Holiday, Sixers aim to bounce Bulls

Sixers guard Jrue Holiday, right, celebrates with Andre Iguodala after Holiday connected on his second of two 3-pointers late in Sunday’s victory against Chicago. — AP PHOTO/MICHAEL PEREZ

The postseason is where the cream rises to the top. Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers point guard, has played extremely well in the Sixers first round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Holiday has led the Sixers to a 3-1 lead in the series with an opportunity to close the Bulls out with a victory on Tuesday night, May 8 in Chicago at the United Center (Comcast Sportsnet, 9:30 p.m.).

The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder, leads the team in playoff scoring. He’s averaging 19.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game. In Sunday’s 89-82 win over the Bulls, Holiday, who struggled offensively throughout most of the game, never gave up on his shot. He connected on two three-pointers late to give the Sixers a cushion down the stretch.

“I’m so proud of Jrue,” said Doug Collins, Sixers head coach. “He has a coach that has no conscious when it comes to shooting. That’s one thing I tried to in part with our team. If you have a shot, you have to take it. Jrue was 0-for the world and hit two huge threes … that’s the kind of growth I like to see from our young guys, don’t fear the consequences. If you miss, you miss.”

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That’s exactly the way Holiday has been playing in these playoffs. Of course, the Bulls are playing without star guard Derrick Rose, who is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Joakim Noah, Bulls power forward, missed Game 4 with a sprained ankle. In spite of the Bulls misfortune, this has been a huge coming out party for Holiday. The playoffs have a way of doing that. Holiday has stepped up in a big way. He was shooting 1-for-14 at one point in Sunday’s game. For the game, he shot 7-for-23 from the field. Statistics don’t always tell the whole story because the two three-pointers came at such a crucial point in the game.

“Coach Collins has a lot to do with that,” Holiday said. “He tells me every game if I’m not shooting to keep on shooting. I think as everybody knows, he was a scorer. So, he understands. It came down the stretch and hit some big shots.”

Collins was a terrific scorer during his playing days with the Sixers. He played with some outstanding players such as Julius Erving, George McGinnis, World B. Free (then Lloyd Free), Joe Bryant, Steve Mix, Caldwell Jones and Darryl Dawkins. That was during the 1970s. The Sixers were a powerhouse in the NBA.

This team isn’t at that level yet. They’re still very young with players like Holiday, Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. This is Holiday’s third NBA season. In 2009, he was the 17th pick in the first round of the NBA draft. Holiday was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of Campbell High School in Chatsworth, Calif., right near Los Angeles. He played one season at UCLA where he played alongside Darren Collison in the backcourt. Collison plays for the Indiana Pacers, who are leading their series with the Orlando Magic. Holiday played just one season with the Bruins before he left school for the draft.

Holiday comes from a basketball family. His brother Justin played his college basketball at the University of Washington. Moreover, he has learned a lot about the game from Jerome “Pooh” Richardson, former Ben Franklin High, UCLA and NBA standout. Richardson was a big time player for the Bruins. Holiday keeps in touch with the ex-Public League standout.

In addition, Aaron McKie, Sixers assistant coach, has worked very closely with Holiday. McKie, a former Simon Gratz, Temple and Sixers standout, has helped Holiday polish his game.

Holiday is a real smooth ball player. You can see the way he slithers to the basket and pulls up for his jumpshot. He doesn’t get flustered on the court. That’s important, especially now. The Sixers are just one game away from winning their first playoff series in nine years (2003) when they defeated the New Orleans Hornets in six games. Holiday doesn’t have a lot of playoff experience. The Sixers lost to the Miami Heat in five games last year.

“This is new for me,” Holiday said. “It’s my first time experiencing this. I’m excited. The next game we played we have to play like it’s Game 7. We have to play like our backs are against the wall or like it’s do or die. We want to win in Chicago and go from there. We would like to get some rest before the next round.”

If the Sixers can continue to play well, the next round isn’t that far away.

 

Contact staff writer Donald Hunt at (215) 893-5719 or dhunt@phillytrib.com.

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