do was to add size, strength, toughness and post defense. Michael Curry had him in Detroit. He felt like Kwame was one of the top five defensive centers in the NBA. So, we feel like that’s what we’re getting. We’re getting a good rebounder. We think that he can play well with a couple different guys on the floor. He can support us with his versatility. He’s in a great place right now.”
Brown has played for the Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and the Warriors over his career. Collins feels Brown has a strong connection with this Sixers coaching staff.
“BJ (Brian James) and I were with him in Washington,” Collins said. “Jeff Capel mentored him and was with him in Charlotte. Aaron McKie played with him in L-A. Michael Curry coached him in Detroit. So, he’s coming into a place that he feels very good about. I think we’re going to see the best Kwame has to offer.”
Collins has already penciled in Brown as the starting center entering training camp.
“We’re going to have Jrue (Holiday), Dre (Andre Iguodala) and Evan (Turner) in the backcourt,” he said. “Spencer (Hawes) playing as a four, which we think he’s more comfortable doing that. Kwame will do all the heavy lifting and play against the big centers.”
The Philadelphia 76ers have received some impressive play from several players like Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday. But they haven’t been the only contributors. Lavoy Allen, Sixers rookie forward, has given the team some quality minutes.
Allen, former Temple star, has stepped in and provided the Sixers with a tremendous lift when they needed it the most. With centers Spencer Hawes nursing a strained Achilles and Nikola Vucevic dealing with a strained quad, Allen has been given a chance to get on the floor and display his talent. Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, has been very pleased with Allen, the team’s second round draft choice and the 50th player selected overall in last spring’s NBA draft.
“He’s been a real pleasant surprise for us,” Collins said. “The guys trust him and believe in him. He’s big and strong down there. He’s a very skilled player. Our guys like him on the floor. They really believe in him. That size of him in the paint is a factor. We watch tapes of him. Guys are bouncing off him. He’s a big strong guy. He’s about 260. I would like to get him around 250. He’ll be a little quicker. I don’t think he’s going to lose any of that strength. He’s got a soft shooting touch.”
Prior to Monday’s game against Orlando, Allen has been averaging 19.2 minutes a game over the last five games. He scored 10 points and pulled down six rebounds in a win over the Washington Wizards. Allen had eight points and seven rebounds in last Friday’s victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. He’s averaging 5.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game.
“It feels good just to help my team,” said Allen, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound power forward. “I’m just trying to hold it down until Spencer and Nic come back. It feels good. I’ve been learning all year long from the guys. I feel like my teammates trust me. I’ve been getting rebounds, playing good defense and scoring. My two main jobs are to get rebounds and play good defense. I try to spread the floor and get up and down. That’s what the coaches tell me to do.”
Allen has been doing these things for a long time. It goes back to his playing days at Pennsbury High School in Bucks County. The Morrisville native gradually developed into a standout player with a lot of work on his game. He attended college at Temple, where he was a great four-year player for the Owls.
Allen played in four NCAA tournaments during his college career. He was the first Temple player to average a double-double since Ollie Johnson did it in 1971. He averaged 11.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game his senior year. Allen led the Owls to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Although he plays for the Sixers, Allen has kept in touch with head coach Fran Dunphy and the Temple Owls, a benefit of playing for your hometown team.
“They’re doing pretty well,” Allen said. “They’re putting it all together. I get to visit them every once in a while on my off days. I go down and hang out with the guys.”
Temple is coming off a big win over Saint Joseph’s. This is a huge week for the Owls, but an even bigger week for the Sixers with all the great teams coming into the Wells Fargo Center.
If the Philadelphia 76ers are going to make the playoffs, the team has a lot of work to do after the NBA All-Star break. The Sixers’ latest loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was critically damaging in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Bucks (26-25) are in the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. With the Sixers dropping a 94-92 decision to the Bucks on Wednesday, they have now fallen four games back. In addition, Milwaukee has beaten the Sixers three times this season, holding the tie-breaker with one game remaining between the teams.
