WASHINGTON By the time the ball quickly swung around to Wizards shooting guard Nick Young, there wasnt much the Sixers defense could have done. Better yet, there isnt much the teams defense wanted to do. Sure, guard Jodie Meeks dashed over to wave a hand in Youngs face as he fired up the 22-footer, but no other player rotated over.
There was no need.
Young, a pretty good shooter as seen in his 30-for-30 foul shooting this season, clanged the long shot off the back of the rim and the Sixers were off and running after a nearly perfect defensive stand.
Wait perfect? The Sixers gave up an open but contested 22-footer by one of the better shooters in the NBA. How is that perfect? Actually, its quite simple. The Sixers kept the Wizards in the yard, which is the area of the court inside the three-point arc and outside of the paint. According to coach Doug Collins defensive philosophy, opposing teams can have as many shots in the yard it wants and the Sixers wont do anything aside from wagging a hand in the shooters face.
The way Collins sees it, the Sixers cannot get beat by a team taking midrange jump shots. Sure, a shooter could get hot, but chances are hes going to tee it up from three-point range. Other times, a player may slash to the hoop or a big man may camp out on the low block and drop in soft shots from close range.
But those 16-to-23 footers? Fire away.
We dont feel like contested two-point field goals will beat you. At the end of the day youll get beat in the paint, youll get beat with fast breaks and youll get beat behind the three-point line, but we just dont feel like teams are going to beat you making contested two-point shots, Collins explained. Our whole philosophy is to try and make those teams make those shots against us. Sometimes it looks like, Man, that guy is really open. Why didnt someone rotate to him? Well, wed much rather give a guy a long two rather than rotate over so they can make a pass to a guy for an open three.
Needless to say, it has worked out quite well for the Sixers. At 9-3 the team not only is off to its best start since the 10-0 run to start the 2000-01 season, but it also has the top-ranked defense in the NBA. Only the Chicago Bulls have allowed fewer points per game (85.3 to 85.8) and no team is even close to the stingy shooting percentage (39.8 percent) the Sixers have held opponents to.
Look no further than how opponents have fared when kept in the yard. Heading into Saturday nights game in Washington, the Sixers have forced teams to take 294 shots from the yard at an average of 25 per game for a percentage of 31.3 percent.
The Sixers defensive philosophy is solid.
We think at the end of the day you play your percentages, Collins said. Somebody might get hot and they might make a few, but at the end of the day we think well just stay with what were doing and not panic and it usually works its self out.
It helps to have an all-NBA defender like Andre Iguodala in the lineup, who helped spur a run in Friday nights victory over Washington where the Sixers scored 19 points off turnovers in the third-quarter alone. For the game against the Wizards, the Sixers got 36 points off of turnovers.
When we start swarming, Dre is usually the one who gets us going with that, Collins said.
Meanwhile, Iguodala ranks in the top 10 in the league in steals and frontcourt mate Jrue Holiday is right behind him. A look at the advanced metrics shows center Spencer Hawes in the top five in defensive rebounding percentage (26.8 percent of all available defensive boards) while five Sixers, Hawes, Iguodala, Elton Brand, Thad Young and Evan Turner, figure into the top seven in defensive rating, which is a measure of how many (or few) points a player allows.
It also helps that the Sixers have committed the fewest turnovers in the NBA, too. By playing those percentages with sound basketball philosophy, its easy to understand the Sixers early-season success.
I dont know, but Ive been taking vitamin B-12.
--Doug Collins on what he can do about the Sixers penchant for slow starts in the first quarter.
With five victories of 20 points or more in their first 10 games, the 76ers are the first team to accomplish this feat since the 1969-70 New York Knicks.
E-mail John Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org