In winning nine of their first 12 games, it’s really not easy to find much that has gone wrong for the 76ers. They’re scoring, they’re playing defense, they’re winning games against overmatched opponents by large margins.
Those tangibles can be easily seen by just looking at the stats. But there is more going on with this team, things that can’t be seen in the numbers but are certainly huge attributes as to why the team is in first place in the Atlantic Division heading into Monday’s game against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
During Friday’s home win against the Washington Wizards, a small bit of communication between coach Doug Collins and Andre Iguodala occurred and it spoke volumes as to where this team is.
“One time he drove and lost the ball,” said Collins, “and I said to him that I thought Jodie (Meeks) was open on the wing. He said ‘Coach, I don’t think so, but OK.’ Then I think two or three or four times the rest of the game he made plays where he kicked out (the ball) to a guy making an open three. So it was a great conversation with he and I. I feel really connected to Dre. To be able to say that I think that kick was open…I really feel good about where that’s going.”
The connection between the two is vitally important to the success of this team. Collins needs Iguodala in so many ways – to defend, to be scorer and playmaker and rebounder. In the past it appeared as if Iguodala wanted to be the superstar of the team, but now he seems to be accepting of his role as Mr. do-it-all. In Iguodala’s defense, being on the same page as a coach probably hasn’t been easy for him as he’s been through so many different coaches (six) during his eight seasons here. But now he and Collins seem to be totally on the same page and it’s a huge factor as to the team’s quick start.
In Saturday’s 103-90 win over the Wizards, Iguodala collected a season-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. For the season, he is averaging 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals.
He is rested, unlike last season, and the injuries he incurred last year appear to be a thing of the past for now.
“I’ve been good,” Iguodala said. “The main thing is to be proactive. I’ve been taking care of things before and after games.”
And during, too.
Just under two minutes into Friday night’s win over Washington, coach Doug Collins summoned sub Lou Williams to report into the game for starting point guard Jrue Holiday. Holiday had already committed two turnovers and though the game was in its infancy, Collins wanted to make his point.
“I didn’t say anything (to Holiday),” said Collins. “I just said that Lou was going in. We started out with some careless plays. The first play of the game Wall intercepts a pass. I didn’t want to send a message, I just want guys to understand that we can’t start games like that, we just can’t. I just said ‘OK now let’s go.’ The good thing about it was Lou came in and played well.”
He did, as the Sixers made eight-straight shots at one point in the first quarter in jumping out to a 33-21 lead, the most points they’ve scored in the opening quarter this season.
“It’s a long season, everybody has their (off) night,” said Williams. “It just kind of goes like that. (Friday) was Jrue’s night to get pulled quick and he responded well to it and we got a win.”
It certainly isn’t uncommon for a coach to pull an underachieving player, still this one was a little bit of a quick hook. But it also is a measurement as to how much the team has grown. Holiday said he understood his coach’s action. Williams laughed it off and said he knows how Holiday felt.
“I was only a starter for (a short time), but I’ve had my stretches where I’m not producing so then I get yanked.”
So many times last season, particularly early in the campaign, the Sixers found ways to lose big leads, and ultimately games. This season they are pounding teams after getting a lead. They lead the NBA in point differential at +15.2.
“I think we’re executing better,” said forward Elton Brand. “We’ve been together a little bit more, we know what to expect, we know where to be on offense, we know what sets create good shots for us. We’re unselfish. We like guys to get good shots in their spots. I think that’s the difference this year from last year.”
Said Williams: “We’re not allowing teams to get back into games. We feel like if we have a game won we want to put it in our record books. I think our starters do a great job that when we have a lead at halftime, to come out and put their foots down and not allow teams to get back in.”
By the numbers: The Sixers are third in points scored (101.3), second in points allowed (86.1), first in field goal percentage allowed (40.1 percent), third in field goal percentage (47.9), first three-point field goal percentage allowed (25.6 percent) and first in turnovers (12.5).
Sixshots: The team had a complete day off yesterday. The week’s schedule has the Sixers hosting the Bucks (today), Denver (Wednesday) and Atlanta (Friday) before going to Miami on Saturday…After that game in Miami they’ll play 10 of their next 11 at the Wells Fargo Center.