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.