Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Strong defense propels Sixers


NEW ORLEANS — As long as Doug Collins coaches basketball, his list of on-court demands will remain fluid, different from one week, one game, one possession to the next.

Ultimately, he will demand perfection from his 2012-2013 Sixers. For now, he will settle for what he has seen in a 2-2 start to the developing season, including a 77-62 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets: Acceptable maturation.

“We made a lot of changes this year,” Collins said. “And a lot of the pieces we were counting on are not there yet. But you have to fight the thought that you want to win games early. What I want to see is growth. Are we making progress? That’s what I want to see. And obviously, we want to win the game.”

In a meeting of injury-troubled teams, the Sixers (2-2) used intense defense and willing ball-movement to snap a two-game losing streak. As they have been all season, the Sixers were without center Andrew Bynum, yet Wednesday were also missing 6-11 Kwame Brown and shooting guard Jason Richardson. Brown is battling a nagging calf injury, Richardson a sprained ankle.

New Orleans (2-2) was missing rookies Anthony Davis (concussion) and Austin Rivers (finger), each having been chosen within the first 10 picks of the last draft.

Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday split 28 points to lead the Sixers. Holiday added 12 assists.
The Hornets were held to a franchise-low for points. Twice previously, they had scored 65.

Though they improved their shooting after back-to-back losses to the Knicks, the difference for the Sixers Wednesday was defense. They held New Orleans to 10 third-quarter points, and without a field goal for a stretch of 8:05 that book-ended halftime. The Hornets committed seven third-quarter turnovers.

“We have got to start figuring out what we are going to hang our hat on,” Collins said. “What are we going to hang our hat on every single night? And we need a level of consistency.”

The Sixers continued their recent poor-shooting trend early, making just two of their first 10 shots and shooting 8 for 22 in the first quarter. But by defending with passion and playing unselfishly, they were down just 37-36 at halftime.

Turner, who had shot a combined 5 for 18 in the losses to New York, was 4 for 5 in the first half, with the Sixers shooting 9 for 17 in the second quarter. The Hornets did not have a field goal for the final 3:52 of the first half.

“It’s not about what they do, it’s about what we do,” Turner said. “It’s about how we do it and how we execute. We have to just worry about ourselves right now, to execute and make things easier on ourselves.”

The Sixers’ task was smoothed by the continued improved passing of point guard of Holiday, who had eight first-half assists. Holiday, though, did commit six turnovers in the first 24 minutes.

Among Collins’ plans was to draw the most out of Thad Young, his most consistent player early in the season. Bouncing around inside at both ends, Young would collect six points and seven rebounds before halftime. On a night when he would search for an inside presence, Collins needed such an inside presence, and had at least mild pregame concerns about the matchup of Young and 6-10 Hornet Ryan Anderson.

“That’s a tough matchup,” the Sixers’ coach said. “Sometimes, I think people think of him only as a 3-point shooter. Absolutely not. He can post. He probably has 30 pounds on Thad. We have to be very aware of that matchup.”

As they opened a three-game road trip Wednesday, the Sixers won just abut every matchup. Soon enough, that will prompt Collins to increase his demands.

“Right now, we have a lot of inconsistency,” Collins said. “But if we can get past that, the shooting woes and stuff will take care of itself.”


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