The Sixers have 31 games left in the season. After the All-Star break, the schedule isn’t very kind either. The team faces the Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors. With the exception of the Magic and the Timberwolves, all these teams are headed to the playoffs and the Heat are the NBA champions with LeBron James, who will probably win the league’s Most Valuable Player award again this season.
Moreover, the Sixers have just 12 games left at home. So, they’re going to have to play their best basketball on the road. And that’s not easy at this time of the year, when a lot of teams are jockeying for playoff position.
Doug Collins, Sixers’ head coach, will have to find a way to get his team on a serious playoff run. Collins has quite the task in front of him. Of course, everybody has been waiting for 7-foot center Andrew Bynum to play. Bynum has been plagued with bilateral knee bone bruises. He has given various updates on the condition of his knees, but still doesn’t seem to know when he will debut this season.
At this point, the Sixers can’t count on Bynum. Even if he comes back and plays, it’s going to take him a while to get into playing shape. He hasn’t played a game since last spring, when the Los Angeles Lakers were in the playoffs. Jason Richardson, Sixers’ shooting guard, will miss the rest of the season after left knee surgery. Richardson, a veteran and good outside shooter, averaged 10.5 points a game. The Sixers are also playing without small forward Thaddeus Young, who has been rehabbing a left hamstring injury. Young has missed four games. Prior to the injury, Young was having a great season averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.
Young has been the team’s most consistent player this season, and getting him back healthy will be a big lift.
Jrue Holiday, who will be heading to Houston this weekend for his first NBA all-star appearance, will have to step up even more after the break. Holiday is averaging 17.8 points and 8.9 assists a game. He’s going to have to limit his turnovers and provide some additional leadership in the backcourt. Evan Turner, Sixers’ small forward, is averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, but Turner is going to have to do more, particularly if Holiday hits a flat spot. Nick Young has to continue to provide some much needed outside shooting. Young is averaging 11.5 points a game and certainly has had some big moments.
The most work needs to come from the frontcourt with Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen. Hawes is averaging 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Allen is tallying 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. The numbers aren’t a big thing with them. But they have to do a better job of coming up with loose balls and key rebounds. Too many second and third shots have hurt the Sixers.
Overall, defense has been lacking. That’s one thing Collins could always count on last year. Obviously, Andre Iguodala was a big part of that. Iguodala is one of the best defensive players in the league. That’s why the Denver Nuggets will be a team to contend with in the playoffs. But the Sixers need to come with stops first. If they can get some steals and force some turnovers that will improve their scoring.
The Sixers need to get off to a good start, to say the least. They can’t afford a losing streak now.
CHICAGO — There wasn't much for Jrue Holiday to improve on in this game, except maybe one thing.
"I could have been 15 for 15," he said.
Holiday didn't hit all his shots. It just seemed like it.
Holiday scored 26 points, Lou Williams added 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat Chicago 109-92 on Tuesday night to even their first-round series at 1-1 in the Bulls' first game since Derrick Rose's season-ending knee injury.
The superstar point guard received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd as he limped onto the court to present the game ball, then watched from a suite as the 76ers blitzed the Bulls in the third quarter.
"I can't tell you how exciting it is to come into Chicago and get a playoff win here on the road for our team," coach Doug Collins said. "It was a great, great night."
The Sixers outscored Chicago 36-14 in the period, turning an eight-point deficit into an 83-69 lead against the league's top-seeded team.
Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia.
"This game we caught fire and it was pretty hard to put it out," Holiday said.
All the Bulls could do was shake their heads and vow to do better.
"Disappointed," Chicago's Joakim Noah said. "Disappointing effort overall. We didn't play well defensively. We didn't play well offensively."
