Collectively, Sixers get results by playing hard

Posted: March 11, 2012

NEW YORK - Here is a good sign for when an overhyped, underachieving team has believed too many stories about how good it should be.

After the New York Knicks dropped their fourth straight on Saturday night, center Tyson Chandler described the Knicks' issues like this:

"If we play the way we finished the last two games, we'll beat teams by 15 to 20 points. I don't see a team in this league that can sustain that kind of effort. I feel like we may have the deepest team in the league. It's just a matter of putting together. We need to see the difference between the last 6 minutes and the first 42 minutes."

Yesterday, at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks got a first-hand look at a team that has made a living out of always going hard for a full 48.

The 76ers aren't perfect, they don't win every game.

Sometimes the endless energy they commit to every game isn't enough to overcome teams that might have more talent.

But when you do what the Sixers do game after game, instead of just talking about doing it, you beat a team like the Knicks 106-94 in what was supposed to be a big game in the Atlantic Division.

Player-for-player, the Knicks may have a better collection of talent, but it's easy to see why the Sixers (25-17) are leading the division.

"We have All-Stars, well, we have one [Andre Igoudala]," said Sixers guard Jrue Holiday, "but we don't have like [the Knicks] have with [Carmelo Anthony Anthony and Amare Stoudemire].

"We know we have to play 48 minutes, which is something a lot of teams don't do. I think we go the hardest. The harder you work the luckier you get."

The more you talk about working hard without actually backing it up, the more you look like the Knicks (18-23.), who lost their fifth consecutive game yesterday.

After looking like a team that wanted to make a run at the Atlantic going into the All-Star break, the Knicks are suddenly just trying to figure out how to remain playoff relevant.

A last second jumper by Lou Williams to end the second quarter drained some life out of the Knicks, and the rest apparently leaked out at halftime when they were allegedly regrouping.

When a team supposedly playing with a sense of urgency gets outscored 38-24 in the third quarter, at home, to let a two-point deficit balloon to 16, it truly isn't playing all that urgently.

"We waited way too late to get going," said New York coach Mike D'Antoni, who has wailed the same lament most of this season. "Again, the third quarter doomed us. For whatever reason, we don't seem to overcome obstacles.

"Collectively, we didn't play well. Collectively, our spirit isn't good. Collectively, we just didn't do what we needed to do."

Umm, Coach, collectively, those are good indications that your team stinks or, worse, does not care.

It's ridiculous that when you have roster and payroll like the Knicks you're still talking about needing to find a sense of urgency with the season on the verge of being lost.

"We have to figure it out one way or the other," Anthony said. "It is not fun. There is no confidence when we get down. Our whole energy is low. We have to figure it out. We have time to figure it out."

If you're Sixers coach Doug Collins, it's a relief that you don't have to worry about. It's likely the one thing that kept him sane during the slump his team went through around the All-Star Break.

"I thought going into the All-Star break we were tired physically and mentally," Collins said. "But how have we bounced back? We're 5-3, losing a one-possession game to Oklahoma City, a one-possession to Chicago and one possession at Milwaukee. We've played eight games and every game we won or had a chance to win. That's because those guys are all about team and working hard."

Winning and losing trends can often be about semantics.

In their last three games, the Sixers have now sandwiched blowout victories over the division-rival Boston Celtics and Knicks around a blowout of the Utah Jazz. You can't guarantee anything about the Sixers other than they will play hard, and that means they almost always have a chance.

"That's our recipe," Collins said. "I told our guys after the game, this is what we do. There's going to be teams we play against that have more talent. But we play hard and have to hope that at end of the day our numbers make us the better team."

Send email to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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