No matter how much confidence one player has in his own abilities, there’s only one thing that can breed team confidence — winning.
“When you accumulate wins, there is a spirit that is hardened,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said after the Sixers beat the Cavaliers, 132-130, Friday night. “It grows and the confidence builds. It’s normal, they’re human beings.”
A locker room can be tight, the friendships and brotherhood real, the work ethic top-notch, but if a team is losing, it’s difficult to cultivate confidence. That’s where the 76ers were for the last few years. In a very short time, they have become a different team.
“The confidence in this team and how we’re playing overall as a unit, we haven’t had that around here in a long time,” Robert Covington said. “And it’s only going to get better from here.”
The Sixers are 35-12 since Christmas, the second best record in the NBA behind only the Houston Rockets. With the win over Cleveland, they stretched their win streak to 13 games, the longest streak for a Sixers team since 1985.
“When we start looking at real facts and math — forget opinion — it all equals a locker room that feels like we can win. We feel like we can close out games. We feel like we can get hit in the mouth and still bounce back,” Brown said.
With the wins mounting, confidence has created a different kind of work ethic within the team. The Sixers have set small goals for themselves. Through film sessions and what little practice time they have, they have tried to address one thing at a time and incrementally make the team better.
JJ Redick likened the Sixers’ philosophy and attention to detail to a quotation that has become a cornerstone for Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
The quote from social reformer Jacob Riis reads:
“When nothing seems to help, I go back and look at the stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it — but all that had gone before.”
“As the season has progressed, because we’ve improved in those small areas, we’ve improved as a team overall and it’s allowed us to win a lot of games,” Redick said.
There’s no doubt that the Sixers’ confidence was boosted by being able to withstand 35 second-half points from LeBron James and claim a victory that pushed them into the third seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Sixers’ confidence continues to grow, there’s no telling what they’re capable of.