Holiday was 11 of 15 from the field, and the Sixers shot 59 percent overall. Williams came up big, going 8 of 13 after hitting just 1 of 6 shots in the opener, and Chicago product Evan Turner chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Noah led the Bulls with 21 points and eight rebounds. John Lucas III scored 15 points, but Carlos Boozer scored just nine and Luol Deng finished with eight. More alarming, the Bulls simply couldn't stop the Sixers, particularly in the third quarter.
"We kind of let our offense affect our defense," Richard Hamilton said.
The Sixers were leading 68-61 midway through the quarter after a 12-0 run that Elton Brand started with a foul-line jumper. Then, after a basket by C.J. Watson, Andre Iguodala threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk over Deng for a three-point play that drew plenty of oohs, aahs and groans from a crowd that could feel the game slipping away.
Things didn't get much better for Chicago after that.
The 76ers continued to pour it on, with Iguodala delivering another vicious dunk late in the quarter and then hitting Williams with an alley-oop pass that made it 83-69 heading into the fourth.
"For the first time in a long time our defense dictated our offense," Iguodala said. "We rebounded the ball. Evan and myself pushed it out on the break and we finished pretty well. It started with that in the third quarter."
It added up to a rough night for the Bulls, who were in a familiar spot with Rose sidelined again — this time after tearing the ACL in his left knee late in Game 1.
He missed 27 games during the regular season because of a variety of ailments, and the Bulls did just fine, going 18-9. Throw in injuries to Hamilton and Deng, and they were able to go with their projected starting five just 15 times, yet they still captured homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight season.
That's why they insist they can still make a run, even with Rose out. They won without him before. They insist their championship hopes didn't end when he went down.
"It's different (without Rose)," Noah said. "There's no excuses, though. We know we can play better. It's disappointing, but you know what? We live to fight another day. There's a lot of basketball to play."
Notes: The Sixers shuffled their lineup from Game 1, with Turner starting for Jodie Meeks and C Spencer Hawes for Lavoy Allen. ... Scottie Pippen says the Bulls still are the team to beat even without Rose. In an open letter to the team posted Tuesday on the Bulls' website, Pippen wrote, "You're still the best team in the NBA until an opponent proves otherwise." The Hall of Famer also compared the loss of Rose to Michael Jordan's first retirement and pointed out the 1993-94 team won 55 games. Pippen said the Bulls "believed in ourselves" and never "felt sorry for ourselves." ... Chicago's Tom Thibodeau finished second in the Coach of the Year voting to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich after winning the award last season. -- (AP)
You want a Game 7? Well, now you have one. The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Boston Celtics on Saturday, May 26 at TD Garden in Boston. The Sixers are coming off an impressive 82-75 victory over the Celtics in Game 6 to tie the series at 3-3.
There’s nothing like a seven game series. The last time the Sixers played a seven game series was in 2001 when they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Sixers have had some classic seven game playoff series with the Celtics. The history goes back 44 years when the Sixers surrendered a 3-1 deficit to lose to the Celtics in seven games. In 1981, Boston defeated Philly in seven games. The Sixers also gave up a 3-1 series to lose in the playoffs.
But the Sixers have beaten the Celtics in some memorable seven games. In 1977, they defeated the Celtics 83-77 in the final game of the best of seven series at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, was a member of that team. Collins played with Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Lloyd (World B.) Free, Henry Bibby, Caldwell Jones, Darryl Dawkins, Joe Bryant and Steve Mix.
“They were a very talented team that year,” Collins said. “They beat us in Game 1. We went in and beat them in Game 3. It was one of the hottest nights in Boston Garden. I think I dropped 15 pounds of fluid that night chasing (John) Havlicek. I didn’t have a lot of fluids. We came back in Game 7. It was an ugly, ugly game. We had World. He was racking them up that game. He got about 28 shots up that game. It was all good. That was the year we went to the Finals.”
In 1982, the Sixers were on the verge of losing another 3-1 lead in the series, but went into the Boston Garden and came away with a 120-106 victory over the Celtics. The Sixers had a great team featuring Erving, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Dawkins and Caldwell Jones. After the big win over the Celtics, the Sixers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.
