The 76ers now have sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference. On Friday night, the Sixers blew out the Sacramento Kings, 102-80, while the New York Knicks lost.
Here inside Power Balance Pavilion, Sixers coach Doug Collins had his team focused on getting this win on the first night of a back-to-back. Immediately after the game, the Sixers flew to Portland where they play the Trail Blazers on Saturday night. Also immediately after the game, Collins said he will rest swingman Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis) against the Trail Blazers and said he gave Elton Brand the option to rest as well. After Saturday's game against Portland, the Sixers do not play against until Wednesday night at home against the Atlanta Hawks. The decision to rest Iguodala gives him five full days of rest before the next game and eliminates the risk of straining that knee with back-to-back games at the end of a long road trip.
Collins made it clear that Iguodala could play, is quite capable of playing, but that with a dozen games left in the regular season and (almost certainly) a playoff series, this is a perfect opportunity to buy Iguodala a chunk of time.
As for Brand, he seemed baffled at the notion that he might take the night off. Is he going to play? "Absolutely," Brand said, "we're trying to win."
Iguodala, though, has been battling one nagging injury after another and this latest will require plenty of rest before it subsides. Five days certainly won't be enough, but it should relieve some of the soreness.
"This morning, just shooting I was in pain," Iguodala said. "Just trying to fight through it. Before the second half, I was shooting a little bit and felt pain, too. Just trying to get through the game. It’s much-needed rest."
Added Iguodala: "It’s probably the most treatment I’ve been doing since I’ve been in the league. Usually on game days, I just sleep a lot, try to lay down, but I was getting a lot of treatment in before today’s game. So five days is really a lot. Just get a chance to do nothing for a whole day."
In Iguodala's place, Collins will start rookie Evan Turner and said he aims to get Turner tons of minutes as well as find minutes for Andres Nocioni and perhaps Jason Kapono. Saturday's game is the final of this five-game road trip that started a week ago with a blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. A win on Saturday would give the Sixers a 3-2 record on the trip, although you could sense today, both before and during the game, that this win over the Sacramento Kings was the must-get game for the Sixers.
The X's and O's of this win were simple: The Sixers defense was aggressive from the start, deflecting passes and pushing on the break, while the Kings looked ready to roll over as soon as trouble hit. And it did. And this thing was basically over as the second quarter came to a close. The Sixers scored 42 points in the paint, 15 second-chance points, and 18 fastbreak points. They scored 27 points off of the Kings' 23 turnovers. And the Sixers turned the ball over only 14 times.
What was even more impressive was the focus and concentration the entire 48 minutes. At no point did the Sixers start getting sloppy and playing as if they were ahead 28 points (which, at one point, they were).There was concern after the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and even more concern after the first half performance in the loss to the Utah Jazz, but as Collins said before the game, he was OK with the Bucks loss. He knew his team was tired and a game like that was looming. He said he saw the first half of the Jazz game as a "hangover" from the Milwaukee performance. Once his team responded in that second half at Utah, he knew they were back. And of course, his ejection against the Los Angeles Clippers didn't hurt the team's determination and focus.
But, less than a month before the NBA playoffs begin, this little post-game interaction tells you everything you need to know about the team's mentality right now. It was about 25-30 minutes after tonight's game. Most of the guys were getting ready to head out to the bus. A few were getting some ice. Some were grabbing their post-game meals. But Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner were talking about one specific botched defensive rotation. Exactly who was at fault, or what the correct rotation should have been, is really besides the point. After a blowout victory, Young and Turner were ironing out the defensive rotation along the baseline. It might not have mattered tonight, but who's giving baseline help or if baseline help is even an option while there's a simultaneous cross screen happening will probably matter sometime very soon.
More tomorrow from Portland. (And if you want to follow on Twitter, you can do that here: Deep Sixer.)
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