Lavoy Allen’s 14 points were a season high. Thad Young also scored 14 points, while Spencer Hawes had a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards. … Nene led the Wizards with 16 points, while Emeka Okafor had a season-high 17 rebounds to go with 15 points. … In just his 11th game back from a knee injury, John Wall made two dynamic blocks in which he had to race the length of the court to swat away layups. One came on a layup by Thad Young and the other was against seven-footer Hawes. “He’s extremely fast,” Young said. “I didn’t even see him at first. He came out of nowhere and I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ He’s all over the court.” … The Sixers dished out 27 assists on 40 baskets. Jrue Holiday led the team with six dimes. … The Sixers are 8-1 when holding the opposition below 90 points.
Opportunity doesn’t come around often in the NBA. Usually when a ballplayer finds himself benched, he stays benched.
Fortunately for Doug Collins and the Sixers on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the coach’s doghouse has an escape hatch. After all, three players that have yo-yoed in and out of the rotation this season all came through in the Sixers’ gritty, 92-84 victory over the Washington Wizards (see Instant Replay).
Though Jrue Holiday led the way with 21 points (on 22 shots), the big lift came from Nick Young, Lavoy Allen and Dorell Wright, three players that have racked up a few DNPs or bounced out of the starting lineup only to come back with a strong performance.
On Wednesday, Young dropped in 18 points in 36 minutes with three three-pointers, while Allen came off the bench to score 14 points in 22 minutes and Wright pitched in with seven points, seven boards and five assists.
With veterans Jason Richardson and Damien Wilkins away from the team, the Sixers needed every ounce of production for the trio.
“Really, those guys, I had to thank them for their professionalism. It’s very easy for guys who have been in this league for a long time like that just to pack it in and neither one of those guys did that and I’m incredibly appreciative of that. This is a tough business and when you’ve got seven wings that you’re trying to get time and to try to mix and match to get everyone in there, it’s tough.”
Just two weeks ago, Young fund himself out of Collins’ rotation with seemingly no hope to get back in. He took a DNP in a win over Houston and then sat out for the first three quarters against New Orleans before checking in for the final quarter to score 14 points on nine shots.
Young got 29 minutes off the bench the following game and then jumped into the starting lineup when Richardson went out with an injured knee. With Collins looking for quick starts and more scoring from his starting five, Young’s time on the floor has remained consistent over the last half-dozen games.
“[Young] has really listened as we’ve tried to teach him,” Collins said. “He’s focused and I told him when we got him that my goal as his coach was to make him a more polished player. Not ‘Swaggy P’ and the act, but a player. He’s guarding now, he had four assists and he’s getting in there and making plays for our guys. He’s earned the trust of his teammates and, more importantly, he trusted the coaching staff when he came here.”
To his credit, Young didn’t sulk or bust out of the Sixers’ concepts when he jumped back into the rotation. Instead, Young has been a solid floor spacer with the ability to knock down some three-pointers from time to time.
“It was really just playing and going out there and playing with confidence,” Young said. “My teammates trusted me and believing in me and the coaching staff believing in me. Coming from a DNP to being in the starting lineup, it’s a blessing.”
Young said the transition back and forth and back again hasn’t been too difficult because he is “buying into the system.” Because of that, Collins is buying into Young’s game, saying that the player performs better with “heavier minutes.”
Defense, however, is not Young’s forte. So with a starting five geared toward providing offense, Collins said he wanted to put together a bench that provided defense and quickness. As a result, Wright found himself on the fringe of the rotation and then in the pair of games leading up to Wednesday night, out of it completely.
In fact, midway through the second quarter of Wednesday’s game, Wright had played more minutes than the previous three games combined. Nevertheless, after riding the pine, Wright didn’t get too far ahead of himself when he checked into the game. The veteran allowed the game to come to him and took advantage of what the defense gave him.
As a result, Wright turned in a very productive night in 16 minutes.
“Dorell was big in our game,” Collins said. “Seven points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals. He gives us another ball handler, too. He’s a playmaker.”
Meanwhile, Allen was pulled from the starting lineup in favor of Spencer Hawes because he struggled to turn in games like he did on Wednesday night. Against a big Wizards’ frontcourt featuring veterans like Nene and Emeka Okafor as well as Kevin Seraphin, Allen found a niche in the paint and on defense was strong enough to body those big guys away from their sweet spots.
Overmatched in size, the Sixers were able to limit the Wizards to just three shots in the paint during the second quarter and just 26 points in the paint for the entire game.
“We’re as good as our big men play,” Collins said. “When [our big men] play well we’re as good as almost every team. That’s where teams are going to try and attack us because we’re a small team. Without Andrew Bynum we’re a small team.”
For a night at least, the Sixers are a team on a roll. At 19-26, the Sixers remain three games behind the Celtics for the No. 8 spot in the East. On Friday night the Sixers go for their first set of back-to-back wins in two months against Sacramento at Wells Fargo Center.
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