By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report
After playing in six of seven games against some of the league best teams, the 76ers, the No. 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference, have won four out of six of those games coming into Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s safe to say that the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers are one of the better teams in the league, but they still have plenty of room to grow as losses to teams like the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs would indicate. Sixers guard Lou Williams said his team is not only good enough to hang with some of the league’s elite teams, but they are becoming good enough to beat them.
“We’re just fighting every night,” Williams said. “I think we’re right on the brink of being the team we want to be. At this point, I don’t think we’re using teams as measuring sticks because we feel like we can beat a lot of these teams. Now, it’s just going out and winning games.”
The Sixers, with their unselfish play on offense and a tenacious defense, have managed to win these games despite injuries to their big men like seven-foot-one-inch center Spencer Hawes who has been battling sore left Achilles and a bad back. Power forward Elton Brand has also missed some time with a sore thumb.
Sixers head coach Doug Collins said he has been impressed with the play of his younger backup players like rookies Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic and veteran Tony Battie. During this current run of games these players have contributed through scoring and doing things like playing defense and pulling down rebounds.
“I think the fact that we have some younger guys helps us,” Collins said. “If you look at it around the league, a lot of the guy who’ve played a lot of years that are getting nicked up. What we’ve been able to do is find ways to to win when you have key guys out and you have to be able to do that. The only way to do that is to have depth and then have the guys you bring in do a good job for you.
“I thought that Vucevic and Tony Battie really help save us from disastrous results with all those home games.”
Collins said keeping his team fresh and making sure that they get adequate rest during their off days has helped the Sixers stay sharp during this difficult stretch of games.
“The thing that I’m happy about is the maturity of our team,”Collins said. “I think they’ve responded well to the time off and to utilize the rest time to be sharp in games.”
Another sure sign that the Sixers are evolving into of those good teams in the NBA is their ability to bounce back from tough losses and to stay focused after big wins. After a tough loss to the Miami Heat, the Sixers went on the road and came away with a convincing win over the Atlanta Hawks and followed that win up by beating Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in what was a close contest throughout the game.
“I think we’ve realized that we can beat anybody in the league, we’ve shown that,” said Andre Iguodala. “After a win, we’ve got to look forward to the next game. The games keep coming behind each other, so you got to prepared if you win or lose one you’re diving right back into the next game.”
Even in the midst of their current run of games, there is still talk about among fans and local media pundits about the Sixers needing that “go-to guy” in the fourth quarter. Could Lou Williams be that guy for the Sixers?
In Monday’s win over the Lakers, Williams came off the bench and scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, 13 came in the last 3:48 of the period including the go-ahead three with 2:06 left that put the Sixers up for good.
“The one thing about Lou is that he’ll be 1-for-15 and he’ll shoot the 16th,” Collins said. “You’ve got to have that kind of attitude if you’re going to be that guy coming off the bench on a nightly basis.”