The Sixers opened the 4th quarter with a 15-2 run and stifling defense to finish off the Atlanta Hawks 105-100.
Once again Thaddeus Young led the charge behind the NBA’s best reserve unit scoring 16 points and channeling a defensive surge that put the game away.
Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew looked like a man under pressure in last night’s pregame presser between his Hawks and the Philadelphia 76′ers. When asked about the mental state of his team, Drew with hesitation replied that his team was “fragile”. This is team that has lost 4 of 5, 8 of 11 and 14 of their last 21 contests, they have seen their grasp on their 5th seeding slip to 2.5 games – coach was spot on with his assessment.
The Sixers, who looked to be going through the motions for three quarters found their thumbscrews and applied them to the weary psyche of the Hawks. The first half the Hawks had a tempo going that the Sixers struggled to keep up with. “I was pleading and doing eveything that I could in that first half.” said Doug Collins as the Hawks “sliced and diced” their way to 11 points resulting from Sixers turnovers and 14 fast break points. The Hawks were led by Josh Smith (33 points, 12 rebounds) who started out strong but seemed to lose focus down the stretch with a couple of blown baskets and a turnover. Kirk Hinrich (16 points, 8 assists) like Smith started out hot but wore down as the game went on same for Marvin Williams (16 points) and Joe Johnson (13). The Hawks shooting by quarters told the story of the game. Their shooting percentages were as follows: 60%, 57.9, 52.5 and closed out the game 8 for 22 for 36 percent shooting. When asked about the state of the Hawks Collins replied, ”When a team has been struggling , there is a little self doubt and it seems like we had the energy defensively.”
Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young once again provided the spark off the bench to pull the Sixers back into the game after trailing by as many as 11 points in the third quarter. Collins as usual has praise for his reserve studs, ” Thad and Lou carried us through that (defensive) stretch.” In a game that produced 15 lead changes the final one came in the midst of a 15-2 Sixers run that lasted until halfway into the final stanza. ” Thad was so active tonight, he dug some balls out and was quick to the rim.” – “Our depth was the difference tonight.”
The Sixers placed seven players in double figures with four scoring 15 points or more. “Every man through, I’m really thrilled at those guys, it was a great, great win.” I have to give two big thumbs up to Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala. Brand finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds including several hustling offensive rebounds early on that could’ve gone either way. Iguodala gutted out 36 minutes on a bad knee. Doug Collins concluded that it is tendinitis and the best thing he can do right now is, “at the end of the year, take a couple of months off.” Iguodala finished with 16/5/4 and was on the floor running the offense in some of the games most critical moments.
This was a definite team effort as Jodie Meeks was 5 for 6 all from beyond the arc to finish with 15 points. Jrue Holiday was solid again with nine first quarter points on his way to 12 points in 31 minutes of play. Spencer Hawes displayed more energy than his counterpart Al Horford finished with 10 points 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
As the playoffs draw nigh, Collins has chosen to go a little deeper into his bench cameo appearances in recent games by veterans Tony Battie and Andres Nocioni have provided rest for younger players Evan Turner and Marresse Speights, who have logged heavy minutes during the Sixers playoff push.
In speaking with Thaddeus Young last night, I got the sense he has settled into his role and taken up the challenge of providing energy for his teammates. “We want to come into the game attacking at both ends of the floor and control the tempo of the game.”
The Sixers are now 2.5 games out of the 5th seed and 2 games in front of the Knicks. Things don’t get any easier as the Sixers travel to Miami in attempts to gain their first victory of the season against the surging Heat.