No More Skid 3 Guards Super Against Sonics

Posted: December 10, 1992

The 76ers' newly minted three-guard starting lineup is as much a state of mind as anything else. If it's a physical fix, it's also a psychological ploy.

Whatever, it created a remarkable groundswell of sudden success in last night's 115-104 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.

Send guards Johnny Dawkins, Hersey Hawkins and Jeff Hornacek out to start the game with center Andrew Lang and forward Clarence Weatherspoon and what happens?

A seven-game losing streak ends. A five-game losing streak at the Spectrum ends. The Sixers shoot 53.6 percent from the floor, their third-best performance of the season, outrebound an opponent (45-35) for only the third time and record their fourth victory.

Go figure. Hawkins was announced as a forward and reveled in it. He scored a team-high 25 points, knocking down four of five three-point attempts.

"Power forward, too," he said. "I like that. I think I sort of fit that role. Maybe I'll take Charles Barkley's place."

In reality, though, it was the slimmer Hornacek who drew Seattle's 6-9 Derrick McKey as a defensive assignment.

"If Hersey's a power forward at 6-3, at 6-4, I must be a small center," Hornacek said after contributing 20 points.

Whatever works. The three-guard start seemed to establish a tempo that continued to flourish through coach Doug Moe's substitution rotation. Dawkins scored 19 points and handed out a game-high nine assists, Tim Perry contributed 14 points, Ron Anderson surfaced from what seemed like the brink of oblivion to score 12 points, Weatherspoon managed 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds and Greg Grant and Hornacek each found their way to seven assists.

"One thing the small lineup does is, it makes everybody alert," Hornacek said. "Everyone has to battle. You can't say, 'He'll get the rebound.' Everybody has to try.

"It also guarantees that we'll at least try to run. In the past, we could have two of five running, and when you do that, the fastbreak's not there. If three of us run, the fourth and fifth guys start to see openings, and they run, too."

The Sixers, who had been a brutal 1-7 at home, literally ran past the Sonics, who have now dropped back-to-back games after an impressive 11-4 start. The Spectrum has never been their favorite arena - they've dropped seven games in succession and 12 of their last 13 here - and last night's performance was hardly anything for coach George Karl to savor.

"We might not have been ready to play, or physically capable of playing, that fast," Karl said, knowing that his bigger, more athletic team had been down 28 points before scoring 19 of the evening's final 21. "Sometimes, the

pressure of tempo turns big guys into little guys."

Shawn Kemp, Karl's most imposing big guy, scored 31 points, but the Sonics seemed reluctant to use the obvious matchup mismatches to their advantage. McKey, for example, settled for eight points and three rebounds.

"Our lineup got us running," Hawkins said. "Going with the three guards makes you more aggressive, makes you realize you're out there shorthanded. You can't overreact after one game, but whatever we had, I'd like to bottle it. We haven't even reached the hard part (of the schedule) yet, but maybe this will help us get over the hump."

The three-guard starting lineup, is that what did it?

"I didn't think it had anything to do with it," Moe decided. "I thought it was the lunar eclipse. Now we've got to find out if we can play (tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Clippers)."

SIX SHOTS

Forward Armon Gilliam, who missed two days of practice with swelling around the sprained little toe on his left foot, was available, but did not play. ''When we were as active as we were, I didn't want to put him in, take a chance of his not being quite ready," coach Doug Moe said. "I didn't want anything to change our style and tempo." . . . Forward Kenny Payne was in uniform, but unable to play because of a sprained thumb on his right (shooting) hand, suffered Tuesday in practice. "I could shoot, but I couldn't catch," Payne said.

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