By Chris Murray
For the CM Report
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins has not so fond memories about his young team losing leads in the fourth quarter when teams made their run at the them.
For right now, at least, those bad recollections for Collins are becoming distant in a 2012 season in which the Sixers have won six of their first eight games. Once this year’s Sixers squad gets a lead they have the ability to put the game away.
A good case in point was the Sixers 96-86 win over the Indiana Pacers Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers not only won the game, but managed to maintain their composure when the Pacers made their run to get back into the game in the fourth quarter.
With two minutes left in the game, the Pacers pulled to within six points of the Sixers on a hook shot from Pacers center Roy Hibbert. But the Sixers didn’t panic and kept their cool on both ends of the floor. On their next possession, a short jumper by center Spencer Hawes sparked 8-4 scoring spurt that enabled the Sixers to put the game away for good.
“I don’t think we make those plays last year, I don’t think we do,” Collins said. “That’s what you have to do. You have to grow up in this league and learn how to make those plays. They came down and scored two or three times in a row and we didn’t get tight. We came down and we trumped them. We scored as well and that’s what you have to do late in games. You’ve got to be able to get those scores.”
Last year’s late season run to the postseason and being in the spotlight of taking on LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs has definitely made an impression on this team and made them mentally tougher this year.
“The team has really matured, grown up and we feel confident,” said Sixers power forward Elton Brand. “I don’t know if it was the playoff run or just winning more games late in the season, but he have a feel about ourselves that we can win the game late in the game.”
At the end of last season, there was a lot of speculation last season that the Sixers would make a trade for that one go-to guy that would come through for them with the big basket late in the game.
Maybe the Sixers will make that move at some point, but so far this season they’ve had a habit of having at least five or six players in double figures. The 76ers have had six guys score in double figures three times in the eight games they’ve played so far this year.
“For one thing, we can score,” said Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday. “We know each other really well as a team and that’s really it. It’s our chemistry, we don’t really have a go-to guy. The way we win is buy playing as a team and everybody scoring and playing defense collectively.”
Holiday said the team’s new found ability to put teams away starts with the defense. Against the Pacers, the Sixers held them to 36 percent shooting for the game. Three of the Sixers wins this season have been by more than 20 points.
“This time last season there were a lot of games that were close that we dropped and that’s been a learning process for us,” said Sixers guard Louis Williams. “In order for us to be successful, once we have guys down, we have to keep them down and start developing that killer instinct.”