This is a new Game 7 coming up. It’s a chance for Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young to be a part of history. If they can get past the Celtics in a series where Boston was heavily favored, these players will place themselves in a special category. The Celtics will lean on Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass to pull off another big win at home.
The home team is usually the favorite in these games. But there’s no guarantee. Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Clippers popped the Memphis Grizzlies in a seventh game in Memphis. Collins just wanted to get his team to a seventh game after going down 3-2 in the series.
“We wanted to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens on Saturday in Game 7,” Collins said after Wednesday’s victory.
Collins doesn’t plan to just show up for the game. He wants to win. He’s not looking at moral victories.
“I want more,” he said. “We’re going to get greedy and we want more. We’ve fought. We’ve worked and gone through a lot as a team. We’ve grown. Our mindset is that I don’t want to go into that with no matter what happens everything is okay. I want to go with the idea of let’s see what we can do. Let’s see if we can go get us a win.”
The Philadelphia 76ers have just 22 games left in a season that can only be described as disappointing, to say the least. The Sixers have a lot of decisions to make in the coming months.
Of course, the biggest one is surrounding Andrew Bynum, the 7-foot, 285-pound center, who hasn’t played at all this season because of knee injuries. Bynum is an unrestricted free agent. The Sixers have to decide whether he’s worth the risk of being signed to a contract.
Bynum is not obligated to come back to the Sixers, and could get a contract with another team that’s willing to take a chance on those injured knees. If the Sixers decide to let him walk, they’d better start looking for his replacement. The two most likely candidates to give the team some frontcourt help would be Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz) or Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks). The Sixers will have money available to sign one of them if Bynum doesn’t come back next season.
Whatever happens in the coming months, the Sixers have to make the right decision. The next bad decision will set this organization back several years. Right now, the Bynum trade looks really bad.
In case you haven’t noticed, former Sixer Nikola Vucevic has been playing out of his mind for the Orlando Magic. He just had 25 points and 21 rebounds in a 97-96 loss to the NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday. And this wasn’t a fluke, either. Vucevic dumped 20 points and 29 rebounds on Miami earlier this season.
A week ago, when the Sixers lost to the Magic, Vucevic had 12 points and 19 rebounds. That night Spencer Hawes had one rebound and Lavoy Allen had two. Vucevic is averaging 12.3 points and 11.4 rebounds a game. He was a major departure in the trade that brought Bynum to town. If he were still here, the Sixers would be in a position to land a spot in the playoffs. Believe it or not, Vucevic, a 7-foot, 240-pounder, could be considered the best or certainly one of the best centers currently in the NBA Eastern Conference. Sometimes you have to show a little patience.
Andre Iguodala has been playing some great basketball for the Denver Nuggets. People here simply didn’t understand the value of Iguodala. He wasn’t a great shooter. If you saw him play in college, you could see that right away. At Arizona, he caught lob passes from Mustafa Shakur, former Friends’ Central star, who was the team’s point guard.
Iguodala was a great leaper who could get to the basket and was explosive in the open court. Moreover, he was a tremendous defensive player. He played the other team’s top scorers like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce, to name a few. The Sixers miss his defense and athleticism. The 6-foot-6, 207-pounder, is averaging 13.0 points, 5.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game this season.
The Nuggets are fifth in the Western Conference standings with a 40-22 record. Denver just beat the Oklahoma City Thunder two weeks ago. They could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
Then there is Lou Williams, the Sixers’ leading scorer last year. They didn’t need to let him go. The Sixers already had a scorer right here. Williams, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, really embraced the sixth man role. He just needed a better contract. And you know what? He’s worth it. Prior to his season-ending knee injury, Williams was averaging 14.1 points, 3.6 assists and 2.1 rebounds a game for the Atlanta Hawks.
The Sixers have their work cut out for them. They’re going to have to make some key decisions. And the first one starts with Bynum.
There are a lot of new faces on the Philadelphia 76ers roster this season. The Sixers also have some familiar faces as well.
