Hot Tip: Thad Young and The Sixers Bench Can Beat You

Hot Tip: Thad Young and The Sixers Bench Can Beat You

One of the calling cards of a Doug Collins' Sixers team is that his best players may not actually be in the starting five.

Fans like to argue about whether Jodie Meeks should be starting over Evan Turner, but Collins will tell you repeatedly that the players on the floor when the ball is first tossed into the air aren't necessarily the five best the team has to offer. You've seen glimpses of that truth the past few games when the Sixers have gotten out to very slow starts. Doug Collins knows on any given night that his sixth, seventh, or eighth guy could be his best player. The Pacers apparently knew this coming into the game, too, so their game plan was to "dominate the Sixers' second unit."

How do we know that? Let's just say the Sixers had a man on the inside.

According to Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young, prior to first tip the Sixers were made aware that the Pacers scouting report game plan was to win the battle of the second units. That didn't work out so well for a Pacers team who was already without Danny Granger due to illness and lost Tyler Hansbrough midway through the game after getting poked in the eye. The Pacers' plan to shutdown the second unit also motived Lou Williams and his bench partners. You will not hold LouWill in check. Oh. No. You. Won't. (4-11 shooting)

"I think it really got us juiced up. We did get a hot tip that they wanted to dominate the game with the second unit," Thaddeus Young said after the 96-86 victory. "Me, Lou, Evan, Nik, we come out and just play. We play great off each other and we've been doing this for a while, so we don't let that get into our heads or anything like that."

Thaddeus Young was brilliant on both ends of the floor, but specifically on the defensive end, taking four charges and deflecting another five balls -- a stat Coach Collins loves to keep. Thad also made six of seven shots for 12 points, pulled down 8 boards, and added 2 assists to only 1 turnover. But his defense was inspired. The Sixers held the Pacers to just 37% from the floor.

"People are going to have to start talking about him for All Defensive Team," Collins said of Young. "He blows up every screen and roll, he absolutely gets out there, hedges, gets back. His speed and quickness is amazing."

Thad getting it done off the bench is nothing new for the Sixers, but the contribution they got from rookie Nikola Vucevic was a welcomed surprise. On a night when Spencer Hawes wasn't feeling well, the rookie stepped in and the team didn't really seem to miss a beat. Vucevic finished the night with 11 points, 8 boards and hit a big three pointer along the way. The fans at the Wells Fargo Center are really enjoying the extended "Vuuuuuuuuu" chants as well.

He's amazed the Sixers fans early in the season but has he amazed Coach Collins with his production??

"No. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him," Collins said. "He just plays in a nice rhythm out there. We've got two big guys in Spencer and Nik that both have good ball skills."

While the starters once again looked sluggish to start the night out, the bench came in and gave them a nice spark, pushing them to a slim lead after the first quarter. That momentum carried on into the second, and they pushed the lead to double digits. It remained there for most of the third before the Pacers made their push in the fourth when they finally got some shots to fall.

It was not all pretty for Doug's boys tonight, however, as they were sloppy with the ball at times, giving it away 18 times, but they won the points-off-turnovers battle 24 to 12 -- a stat Doug Collins said you can almost always point to in determining who the Sixers beat.

One of the uglier themes of last season was the Sixers' inability to close out games, but every time the Pacers cut a double-digit lead in the fourth to about six points tonight, the Sixers answered. Jrue Holiday hit a pull up three. Thad Young hit a running hook in the lane. Dre hits one of his ridiculously tough fadeaways. Spencer Hawes took a charge. The Sixers are maturing and finding ways to hold on to their leads.

Lou Williams, perhaps the team's best "closer," was asked if they're now a team that can finish opponents off on the regular.

"It's a work in progress," he said.

Progressing in the right direction, that's for sure.

caption this?

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber's rehab finished just in time for the World Series.

Schwarber will bat fifth and be the designated hitter for the National League champions in Game 1 on Tuesday night against Cleveland's Corey Kluber. Schwarber hasn't played in the majors since tearing ligaments in his left knee on April 7 in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler.

Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Cooper operated 12 days later to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return on Oct. 17.

Schwarber played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks, and flew to Cleveland on Monday.