As if the Sixers' season couldn't get any more interesting, a slight lineup tweak by coach Doug Collins has folks abuzz about the Atlantic Division leaders.
With Evan Turner out of his reserve role and into the starting lineup, it seems as if the Sixers have bolstered their offense. Turner poured in a career-high 26 points in a season-high 36 minutes during Wednesday nights rout over the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center. The big game came on the heels of a 12-rebound performance in his first start of the year on Monday in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, shooting guard Jodie Meeks has shot 7 for 14 with four three-pointers in his new role off the bench, averaging 20 minutes in the two games with the new lineup.
The most notable aspect of the new-look starting five is the uptick in scoring as well as a rotation that features Turner in the backcourt with Andre Iguodala and point guard Jrue Holiday. Interestingly, Collins has used Turner as his point man in halfcourt sets with the 6-foot-3 Holiday coming off the ball as a slashing guard. Its not an altogether unfamiliar role for Holiday, either, considering he played off the ball at UCLA when Darren Collison had the ball.
For now, at least, Collins says hes locked into this set up.
Turner needs the ball in his hands. When he has the ball in his hands, he's a totally different player, Collins said. Maybe Jrue didnt have it in his hands as much, and maybe Dre didn't with the three of them out there together, and thats the thing were trying to figure out how we can do that and play comfortable where all three of those guys can play well.
Indeed, its important for the Sixers to generate some more offense from the perimeter, especially with big man Spencer Hawes out for at least another week. However, the Sixers bread and butter is defense where they hold opponents to an NBA best 87.1 points per game and 41.4 percent field-goal percentage. One would think that a lineup change could have a determent to the teams strength, but the way the players see it, the defense could get even better.
In Wednesday nights victory, it was the Sixers defense that helped Turner get his points throughout the game with six of his 11 baskets coming in the paint on transition, while he shot 5 for 12 on shots from the outside.
It was the team defense that led to Turners big scoring night.
In general, no matter who is on or off the ball, the thing that sets the tone for us is defense. What you saw was a lot of defensive rebounding, get out in transition, run and get out and go, Turner said. That makes it hard for us to guard.
Turner, at 6-7, is a big guard and he used his size to deter Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo on Wednesday night. He also has been matched up against players like LeBron James and Luol Deng on defense, which opens things up for Iguodala and Holiday on the perimeter.
Thats a very good thing, says Iguodala.
Thats the part thats overlooked the most, Iguodala said. I think that Jrue and I are two of the top defensive guards in the league. I dont know if there is a duo better than us in true defense standing in front of your man, getting stops and I think we do a good job holding down the perimeter.
Turner is still a work in progress on defense, Iguodala says, but its nothing a bit more experience cant fix.
Then with Evan, he is better than what people think, Iguodala said. The only thing with Evan is the NBA concepts like time of possession, personnel small things but defensively hes a good defensive player.
Turners strength is defensive rebounding, which is a flaw the Sixers struggle with, according to Collins. For a team like the Sixers without a dominant presence in the low block, Turners ability to rebound is that much more important. Without Turner crashing the boards on the defensive end, Collins would be in a pretty big bind.
Evan Turner is our best rebounder, Collins said. How many times did he rebound it and start a fastbreak. We are not a good defensive rebounding team, so its very important for him to go in there and clean up the boards. And really, when he plays some of his best offensive games is when he defensive rebounds the ball and turns to bring the ball up and attack in the open court.
Turner has grabbed 12 and nine rebounds in his first two starts, and averages more than 11 boards per 48 minutes. As for picking up on the nuances of playing defense, Turner is willing to compete with his backcourt mates.
One thing I learned a long time ago is to keep your head down and keep working, Turner said.
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