Inside the Sixers: Adjustments to starting lineup jump-starting the 76ers

Sixers guard Nick Young is averaging 17.8 points in his four starts. The 76ers won three of those games.
Sixers guard Nick Young is averaging 17.8 points in his four starts. The 76ers won three of those games. (MICHAEL PEREZ / Associated Press)
Posted: February 04, 2013

Give the 76ers coaches credit: The starting lineup was broken and it appears they may have taken the proper steps to fix it.

Following the team's eighth loss in 10 games, coach Doug Collins stood in a hallway of the BMO Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Jan. 22 and bemoaned yet another lethargic start. There was no recovering from a beginning that saw the 76ers make just two of their first 16 field goal tries.

Collins has come to refer to playing with this type of self-imposed handicap as "playing uphill." The Sixers were digging holes from which a herculean effort would be required just to get back in the game.

Collins recognized - and it is almost impossible to disagree with him - that the Sixers' two biggest problems have been horrendously slow starts and an inability to get to the free-throw line.

Fixing the free-throw problem is a topic for another day - it is more about mind-set and the willingness to attack the rim (think Allen Iverson and James Harden). But getting out to better starts is directly related to putting the right players on the floor at the right time.

And it appears that the insertion of Nick Young and Spencer Hawes, who figured to be key bench components, is the right move at the right time.

As they went more than two months without winning back-to-back games, from Nov. 30 to Feb. 1, the Sixers went 6-19. During that 27-game stretch, the Sixers led after the first quarter just six times and were tied just once heading into the second quarter. It was the same story at halftime: The Sixers led just six times at the break and were tied just once.

Collins went to Young and Hawes as starters in place of Jason Richardson (out the last six games with a knee injury) and Lavoy Allen in the last week, and the results have been promising.

In winning three of their last four games, the Sixers have led at the end of the first quarter and first half in all but one. In their loss to Memphis they blew a 17-point first-quarter lead because of shaky defense and a surreal shooting performance by the Grizzlies, who made 14 of 18 shots and scored 37 points in the second quarter.

Young scored 20 off the bench in that loss. But more important, his short memory - he shrugged off a benching and has averaged 17.8 points in four starts - has enabled the Sixers to be much more aggressive offensively at the start of games.

This situation will bear watching in the coming days, especially when Richardson returns. While Richardson, 32, has battled nagging injuries all season, it's hard to argue that at this stage in their careers Young is not a better fit in the starting lineup.

Richardson has started 827 of a possible 832 career games, and starting is all he knows.

But just as Collins has been forced to adjust to his new players, his new players might have to make adjustments as well if this team is going to have success.

Contact John N. Mitchell at Follow on

Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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