If defense does indeed win championships, the Sixers are well on their way to winning the Larry OBrien Championship Trophy. We know it doesnt work quite that way but the Sixers' defensive numbers are staggering if you line them up.
They are holding opponents on average to 85.5 points per game, besti n the league. They are the only team in the NBA limiting opponents to under 40 percent shooting (.394). Their opponents' three-point field goal percentage is a league-low 26.2. They average the seventh-most steals and third-most rebounds, and the Sixers are allowing their opponents fewer defensive rebounds than any other team.
The defensive numbers have done an about face from the 2009-10 season, when the Sixers had many of the same players but gave up 102 points per game, allowed opponents to shoot 47.2 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three.
The Sixers' opponents' three point-percentage was the highest in the NBA that year. Which means they have gone from last to first in a year-and-a-half.
Doug Collins points to scheme and teaching for creating this now defensive-minded group of guys.
The thing that (associate head coach) Michael (Curry) does so well is that he gears our defense to our personnel and what we can do, Collins said. There are certain limitations that are big guys have defensively that he has done a great job putting the scheme in that we can be successful. We dont have a great shot blocker at the basket or a great defensive rebounder but our wings rebound well and we know that we have to pressure the ball.
The Sixers' success defending the three-point line is a credit to scheme as well, but discipline plays a big part, too.
We arent running all over the floor, Collins continued. Guys have responsibilities and Michael grades guys every game and we post them so there is individual accountability as a team. The one thing in this game, if youre scrambling you are not going to be able to defend the three.
The Wizards came to town Friday with a 1-9 record, and yet because they are playing much better defensively they believe they can soon turn a corner. Washington is trying to take a page out of the Sixers' book from a year ago.
Were defending well, we just cant put the ball in the basket, Flip Saunders said, with his team averaging a league-low 83 points. It is similar to how Philadelphia was last year when they started 3-13 and they just kept on fighting and set a foundation of how they wanted to play. Then they started making shots and things fell into place and they started winning games. Were hoping we can do the same thing.
How flattering that the Sixers have, in a relatively short amount of time, become a team that other teams not only respect but use as a model to replicate, especially if they have a young roster and no superstar.
On the home front, Doug Collins has encouraged his players to take on the personality of this city.
I think this team represents this city as well as any Philadelphia team, Collins said. I told our guys the other night after the Knicks game that that was a Philly performance -- blue collar, tough, gritty. We didnt win the game but if we keep playing like that these people will admire what we do. And if we do, we will win a lot of hearts and along the way we will win a lot of games.
Collins played that way, in this city, and according to him he never once was booed. Since returning to the franchise Collins again has a deep connection with the Philadelphia faNBAse.
He promised the day he took the job that he would make the Sixers relevant again, or at least try, and in fact he has done that.
In true Collins fashion, once a goal is reached, a new one is set.
We were seeking relevance last year and now we are trying to become important, Collins said. Its a fragile existence in sports. As good as we have been, it can tip in a minute. You just have to keep answering the bell every night and be prepared and play and that is what our guys try to do.