Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

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Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- Sixers head Doug Collins spent a significant amount of time during Thursday’s practice at Georgia Tech in conversation with two of his young leaders -- Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

It was not a talk about blame. Instead, it was an exchange about the importance of starting games right and not easing into a contest. The coach shared statistics and examples with the players to explain the importance of a quality start.

That message appeared to certainly sink in with Holiday, Turner and the entire team as the Sixers scored 40 points in the first quarter en route to a 101-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers’ 40 points in the first period were a season high for the team in a quarter this season. They also shot 73 percent and had 10 assists on 16 made field goals in that dominant opening frame.

“We were just really, really sharp,” Collins said. “I thought Evan came with a very good first quarter. I thought Jrue did even though he didn’t score that much. Thad (Young) was active, Spencer (Hawes) and Damien (Wilkins).

“I mean it really set the tone for the game and then we found a way to close it out. It wasn’t pretty at the end. That is a really good road win for us against a playoff team.”

Getting off to a good start was particularly important for Holiday, who was trying to put Wednesday’s 2-for-24 shooting nightmare behind him.

Holiday connected on 2 of 3 shots in the first quarter for four points to go along with four assists.

The All-Star point guard did struggle again overall from the field, evidenced by his final line of 3-for-14 shooting for just nine points. However, Holiday’s ability to set the pace of the game early and get everyone involved put the team on the right track.

“I am not sure if I really had that good of a start. It was me more trying to facilitate and getting other guys going,” Holiday said. “Again, just getting into the paint. Sometimes when you see the numbers they can either hurt your feelings or you see it as criticism and you learn from it.”

The Sixers rode that fast start to a 13-point halftime advantage. They increased that total to as much as 19 points in the third quarter, mainly behind a good performance from Turner.

Turner scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game.

“We won and that is always fun,” Turner said. “We all played well. Everyone contributed and that helps a lot.”

“I thought this was the best game Evan has played in a while,” Collins said. “He was really sharp and it makes me feel good because I spent a lot of time with he and Jrue sitting around and talking at the practice facility, talking about getting yourself prepared to play, especially coming down the stretch.”

The Sixers sputtered in the late stretches of the game, but they were able to put it away thanks to their balance.

Hawes (19 points and 12 rebounds), Young (14 points and 13 rebounds) and Wilkins (16 points) each seemed to come up with a key play when the Sixers needed it to help secure the win.

"These games are important for us," Collins said. "I've got young players. Little things that you keep teaching, that's why we're going to coach and teach and play these games to the finish."

The Sixers return to the court on Saturday in Miami against the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”