If you noticed, Doug Collins took a timeout with 46.4 seconds left in regulation, his team ahead 103-93. The timeout wasn't necessarily about preserving victory, although obviously anything could happen with these 76ers. It was about something more important: teaching winning habits.
Tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers defeated the Phoenix Suns, 105-95. The Sixers led by as many as 22 points and, really, the game was never in doubt. Even with 46.4 seconds on the clock, the Suns had already surrendered. But afterwards, we asked Collins about these final minutes of the game and considering the team's recent history, it's kind of important how they handled tonight's end of game.
When asked about the timeout, Collins joked that he was trying to run up the score on his friend, Alvin Gentry. Obviously, he wasn't. "We got sloppy," Collins explained, apologizing for being a "wise guy." Collins went on to say that he wasn't happy that the 20-point lead had dwindled to 10 points. "I've never coached a garbage minute in my life," Collins said, adding that he doesn't want his team playing according the score, a habit they obviously do have. So he coached the end of tonight's game as if it was a tie game. In the future, it will be a tie game, so if Jrue Holiday is going to get too fancy splitting a double team or if a defender forgets the skills of the guy he's guarding, those plays will cost the Sixers.
Here were a few observations, which probably some of the folks at the game, or watching at home, noticed:
*Collins' reaction when Jodie Meeks allowed Steve Nash a three pointer at the end of the third quarter. Meeks picked up Nash in transition, but was backpedaling and then didn't even get a hand up as Nash just stopped at the three point line and drained the three pointer. Collins was livid. After the game, Collins said he'd already apologized to Meeks for his reaction, but explained that Meeks needs to know who he's guarding, that there are guys in the NBA you can pick up after the three-point line and there are guys you pressure beyond the three-point line (clearly Nash being in the latter category). In the end, this play did not haunt the Sixers, but for those watching you've seen this before: lead cut down slightly on an end-of-quarter play, setting the stage for a fourth quarter comeback and then, eventually, a Sixers' loss. So Collins was right to get on Meeks during the break, because the play was a combination of playing the score (play probably doesn't happen if the game is tied instead of Sixers up 20 points) and not thinking (Meeks was guarding Nash, a player surely harped upon in the scouting report).
*Collins' reaction when Holiday turned the ball over with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter. The Sixers were ahead 21 points and Holiday seemed to be trying to dribble his way through a double-team with some fancy handling of the ball. Instead, he lost it. As the play moved back to the other end of the court (and this is the best moment of the night), Collins seemed to be imitating Holiday's attempt with the ball by doing the same fancy move with his imaginary ball. Collins is right to call Holiday out for this. Holiday would have tried to split that double team whether the lead was 21 points or whether the lead was 8 points. We've seen it all season. It's just not the smart play considering time and score. Collins even sat Holiday at moments in the fourth quarter for this very reason. Afterwards, Collins said he was concerned that Phoenix would cut it to 12 points and feel compelled to get Nash and Grant Hill back in the game for a final push. He wanted to avoid that. Holiday played well: 8 points, 8 assists, 6 steals, much improved defense on Nash. But Collins is right to focus on Holiday's end-of-game execution. And there's no better time to concentrate on improvement, relatively risk-free, then when ahead 20 points at home.
*Evan Turner is playing very well right now: made jumpers, rebounding, some great passes. It was too soon to call him a bust (and it's still too soon), although he probably should stop waving his arms on the weak-side of the floor during every play.
*Please follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer.
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