Doug Collins called his three captains into the office during Friday afternoons optional practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for one of those state of the team meetings. Riding a five-game losing streak with a long stretch of home games looming, the coach knew this was an important point in the Sixers season.
So too did the players.
Very long, it was very long, said Thad Young of the meeting he attended with captains Jason Richardson, Jrue Holiday and Collins. J-Rich was in there before I was and Jrue was in there for another hour-and-a-half and then I came in and it was another hour. It was a good meeting where we tried to figure some things out.
Whatever it was that Young, Holiday, Richardson and Collins mulled over during their Friday afternoon meeting, it played out pretty well on Saturday night. Thats where the Sixers ended their second five-game losing streak over the past month with a 107-100 victory over the upstart Houston Rockets at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
For the Sixers, it was one of those lead-by-example games where the tri-captains combined for 64 points. Better yet, the game marked the first time the Sixers topped 90 points since Jan. 1 and just the fifth time the team broke the century mark over a 6-16 stretch dating back to Dec. 1.
Yes, the Sixers scored points, but they closed it out with their defense.
Though the Rockets were able to get shots from just about any spot on the floor, making them was another issue. From the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter until there was 48.9 seconds left to go in the game, the Rockets missed eight straight field goal attempts., which allowed the Sixers to go on a decisive 8-1 run to put it away.
To me, that was as good as the leadership from our captains has been in the three years Ive been here, Collins said. The way they spoke to each other, the way they encouraged each other and the way they were in the huddle with one another. When things got tough and mistakes were made and guys got out of line with a T, they held each other accountable, which was wonderful. That was one of the things that I talked to my captains about they took responsibility.
In essence, that was the theme of the meeting. Young said the group discussed rotations and nuances of the game the Sixers can work on in order to turn things around.
After all, the positive outlook is there, says Young.
For the most part, I told coach, that weve been positive and tuned in and weve all stuck together. No one is on a different page, Young said. Its all just like I said: Just playing, sticking to the gameplan and paying attention to detail.
The victory came down to leadership because the Rockets potent offense wasnt exactly slowed despite the stretch without a field goal. Of the 84 shots the Rockets took against the Sixers, all but six were three-pointers or in the paint. In fact, the Rockets made just one shot that wasnt in the paint or beyond the three-point arc.
So to combat the Rockets prowess and ability to go where they wanted, Collins went with a more defensive-minded lineup. For instance, Royal Ivey (15 minutes) and Damien Wilkins (11 minutes) came off the bench for important stretches while gunner Nick Young took a DNP-CD for the rare healthy scratch.
As a result, only one half of the Rockets high-scoring backcourt put up numbers with James Harden posting 29 points with nine rebounds and six assists in 45 minutes, while Jeremy Lin shot 2 for 13 with seven points.
We needed a defensive identity, Collins said about his substitution choices.
Besides, Collins captains stepped up and delivered the points with Holiday dropping in 30 on 11-for-22 shooting to go with nine assists, Richardson going for 16 with a pair of three-pointers and Thad Young adding 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting and 12 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
I thought Thad was as lively as hes been in a long time, Collins said. He was just all over the floor. When he does that it means a lot to our team.
At 16-22, the Sixers gear up for 11 home games over their next 12. Seven of those games will come with two or more days off.