Collins eager for Holiday to kick-start offense

Posted: February 29, 2012

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The offensive struggles for the 76ers recently have really been about the start and the finish of games.

During the five-game losing streak that they carried into last night's game against the Detroit Pistons, the offense for the Sixers has been poor overall, averaging just over 83 points. It has been particularly bad in the first quarter (18.6 points), but even worse in the fourth quarter (17.6).

The offense started well last night, making 10 of its first 16 shots, which helped them to a big lead and en route to a 97-68 win.

During the recent All-Star break, there were no surefire answers found to cure the problems, but a long practice at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday did help a bit. Players talked of more options again being explored, of not settling for jump shots and moving the ball around the floor with more consistency.

Coach Doug Collins was forthcoming when he was asked how his team could get off to better starts, putting the onus on point guard Jrue Holiday.

"I want Jrue to always look to be a scorer, especially with that starting group," Collins said. "When we start the games, especially with Spencer [Hawes] hurt and E.B. [Elton Brand] hurt, we need guys out on the floor to score, so I wanted him to do that. Last year when he made that turn and we really started winning, I thought he came off screens and he was looking to score. I want him to be aggressive. I don't want there to be any indecision where when he's getting in there [the lane] thinking he's got to pass and do those kind of things. I want him looking at that rim and getting us off to good starts."

Holiday did just that against the Pistons, scoring six of his 10 points in the first quarter.

As for finishing, well that's a different story. Throughout the last handful of games, teams have sent waves of defenders at guard Lou Williams, trying to get him to either get rid of the ball or have to take a quicker, forced shot. Williams has struggled of late, shooting only 28.3 percent from the floor (15-for-53) in the previous four games. He broke out a little last night, making half of his 12 shots for 13 points.

"Lou's been doing that his whole career [scoring late]," Collins said. "He's a guy who scores the basketball. We just have to give him a little more help."

On the injury front

Elton Brand returned to the lineup last night after missing the previous two games because of a sprained right thumb. He looked good, hitting his open jumpers more consistently than he has in a long time and scoring 10 points in the blowout win.

The problem he has been having recently is catching the ball cleanly. While trying to minimize the impact on his thumb when he catches the ball, Brand was moving his hand to a different position. That means he was catching the ball in a way he wasn't accustomed to. Therefore he had to rotate the ball more to get into position to shoot. That split second and adjustment made a world of difference. It allowed defenses more time to react and kept Brand from getting his normal feel when shooting those patented 10- to 15-footers that he usually knocks down consistently. Brand is shooting a little more than 45 percent for the season, the second-lowest rate of his career. His lowest was in 2008-09, his first year with the Sixers, when he was still suffering the effects of a torn Achilles' from the season before.

"It was an issue," Brand said of his thumb, before the game. "Even during games, [Collins] says he knows I was laboring and couldn't catch the ball. It's doing a lot better now. We'll see what happens game time. I'm sure it will get hit, but you can't think about it, you just have to go play.

"They gave me a few days off to heal up, so it feels a lot better. It doesn't look a lot better, but it feels a lot better, that's the important thing. With the touches and with the minutes, absolutely [he sees himself contributing more offensively]. When we've played games and I get four or five shots, then it's impossible. But now we're running more sets, and I'll be getting more touches, so it's definitely possible."

Collins said Hawes (Achilles') is still a couple of weeks away, hopeful to return on March 14. For now, Hawes is doing non-basketball workouts with the hope he can start playing next week. The coach was quick to point out Hawes' injury is no excuse for the Sixers' recent skid.

"What else are you going to do?" Collins asked. "If the guy's not going to be here . . . We know that he can't play for at least 2 weeks. What are we going to do, sit around and wonder? You can't do that. That's what this business is; you've got to move forward. Obviously injuries are a big part. Every team has suffered. Atlanta lost Al Horford for the whole season. You look at a guy like [Hawks coach] Larry Drew, who hasn't had his All-Star center for the whole year. Do we miss our big guys? Absolutely. But you've got to move forward. The last thing you do is start looking back and say could have, would have, should have. You can't do that. The NBA is very unforgiving. The games are on top of you. There isn't any time to worry about what might have happened."

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