With each Philadelphia victory, Coach Doug Collins can be heard singing the praises of his top performers. Every night, it seems, the coach is crediting someone else for leading the team to a win. Tuesday, it was Thaddeus Young, who bolstered a balanced Sixer attack with a few floor burns as the Sixers beat the Indiana Pacers, 110-100.
Perhaps, though, it is time to start giving Collins more credit for the team’s improved play.
After a contest in which they never trailed, the coach was quick to applaud his team’s defense and rebounding. “Rebounding was our number one key in this game.” The Sixers pulled down ten offensive boards, including a crucial tip-in in the 4th from Thad Young, one of his 4 offensive rebounds in the game. Young, who leads the team in scoring over the past 10 games, added another 18 points to go with 9 rebounds to push the team past Indiana.
While the flashes of offensive talent have been evident throughout his career, Thad’s defensive energy and willingness to do the dirty work makes him that much more valuable to this year’s team. Early in the season, Collins was quoted saying he’d never have to draw up plays for Young to get his points. Rather than sulk at the notion, Thad has embraced his role, and is scoring 12.6 ppg while shooting a career high 55% from the field. Under Collins, he has flourished in maximizing his abilities and athleticism while making an impact every night.
Thad isn’t the only markedly different aspect between this season and the last.
The offense as a whole has looked increasingly sharp – especially out of timeouts and dead balls. Collins has designed a balanced attack that caters to his team’s talents, unlike former coach Eddie Jordan’s plodding Princeton offense. This led to seven players, all five starters included, posting double figures in the win over Indiana. When the offense stalls, rather than saddling themselves with isolation plays or settling for forced jump shots, the ball handlers drive hard to the lane and force the issue.
The resurgent Andre Iguodala is a perfect example. He is racking up the assists lately (10 against Indiana, 7.4 over the last 10 games), mostly because he is asked to facilitate rather than shoot. This is a trend to watch, as Iguodala is the type of player that thrives from being in the flow of the game versus trying to force shots up.
During one stretch in the 3rd against the Pacers, he fed Jrue Holiday for an alley-oop, stole the ball on the defensive end, and then passed up a 3 to drive to the hole for a bucket and a foul in succession. Late in the 4th, as the Pacers made their final push, Iggy helped seal the win with a drive and dish to a wide open Jodie Meeks for 3.
Clearly, the Sixers are buying into Collins’ plan. In a stark contrast to the group of young players who tuned out Jordan by this point last year, the team continues to execute according to their coach’s blueprint.
After beating the Warriors on Sunday, Collins noted how his starters were outplayed to start each half. Against the Pacers, the team built a double-digit lead in the 1st quarter, which they stretched to 21 to open the 3rd. Paying attention to little details is not only indicative of the players’ faith in their coach; it leads to more tallies in the win column.
The Sixers steadied the ship after almost blowing a big lead on Sunday against Golden State. After building another big lead, the team could’ve gotten caught looking beyond the Pacers to Wednesday’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, Coach Collins’ team stayed focused on the way to another victory.
Now, they’ll look to ride their wave of momentum through the rest of a tough week, with OKC and the Boston Celtics looming ahead.