One thing Evan Turner will take from his rookie season is his play against the Phoenix Suns. Turner continued his steady progression as he was a key contributor along with Thaddeus Young off the bench in the Sixers 105-95 victory over the Suns last night.
The Sixers were led by Thaddeus Young with 24 points and 7 rebounds. Elton Brand, who continues to assert himself in the paint, finished with 22 points and nine boards amongst the Suns lean and long defenders.
But it was the rookie Turner who shot the ball with confidence and got involved on the defensive end of the floor from the outset. Turner finished with 14 points on 6 for 10 shooting, 8 rebounds (7th among rookies) and 5 assists. In the Sixers December 29th meeting with the Suns, Turner would score a career-high 23 points to go with 5 assists.
“Their up-tempo style of play helped us tonight”, said Turner who was very active in the Sixers transition game by hitting the open man or knocking down a mid- range jumper.
No player benefited more than Young who was flying in from all angles last night – if he wasn’t throwing down an alley-oop from Andre Iguodala (8 pts. 2 reb. 3 assts.) he was stroking consistently from the left side of the floor. Young who is used to banging with some of the bigger power forwards in the league got a reprieve tonight against the Suns “fours” and was able to use more of his speed.
“I actually love playing in a game like this because I don’t just have to bump and bang with guys under the basket all of the time. . . . That’s perfect for me,” said Young, who shot 11-for-17 from the field and was freed by the Suns’ free-flowing style.
The Sixers (19-25) built a first half lead over the Suns and never looked back, they would lead by as many as 22 points and received 58 points (25 field goals) from their bench led mostly by Young and Turner. There was a short stretch of open floor play that turned a 47-41 lead into a 53-41 lead near the close of the half. The Sixers would go into the intermission with a 61-47 lead that would never be relinquished.
The Suns would make a final run much to the chagrin of Collins, who was well aware of the damage that all-star point guard Steve Nash could inflict, “I didn’t want this game to come to a point where (Steve) Nash could hurt us at the end.” said Collins who got on Jodie Meeks for backing off of the 7-time all-star as he knocked down a three-pointer to end the third quarter. Collins admitted that he later apologized to Meeks but needed to drive the point home that there are players that you give that look to and others that you don’t – Steve Nash is in the “please don’t!” category.
It was Collins who kept the Sixers focused as the lead dipped to 10 points with less than a minute remaining in regulation, “I’ve never coached a garbage minute in my life,” Collins replied when asked why he called a timeout with 46.4 seconds remaining. Collins joked that he was trying to run the score up on his good friend Alvin Gentry on the Suns bench. He stated that the team “got sloppy”, and wasn’t happy that the lead dwindled to 10 points Collins’ most inspiring words came at the close of the press conference when he was asked about how he felt about the team. Collins went on to say how he “loved them as people” and went into a discussion that he had with Grant Hill after the game. Hill joked to Collins about how the Sixers had “caught them at the right time” (The Suns were wrapping up a 5-game East Coast trip). Collins would go on to tell Hill how this team reminded him of his days in Detroit when he had coached Hill, along with Alan Houston, Lindsay Hunter and Theo Ratliff.
With Collins implementing a tougher defensive mindset for his young team along with constant coaching, I hope Collins is around to see this team reach it’s full potential.