On Monday night in Charlotte, the 76ers had played a full half of basketball plus another two-plus minutes into the third quarter before it happened. While handling the ball along the right side of the offensive end of the court, point guard Jrue Holliday was stripped by Bobcat guard Reggie Williams. Charlotte then quickly raced down the court and forward Corey Maggette converted a reverse layup. It was the first time the Bobcats had converted a Sixers turnover into points. And it came on the Sixers’ second turnover of the game.
When you really think about it, it is quite amazing. There were no forced passes, no dribbling off a foot, not a single offensive foul or any other type of giveaway that gave Charlotte instant points. If this was just one example, it certainly would be less impressive. But it has become commonplace for this team to treasure the basketball as if their very life depended on it.
The Sixers lead the league in fewest giveaways at 10.4 a game. They are almost three turnovers fewer han the next team and could become the lowest turnover team since the stat began being kept. The 2005-06 Detroit Pistons currently hold that distinction when they averaged 11.4 turnovers a game.
“It’s something that we emphasize,” said coach Doug Collins. “We just know that we have to value that ball. When we turn that ball over teams are going to run out on us. We went up 10 (Monday), they scored, then we turned the ball over and gave them a three-point play and all of the sudden it’s a five-point game. Those turnovers are deadly, especially in the open court. That’s something that we talk about over and over again. Jrue has been great with that. Lou (Williams) has been great with that and Andre (Iguodala) had nine assists. The guys do a good job.
It is very much a part of why the Sixers have found so much success so far this season – Collins has a plan of action, relays it to his team, and they carry it out. It really has pretty much been that plain and simple.
When he took the job before last season, the coach talked of his desire to protect their home court. He quickly pointed out that the previous season had accumulated only XX wins at home and he saw that as a key component in improving the team. Also, with his goal of making the organization relevant again, he knew that winning in front of the home fans would certainly begin to spark more interest.
Last year the team went 25-15 at the Wells Fargo Center, and so far this year they are 13-5. The mission is getting accomplished.
Coming into this season, Collins again wanted his team to keep improving at home but also insisted on a winning record on the road. After Monday, they are now 7-4 in that category. But none of Collins’ wishes have been carried out by his club better than the desire for fewer turnovers.
What is most impressive about the lack of giveaways is that this team shares the ball more than any other club in the NBA, with eight players averaging nine points or more and led by Williams at 15.9. On Monday there were at least eight possessions in which there were five or more passes/handoffs. There is no big-man presence in which the ball gets dumped down low and a shot is taken. Ball movement is a priority and it usually gets to where it’s intended. And that may be the biggest reason for this 20-9 record.