On defense, Sixers coming up short in first quarter

Posted: November 16, 2010

The 76ers' lack of intensity on defense has not gone without notice.

On Monday, coach Doug Collins reached for a printout of box scores, combed through the sheets, and spelled out the damage. Most of it, he said, is due to free throws, which can be traced to defensive lapses. Over their last three games, the Sixers have gotten progressively worse in that area in the first quarter.

Last week, the Sixers started their road trip in New York by building an eight-point lead in the opening period and won. After that game, it went downhill.

At Oklahoma, they trailed by four and lost. They fell behind by nine points in Dallas. And Saturday in San Antonio, the Spurs posted a season-high 38 first-quarter points, led by 11, and blew past the Sixers, 116-93.

The Sixers (2-8) can end their three-game skid Tuesday night, when they wrap up their five-game road trip in Cleveland.

On Nov. 5 against the Cavaliers, the Sixers had one of their worst first quarters of this season. They trailed, 34-20, and never recovered despite outscoring Cleveland by 19 points over the next two quarters. The Cavs won, 123-116.

So the Sixers will keep that in mind, along with the lessons offered by San Antonio. After the loss, the Sixers returned home and had the day off Sunday. They resumed practice Monday and began a half-hour early to go over game film with associate head coach Michael Curry.

Anything overlooked during the game was reviewed in a 45-minute session. Guard penetration. Transition defense. Second-chance points. Rebounding.

Simply, "just breakdowns," Collins said, which the Sixers "have to clean up."

"We come out very casually on defense, especially when you're playing premier teams on the road," Collins said. "Our offense scores, but our defense puts us in a huge hole. We've got to come out with a defensive mind-set if we're going to win."

The solution?

"Just being overall aggressive," rookie Evan Turner said. "You know, just throwing that first punch. That's the key thing."

When the Sixers have dealt that first blow, the results have been encouraging. Against Indiana, the Sixers opened with a 31-16 advantage and outscored the Pacers in the second and fourth quarters to win easily, 101-75.

In that game, Indiana point guard Darren Collison shot 4 for 16 and finished with 11 points. But when the Sixers played San Antonio, Tony Parker ran wild (24 points, seven assists, three steals) and made the Sixers pay.

"It all comes to back to containing dribblers, keeping people out of the paint, and rebounds," Collins said.

On Saturday, the Spurs had the advantage on the boards, 47-38, and became the seventh team to score 99 points or more against the Sixers through the first 10 games.

It all goes back to the first quarter, Collins said. "I'm not a fourth-quarter guy."

Iguodala limited. Andre Iguodala, who missed the first two games of the road trip with a strained right Achilles, was limited in practice Monday after playing nearly 38 minutes in Dallas and 19 minutes the next night in San Antonio.

"I don't think Andre is still healthy," Collins said. "He looked to be still limping. We asked him to sit down and get treatment. He still did not look to be himself."

Contact staff writer Mario Aguirre at 215-854-4550 or maguirre@phillynews.com.

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