The Sixers have lost 3-out-of-4 games for the first time since a late December stretch against the Lakers, Magic, Bulls and Celtics. And although February is the shortest month of the year, Doug Collins was able to win coach of the month, thanks to an eye opening record of 9-3.
The 76ers were able to score over 100 points in eight of those 12 games, showing the NBA that their improved record wasn’t just a product of Collins defensive and attitude adjustments to the Philly ballclub.
So League wide teams are recognizing they are going to have to start bringing some extra ‘oomph’ against the 76ers. This team has built a living off of protecting the basketball, wearing you down with an energetic bench, ball spacing and forcing teams to shoot rather than expose the weakness at the center position.
Doug Collins is a master of disguising his teams’ weaknesses but recently we’ve unmistakably been getting exposed.
Even during the March 8th victory over the Pacers, the 7-6 have began to show signs that they are in a full-fledged slump. Here are five signs I’ve noticed over the past five games on why this team isn’t playing the kind of basketball we’ve become accustomed too.
1. Rebounding – For a team that ranks 10th in the NBA in rebounding, the 76ers sure haven’t acted like it as of late. In last five games they’ve been out-boarded each time (including Boston) and have a margin of -28. Brand grabbed only three rebounds last night Utah and was completely befuddled by rookie Derrick Favors on the glass. In seven of his past nine games, Brand has pulled down six boards or fewer after averaging above 10 per in the month of February.
2. Turnovers – In losses against OKC, Milwaukee and Utah the Sixers offense produced a whopping 45 turnovers, an average of 15 per game. I think this partly has to do with this team tiring out. Last week featured four games in six days. It is also partly because the 7-6 have run into some solid defensive teams lately — Boston (4th), Milwaukee (7th) and Utah (8th) all rank in the top 10 in forcing TOs, while OKC ranks 15th in the League. But a portion of the blame falls on the Sixers as well who have lost sight of what got them to three games over .500 — taking care of the rock and valuing every possession.
3. Jrue Holiday – Has disappeared in the last three games scoring a combined 19 points on 9-of-38 shooting. He has 18 turnovers in the last five games. I’ll admit he was exceptional against the Celtics. He needs to know his role this season which is attacking the basket frequently. Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks are the primary outside shooters. When they are in with Jrue, he needs to use his left hand and penetrate for the hoop or the dish off like he was doing in February.
4. Opponents bench play – Tyler Hansbrough posted 26 points, Nick Collison had was instrumental in the OKC overtime victory, a slew of Bucks (Larry Sanders, Kenyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts) nipped away at the 7-6 D and in Utah even second round pick Jeremy Evans found a way to score eight points on some momentum inspired dunks. Teams are using Philly’s own medicine against them by having a spark plug to start and end off the second and third quarters. The Sixers bench needs to relocate the swagger and scoring touch that made them the best reserves in the League until this past week.
5. Thad Young – After going on a complete tear between the Spurs game in February and Pacers in March, Thaddeus Young has reached a screeching halt on his scoring production. Doug Collins game plan was starting to center around the blossoming performance as a sixth man of the year candidate. Teams are starting to key in on the 22-year-old speedy power forward and the result has been an 11-35 shooting slump and a 6.25 ppg. shine over the last four runs. Most of his struggles have come because teams are laying off Thad, daring him to shoot the jumper and he has obliged them. Thad has stopped attacking the rim and thus has only shot four FTs in the last four games.