Evan Turner is one of them.
Turner will be entering his third season, and this should be a big year for him. Although the Sixers returning players Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen should provide some guidance and direction, Turner will have to exhibit some leadership skills as well.
“I think the most important is the guys looking forward to lead,” Turner said. “We have some new guys looking for direction. We have some leaders who are willing to listen.”
Turner, 23, was selected by the Sixers with the second pick overall in the 2010 NBA draft out of Ohio State. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound guard, has shown improvement each year. As a rookie, he averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game. Last season, he tallied 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. But Turner really took his game to another level in the postseason averaging 12.8 points and 7.9 rebounds a contest.
The Sixers defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs in six games. After that, they gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle in the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing in seven games. Turner had a chance to gain some meaningful experience in the playoffs.
“It obviously helped me going up against Hall of Fame guards in every series,” Turner said. “That was key for myself and Jrue. We know what to expect now. We know what type of level we have to crank it up to.”
With the addition of all-star center Andrew Bynum (currently recovering from a bone bruise) and shooting guard Jason Richardson, the Sixers have added a lot of depth. But gone is all-star guard Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets, which should open the door for Turner in regards to his development. He spent a lot of time working on his game during the offseason.
“It’s an establishing year,” Turner said. “I’ve got to earn my minutes. I’ve got to earn the right to play and from there try to crank it up a notch.”
Aaron McKie, Sixers assistant coach, has seen Turner put in a great deal of time to improve his game.
“Evan sets the standards high for himself,” McKie said. “Sometimes I worry whether he’s putting too much pressure on himself where some things you have to let happen. But I like that in a guy because he really wants it. He wants to be a leader. He wants to be the guy and it’s a process, but that’s the process he’s willing to take on.”
Turner recently displayed some leadership skills at the “What It Takes 8” program, which was held at the National Constitution Center, Fifth and Arch streets. He got a chance to speak to a number of Philadelphia students.
“I think the youth is the way,” Turner said. “I was one of those kids sitting in the seats trying to learn from a successful person. It’s all about giving back most of that stuff goes a long way. I’m all for giving back and investing in the youth. I was glad I was asked to do it.”
Turner will lead the Sixers in their first preseason game against the Orlando Magic from the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. The Sixers first preseason game at home will be on Oct. 15 against the Boston Celtics at 7 p.m.
Every playoff game has significance. But when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series on Friday night (8 p.m. ESPN), May 18, this will be a huge game for the Sixers.
After crushing the Sixers, 107-91, in Game 3, the Celtics have a 2-1 lead in the series. The Sixers will need to bounce back from their worst performance in the postseason. They can’t afford to dig themselves a big hole with another loss. The Celtics didn’t show their age in the last game. They exhibited great poise and playoff experience.
“This was a team (Boston Celtics) you could see coming in that did not want to be down 2-1 playing Game 4,” said Doug Collins, Sixers head coach. “They’ve been in these kinds of games. They know how important this swing game is to get that home court back and they played great.”
Boston has the home court advantage now in the series. After Friday’s game, the series will move to Boston for Game 5 on Monday, May 21. The Celtics played like they knew what time of year it is. Paul Pierce scored 24 points for the Celtics, but his two consecutive dunks in the first half let you know Boston wasn’t going anywhere.
The Celtics are an older team. There’s no question about that. Pierce is 34 years old. Ray Allen is 36. Kevin Garnett is 35. But they’ve all won an NBA championship. The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008. They also played for the league crown in 2010 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. Although they don’t move as quickly as they used to on the floor, you can’t overlook the experience factor either.
This is a new territory for the Sixers. They’re still getting a feel for the postseason. It’s still a learning experience for them. The team is so young: Jrue Holiday, 21; Evan Turner, 23; Thaddeus Young, 23; Spencer Hawes, 24 and Lou Williams, 25. Lavoy Allen, Sixers rookie power forward from Temple, is 23. The Sixers most experienced players in the rotation are Andre Iguodala, 28 and Elton Brand, 33.
