In the last two games, we've seen how important Lou Williams' offensive game is to the 76ers. In losses to the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, the Sixers have looked out of sync without the traditional scoring punch from Lou in the second and fourth quarters. On Thursday, the Sixers held practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. There's less than a week remaining before the end of the regular season and a little over a week remaining before the Sixers open the playoffs against either the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat.
Here's the latest on Lou's status from Sixers coach Doug Collins: "I think he’s doing a little better. I think a soft tissue injury is hard to evaluate a little bit. I think it’s one of those injuries that’s going to take a little time. Unfortunately, we’ll start the playoffs either a week from Saturday or Sunday, so time is not on our side right now. But hopefully Lou will continue to do well, I think you see how much we miss him out on the floor … we definitely need him."
Lou spent the practice in the training room getting treatment, as did swingman Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis). It was a short practice: some video and shooting. The reserves played 4 v. 4 (Evan Turner, Andres Nocioni, Marreese Speights, Craig Brackins vs. Antonio Daniels, Jason Kapono, Darius Songaila, Tony Battie. Pretty certain Battie's team dominated the games). Before practice, Collins talked to his guys about two things: making sure the team produces a winning season -- that requires winning at least two of their remaining three home games and not "backing into" the playoffs.
"We just talked about that in the meeting before practice that we definitely have to get back to our winning ways and get wins before the season is over," said forward Thaddeus Young. "We want to go into the playoffs with some momentum."
What do the 76ers need to become a true contender?
Collins said he doesn't believe his team is capable of backing into the playoffs and then expecting to just turn it on against a team like Boston or Miami: "Our guys are all in tune with that. We’re not going to overplay anybody, but we’re going to stick to what we’re doing. We want to try to get a good feeling about ourselves and playing well. I don’t want to go in backing into the playoffs and have to go to Boston or Miami and think we’re going to just crank it up. I don’t think we’re capable of doing that."
Collins said the team must regain its identity: strong defense, offense created off of turnovers, etc.
The Sixers play the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, the Orlando Magic on Monday night, and the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. We asked Elton Brand if he'd prefer getting some rest this week, or if he'd rather play his normal minutes. He said, if it was up to him, he'd like to continue playing so that he has a feel for the game/momentum heading into the playoff series.
The value of these last three games can't be overstated. They're not necessary by any means, but the Sixers are in a little bit of disarray right now. Without Lou, they haven't quite figured themselves out. At this point, it doesn't seem certain that Lou will be available for the playoffs (and if he is, it's even more uncertain how effective he'll be), so they really must get this together in a hurry. We've seen too much stagnant offense in the second quarter, which is where Lou usually drops a few buckets to carry the team into halftime. Whether it's Evan Turner, or whether it's more curl cuts from Jodie Meeks, or Jrue Holiday meshing with a different second unit, something has to be patched together beginning tomorrow night against the Raptors.
If you want pictures from practices and games, plus all pertinent updates, follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer. Also, the first bit of Collins' availability from today's practice should be embedded in the video below.
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