Last night against the Indiana Pacers, with the Sixers mired in yet another slow start, Collins called on Young and fellow subs Lou Williams and rookie Nikola Vucevic in the middle of the first quarter. To that point, the Sixers had produced just four points and accumulated a four-point deficit. Soon, the point total hit 25 and the lead five. The Sixers rode the bench to their sixth win in eight games with a 96-86 victory.
"We were really struggling to score; our first unit again got off to a really tough start," Collins said. "And then our bench came in and gave us a lift. Thaddeus Young, people are going to have to start talking about him as all-defensive team. He is undersized and his quickness is amazing. You have to understand that Thaddeus Young is one of our best players. And for him to do what he does every night . . .
"We're going to have to get off to some better starts. But with Thad and those guys did and when the game changes like that. I think we had four points and then I looked up and we had 20. And it was all with our defensive activity.
"Thaddeus Young, and I've said this before, is one of the most special young men I've ever been around. I used to say that about [now assistant coach] Michael Curry when I coached him. The epitome of a guy is a great husband, a great father and a great teammate and that's what Thad Young is. That's why he gives us a chance to win every night and why I was hoping and praying someone wasn't going to throw some extravagant offer sheet at him and us maybe lose him. He is absolutely critical to our success."
In a game that featured a bevy of bone-crunching picks and a plethora of well-placed elbows, offensive production took a back seat to ruggedness. The Pacers thrive in that sort of contest, and tried to drag the Sixers into the mud with them.
While they were successful early, when Young and his fellow subs entered, the tide changed. At one point spanning the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the second, the Sixers made eight straight shots in building an 11-point lead.
"Defensively, that's what wins the games for us," said Young, who collected 12 points and eight rebounds. "Obviously we're a great offensive team but we need defensive intensity and we got to go out there and find different types of ways to pry the ball from their hands and get into transition. That's where it starts with defensive intensity. I think I took a big step by going out there and just taking pride in playing defense. The offense will come, I realize that. I can get 12 points just in the flow of the game. It's just a matter of going out there and playing harder and being physical.
"It's all about believing in the system. We believe that we can do something special here, so why not do what coach is asking of you."
While his point and rebound totals are easily recognizable in the box score, Young also provided the intangibles, taking four charges and producing five deflections, stats Collins adores.
Andre Iguodala had a very good all-around game, leading the Sixers with 20 points while also getting nine rebounds and five assists. Williams scored 13 to go with six assists, and Vucevic gathered 11 points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes. Jrue Holiday scored 12 (despite seven turnovers) and Spencer Hawes, dealing with a balky back, scored 12 and snatched eight boards.
But it was the defense that got the Sixers going. They held Indiana to 30-for-82 shooting (36.6 percent) and now lead the league in defensive field goal percentage (39.1) and points allowed (85.6).
"It's hard for team to run their sets when Thad is in there," said Elton Brand, who struggled with foul problems all night. "He blows up sets and showing and stopping that pick and roll and getting us second chances to come down and play offense. We have special character guys that put the team before themselves and Thad is definitely doing that - improving on defense and doing whatever coach asks him to do to help us win ball games. And he embraces the challenge."
The Pacers were without leading scorer Danny Granger, who was out with food poisoning . . . The Sixers host the Sacramento Kings tonight then travel to New York tomorrow.
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