“I told our guys the NBA playoffs is about the ebb and flow of emotion,” Collins said. “I broadcasted a game in the NBA Finals in the United Center. It was Game 4, the Utah Jazz lost by about 50 to the (Chicago) Bulls. The Bulls were going to close out and win a championship at home in Game 5. Utah beat them and had to go to Game 6.
“That’s what the playoffs are about, the highs and lows. You have to navigate that. This is a new experience for us. Boston has been through that. They’ve been through losing home court and going and winning. This is all new for us. This is good that we’re going through this and we’re learning from this. Hopefully, we’re going to be a lot better in Game 4.”
The Sixers need to revisit what they did in the first two games of the series. It starts at the defensive end. The Sixers have to force some turnovers and get out in the open court where they can use their quickness.
They also have to do a better job of keeping Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo out of the lane. Rondo had a monster game tallying 23 points and 14 assists and just one turnover. His play opened things up for Pierce and Garnett, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. The Sixers lone bright spots were Young who had 22 points and five rebounds off the bench and Holiday who chipped in with 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
This game should be very interesting. When a team is blown out in the playoffs, they usually come out with a lot of energy the next game. The first two games of this series were decided by one point with both teams grabbing a win. If this contest brings that kind of intensity, it should be another close game.
The Philadelphia 76ers really look as if they have something pretty special this season. It’s not a team loaded with big name stars. Nevertheless, the Sixers are a group of players who have bought into head coach Doug Collins style of play and philosophy.
Collins has his team playing good defense, looking for the open man, taking care of the ball, rebounding and just basically doing all the little things. The fans will see all these attributes when the Sixers play their home opener against the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night at 7.
The Sixers are coming off an impressive 101-93 victory over the New Orleans Hornets to finish a five-game road trip with a 3-2 record. The amazing thing about the season is the Sixers had a chance to win every game. Now, they’re going to have 18 of their next 22 games at home. That’s going to be huge.
The Sixers have received contributions from a number of players. The team has been doing it with balance scoring. Lou Williams has been the Sixers most explosive player. Williams leads the team in scoring averaging 18.2 points a game. The 6-foot-1 guard could start for most teams around the league. Nevertheless, he has willingly accepted his role coming off the bench.
Overall, the Sixers have arguably the best group of reserves in the NBA with Williams, 6-foot-8 Thaddeus Young and 6-foot-7 Evan Turner. Young is averaging 12.4 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. Turner is giving the Sixers 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. These three players have given the team quite a lift in the first five games.
Jrue Holiday, Sixers point guard, is putting together a good season. Holiday, a 6-foot-4, 180-pounder, is averaging 17.0 points and 3.8 assists a game. He had a terrific game against the Hornets, producing 23 points and handing out eight assists.
Spencer Hawes has been a real consistent player up front. Hawes, a 7-foot-1, 245-pound center, doesn’t do anything spectacular — he just rolls his sleeves up. Hawes is averaging 13.0 points and leads the team with 11.4 rebounds a game. Veteran Elton Brand has been solid at power forward. Brand is averaging 9.0 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.
Andre Iguodala has been very dependable. Iguodala, a 6-foot-6 small forward, averages 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game.
This could be a breakthrough year for the Sixers. If they can continue to get better throughout the season, there aren’t many teams that will want to play them in the playoffs. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do once the Sixers face some of the NBA’s stronger teams such as Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and a few others. Right now, the Sixers will take it one game at a time.
NOTES: The 2012 NBA all-star ballot was recently unveiled during a special tip-off event in Orlando, the official host city of the NBA all-star game. The Sixers have five players featured on the ballot: Brand, Iguodala, Young, Holiday and Hawes.
Philly fans will need to write-in votes to get Williams on the ballot. Fans can vote by going to NBA.com. The 61st NBA All-Star Game will air live on TNT on Sunday, February 26.